The Friends of the Goss Opera House non-profit foundation has announced changes to its staff and board. Missy Sinner who led the non-profit as Executive Director through the “Light Up the Goss” capital campaign and the recently completed $5 Million Goss renovation is stepping down. Local businesswoman Jamie Mack was selected by the Friends of the Goss board as the new Executive Director.

“Now is the perfect time to make this change for the Goss,” said Sinner, who will become a foundation board member. “Jamie’s leadership style along with her passion for the arts, our community, and the Goss are a perfect combination as we embark on this next phase at the Goss.”

Mack will lead the non-profit in its mission to provide the community with rich entertainment and beautiful event space in the 130-year-old historic Goss building. In support of this endeavor, the Friends of the Goss also hired Jen Pendley as Events Coordinator.

“We are entering the operational phase at the Goss, hosting exceptional events and presenting an extensive show line up. Both Jamie and Jen bring proven experience that will help us achieve our non-profit’s strategic goals,” said Friends of the Goss board president Milt Carter. “We are tremendously grateful for Missy’s leadership during the capital campaign and construction phase; her creative vision and passion for the Goss have undoubtedly set us up for a bright future.”

Mack, in her new role as Executive Director, will manage the Goss team as well as lead the non-profit’s fundraising and membership efforts. The board has a long-term goal to create an endowment fund to ensure the Goss is at the heart of downtown for generations to come.

“I am beyond excited and incredibly humbled to join the Friends of the Goss,” said Mack. “I applaud the amazing effort of our community to help Light Up the Goss once again and I look forward to leading the team to continue to bring outstanding entertainment and events to Watertown’s Goss Opera House.”

“I have 100% confidence the Goss is in good hands. Jamie is an outstanding leader and has a phenomenal team supporting her,” said Sinner.

Mack’s first day at the Goss is set for Oct. 19. Sinner will assist in ensuring a seamless transition.

By Dan Crisler

Walk into downtown Watertown’s Goss Opera House these days and you’ll feel like you stepped back in time.

After more than a year of reconstruction and renovation totaling approximately $5 million, the 130-year-old iconic building originally built by Charles Goss has been restored to its former glory.

Although there are still some odds and ends to be done, the restoration has turned a building that had seen better days to once again being a crown jewel in the heart of downtown Watertown.

With a delayed grand opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enough of the Goss has been completed that it held its first concert — preformed by local band Greg Hanson and The Backroads — in the restored opera hall, known as the Reliabank Theater, Friday night.

“I would say our side of the building is 99.9% complete,” Goss Opera House Executive Director Missy Sinner said this week. “We have worked and are working as many hours as we possibly can and working as hard as we can.”

For most of the last year, the Goss restoration looked very much like a work in progress. The nonprofit organization Friends of the Goss began the restoration with the help of donations after having purchased the building on Dec. 31, 2018.

With extensive construction work dating back to at least last summer, Sinner said she felt the building’s restoration achieved full realization last month.

“I would say probably about one month ago I felt like the building was almost done,” she said. “There were finishing touches and backordered items that would come in one at time. As they came in, I would find myself thinking, ‘Wow, that room looks really great!’ or ‘That looks finished.’”

The Goss’ full historic restoration makes it difficult, and perhaps impossible, to pinpoint one particular element that stands out.

But if a single room perhaps captures the entire vision of the Goss’ turn-of-the-century elegance, it’s perhaps the opera hall highlighted by a replica 19th century chandelier.

At the same time, Sinner and the Friends of the Goss Board of Directors made smart concessions to modernity within the opera hall with new stage lighting and a top-of-the-line sound system in the hall. Those concessions extend throughout the building, such as automatic faucets in the bathrooms and motion-sensing lights, to allow for energy efficiency and enhance the elegant atmosphere.

“We headed toward a historical flair on anything we chose,” Sinner said. “But we definitely wanted to integrate technology into the building.”

Sinner said crews are still waiting on three pieces of furniture for the bride’s room on the Goss’ second level, as well as radiant heat panels. Delivery has been delayed due to the pandemic.

“Everything else is done so we decided to move forward on the Goss side,” she said.

Sinner said about 25 concerts and performances have been booked. She said the Goss plans to sell season tickets for the fall through spring months. Sinner said the opera hall will be open in the summer months for reservations such as weddings and other social events.

A combined grand opening between the Goss Opera House and its anchor restaurant, Mavericks Steaks and Cocktails, will be Sept. 25. The grand opening will feature free tours of the Goss and a performance from the NashVegas All Stars band.

Mavericks makes progress

As renovations on the Goss Opera House wrap up, its main tenant, Mavericks, is not too far behind.

According to Mavericks General Manager Kyle Lalim, the opening of the anticipated restaurant and lounge has been slightly delayed due to logistics exacerbated by the pandemic.

As crews continue to renovate the space and get other equipment installed, Lalim said that process should wrap up in the next week or so.

“The end is getting near so that’s a great thing,” he said. “New restaurant openings always have that high level of anticipation. When you couple a new restaurant that happens to be an anchor tenant in the Goss Opera House with what the Friends of the Goss have been able to accomplish, it just amplifies that excitement for our opening. We just want to make sure that when we do open our doors, we can deliver a level of service that Mavericks has been known for.”

At this point, the soft opening date is fluid. Lalim said it will be announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page — facebook.com/MavericksWatertownSD. It’s possible the restaurant could open in late August or early September.

Mavericks also has locations in Aberdeen, Deadwood and St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Soon to follow are the implementation of restaurant operations. That includes hiring and training staff set to be led by two experienced kitchen managers. Ben Richardson will be the head kitchen manager and Robert Johnson will be the assistant kitchen manager.

“Both of those guys have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in both the restaurant and catering industries,” Lalim said, adding the two men have more than a dozen years of kitchen experience across the nation.

Lalim said Richardson and Johnson will be valuable in leading and guiding staff to prepare Mavericks’ fresh menu items.

“Mavericks makes everything homemade,” Lalim said. “We make our own croutons and salad dressings. We cut our own steaks and grind our own burgers. These guys are just a great fit to our team and fit our business model perfectly.”

Lalim said Mavericks management and ownership want the Watertown branch to have a soft opening prior to the combined grand opening with the Goss. The soft opening will include appreciation events and celebrations with Mavericks employees, contractors and associated family members.

Mavericks will operate its main restaurant on the Goss’ first floor and a second-floor kitchen to serve guests attending Goss opera hall events and associated meeting rooms.

Mavericks at the Goss is pleased to announce Kyle Lalim as the restaurant’s General Manager. Lalim recently joined the Mavericks organization as they continue to work on preparations inside the Goss Opera House for a late summer opening.

Lalim has extensive experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry; and it is not his first time working at an establishment inside the historic Goss Opera House. In 2009, he was part of Charley’s; a gourmet dining experience. Lalim, a Watertown, SD resident, has worked in real estate in recent years, but says the chance to join the company at Mavericks at the Goss made it an easy decision to get back in the hospitality industry. “Mavericks at the Goss will embrace this building’s rich history, while offering state of the art amenities and unparalleled service and food,” he said. “No other establishment in Watertown, or the region for that matter, offers such a luxurious backdrop.”

Co-owners Jeff Lamont and Kraig Schlaht are thrilled to hire someone locally to manage the Mavericks in Watertown. Lalim has served on the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau boards; and has participated in Leadership Academy.  He also volunteers with numerous local groups. “Along with his background in the business, Kyle has extensive ties to the community and really understands what Watertown wants and expects from a new restaurant and bar,” Schlaht said.

Missy Sinner, Executive Director of the Friends of the Goss Opera House, says Lalim is a perfect fit. “Mavericks hire is a 10 out of 10! Kyle provides service at an exceptional level of expectation that will benefit our events in a big way,” she said. “We’re very excited to have him back in the industry and in the Goss once again!”

Lalim says he cannot wait to open the doors and show Watertown and restaurant guests the way the space has been transformed. He said, “The Goss is no longer a dark building with boarded up windows. It has truly been made into one of Northeast South Dakota’s premier spaces! The Mavericks team is committed to making sure our restaurant is a cornerstone of entertainment & hospitality in downtown Watertown for years to come. I am beyond excited to bring this restaurant to life and to share it with both residents and visitors alike!”

For more information about Mavericks, please call Kraig Schlaht at (605) 228-4653, or kraig@maverickssteak.com.

About Lamont Companies 

Lamont Companies, Inc (LCI) was founded by Jeff Lamont in 1998, and since then the dedicated team has aggressively developed many franchised hotels, convention centers, restaurants, retail malls, apartment developments and casinos throughout the United States. The company is a full, turnkey real estate development, management, investment, construction, and procurement company catering to the hospitality and development industries. LCI repeatedly establishes a quality product in every market it enters; going beyond the requirements of each brand or tenant to ensure its customer is met with comfortable accommodations in inviting surroundings and gracious hospitality.

About Mavericks Steak & Cocktails

Mavericks Steak and Cocktails in Aberdeen, SD was founded by Kraig Schlaht in 1999. The restaurant’s menu features favorites like steak, ribs, and pasta. A wide variety of appetizers, soups, salads, and sandwiches offers plenty of choices for customers seeking special evenings out, business lunches, or a place to have drinks with friends. Mavericks prides themselves on providing exceptional food and unparalleled customer service. In 2010 Mavericks and Lamont Companies, Inc (LCI) partnered together to move the restaurant into a new, larger location attached to the Dakota Event Center and expanded into catering. Mavericks has since opened another location in Deadwood, SD inside the Gold Dust Casino; and a third location in St Cloud, MN attached to The Park Event Center. Mavericks at the Goss is expected to open in late summer.

After nearly two years of planning and fundraising, Friends of the Goss are set to realize the full vision of renovating downtown Watertown’s iconic Goss Opera House.

FoG officials announced this week that, thanks to the efforts and contributions of hundreds of individuals and organizations, including an anonymous donor who contributed $500,000 via two matching grants, the non-profit organization has surpassed its $4.75 million capital campaign goal to renovate the Goss Opera House.

“I’m totally amazed and gratified the Watertown community has stepped up and helped save the Goss,” FoG Board of Directors President Milt Carter said.

The non-profit FoG organization anticipates the Goss will be a regional attraction designed to host many events, including weddings, concerts and other entertainment acts.

“The Goss is a big part of our community’s desire to really get our downtown going,” Capital campaign co-chair Don Roby said. “I think its uniqueness is going to draw some different acts and a wide variety of entertainment options to downtown.”

Roby served as capital campaign co-chair along with his wife, Kelly, and Jeff and Paula Orthaus.

Although the grand reopening has been delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the successful capital campaign marks a bright spot in what has been a bleak month around the nation and world.

“It’s a nice piece of big news amidst all of the disarray we’ve been going through in the world,” Roby said. “This really was a community-wide effort. Whatever your level of donation was — every dollar of your donation went into the budget — you’re a friend of the Goss. I think the support has been outstanding.”

According to FoG Executive Director Missy Sinner, the pandemic has pushed back the Surfin’ Safari concert to Sept. 4 and canceled the South Dakota Symphony Stained Glass Series opening concert at the Goss.

At this point, Sinner said the pandemic has delayed the Goss’ reopening indefinitely and led to measures to limit construction workers’ potential exposure to the virus.

“We’re really just going to wait and see how long all of this goes for” before scheduling an opening date, she said.

Whenever the Goss is reopened, Sinner believes the wait will be worth it.

“When we do open the doors, it will be a big day of celebration. Not only because we have met our goal and construction is done, but also because the community will be able to come out and enjoy it,” she said. “It’s just going to make it that much more exciting to finally get to open the doors and entertain people again.”

As downtown Watertown’s iconic Goss Opera House prepares to officially reopen its doors six weeks from now, crews are speeding toward completion of renovating the 130-year-old building.

Just within the last few weeks, Friends of the Goss Executive Director Missy Sinner and FoG Board of Directors member Kristen Henderson said crews have installed many elements, including trim, doors and a new railing system, this week. The latest installations go along with the previous installations of a new sound and lighting system this winter and a multimillion dollar roof that was completed last fall. The installation of tile flooring in some side areas is approximately 80% completely.

According to Sinner, the recent improvements were made possible from a donation by Lee and Jan Schull from Building Products Inc. The Schulls’ donation of the new trim, doors and railing system helped recreate areas that were previously missing or extensively damaged.

Henderson said one side room on the third floor will remain untouched to preserve historical authenticity. Referred to as Annie’s room, the untouched room may be the one, or at least similar to one, where Goss resident Maud Alexander burned to death in 1936.

“I think it’s fair to say that every inch of the building has been touched with exception to the historic room,” Henderson said. “We’ll have a rope for that room to give it a piece of opera house charm. I think it will be a nice contrast to show kind of where it has been.”

Although the Goss is on track to open with a concert by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra on April 24, a capital campaign toward the Goss’ renovation is ongoing.

Henderson said the capital campaign sits just $78,000 away in donations to reach the campaign’s $4.75 million goal. An anonymous donor has offered match half of that $78,000 provided members of the public can donate the other $39,000 by this Sunday.

The large-scale donations, in both money and materials, will help give the Goss a premium and luxurious feel while allowing FoG to respect its small dollar donors.

“When people walk in, they will like the Goss is expensive,” Sinner said. “Whenever we packed a punch with something really cool that cost a little more, we found savings in 10 different areas to be able to do something special. We have been wise with our pennies.”

With concerts and events appealing to many types of demographics coming up, Sinner and Henderson cautioned that some features of the Goss, including the installation of fixed balcony seating in the opera hall, won’t be fully completed until the first few weeks have passed.

Regardless, by envisioning the Goss as a flexible event space, Henderson and Sinner reiterated the FoG’s hope that the Goss will heighten Watertown’s regional profile.

“I think that’s something we want to explore,” Henderson said. “It will probably not just be the Goss Opera House in Watertown but the Goss Opera House of South Dakota and the Midwest.”

Planned restaurant coming along

One of the biggest features of the Goss will be the new Mavericks Steak and Cocktails set to be located inside the building.

According to Sinner, the Goss’ opening will probably predate the opening of Mavericks, which has locations in Aberdeen and Deadwood as well as St. Cloud, Minnesota. Sinner cautiously estimated Mavericks may target a late spring or early summer opening.

Sinner said Mavericks will still primarily operate in a first floor kitchen as previous restaurants in the Goss have. However, Mavericks is expanding the kitchen to accommodate more preparation stations. On the Goss’ second floor, Mavericks will operate a banquet kitchen that has equipment on order. The banquet kitchen will be dedicated to serving opera house event attendees.

By Dan Crisler

As downtown Watertown’s iconic Goss Opera House prepares to embark on a new chapter in its 130-year-old life, it might be time to take a look back to its origins.

With information compiled by Codington County Heritage Museum Director Christy Lickei and local historians Jane Miner and Prudy Calvin, the building’s history and namesake traces back to a man named Charles Goss.

His story appears to be a quintessentially American one.

It began thousands of miles away, across the pond. Born March 24, 1833, in Neport Pagnill in England, Goss spent the first 11 years of his life in England before coming to the U.S. with his parents. For the next eight years, he and his parents lived on a farm in New York.

When he was about 21, Goss moved to Sparta, Wis., where he initially worked as a carpenter. He appeared to have put down roots in Sparta, spending nearly 20 years working and operating a livestock farm. Goss further diversified his skills by working as a barber and in the restaurant and ice industries.

If tragedy had not befallen Goss, perhaps he would have spent the remainder of his life in Sparta. Shortly after arriving, in 1856, he married Cordelia Hayward. Together, they had eight children — seven sons and a daughter named Emma.

However, Goss nearly lost his entire family over the following three decades as Cordelia and all of their sons died in Sparta. Emma would also die young at 28 on Nov. 26, 1897, leaving behind a week-old infant.

After losing his wife and sons, Goss married Mary Brown. Together, they would have four children.

In 1879, Goss moved to Watertown and opened a general store. According to a 2010 article written by John Andrews for South Dakota Magazine, Goss appeared to have built his original two-story store on the same site as the opera house on the corner of Maple Street and Kemp Avenue. A pioneer of downtown Watertown, Goss later built four more store buildings. One of those included an upper-story opera house.

Those buildings didn’t last long, as they succumbed to fire in 1888. Where some might have mourned and become discouraged, particularly after losses were estimated at $12,500 with no insurance, Goss saw opportunity.

According to Andrews, Goss built the current opera house bearing his name the following year, although not without pressure from city leaders to instead build a hotel. Before the Goss’ construction, Watertown had two opera houses in or around downtown.

With Goss’ insistence, the current opera house was built. Construction began in June 1888. When it was completed the next year, the building featured offices and 1,500 seats, making it the largest opera house in South Dakota.

Prior to opening, the Public Opinion, aligned with city leaders’ vision for a hotel, was skeptical of Goss building a third opera house. On June 22, 1888, after Goss laid the building’s first brick down, the newspaper wrote, “(Goss) will certainly make a mistake in his hall scheme. Watertown is already well supplied with facilities of this kind. There is a possibility of a hotel proving a paying investment, but another public hall would be a dead load.”

The Public Opinion’s tune quickly changed. By August, its editor declared that when the Goss was completed the building “will be one of the handsomest among our many handsome blocks.”

By November, the editor, who acknowledged his initial skepticism, voiced full-throated support for the nearly completed opera house.

On Nov. 30, 1888, the editor wrote, “The improvements carried forward in Watertown during the year 1888 eclipse in value and extent those of any preceding year in the history of her experience but no one improvement is a great surprise than the mammoth Goss block … Mr. Goss reared this magnificent structure, and as its walls gradually grew higher and higher the beauty of the building unfolded itself as the blossoming flower in the morning sunshine. The block stands today the finest and most metropolitan in the city, a monument to the enterprise of its proprietor. May it be filled with steady and paying tenants.”

A few months later, the building opened without incident, except for a reported mishap when Goss sat in a bucket of tar while working on the building’s roof.

One of the Goss building’s first major attractions was in early December 1889 when the Merchants’ Carnival visited town. Described as a “gorgeous spectacle of dazzling costumes and charming beauty,” the highlight of the carnival was a parade of 60 young women. The women wore dresses that represented local businesses.

In addition to developing downtown Watertown, Goss served on the city council after being elected in approximately 1900. Goss died suddenly in the early morning hours of Jan. 16, 1906, at age 72.

 

As the capital campaign to restore downtown Watertown’s historic Goss Opera House enters the stretch run, donations from two community organizations put the multimillion dollar campaign just $500,000 shy from reaching its goal.

Friends of the Goss Opera House announced Thursday morning that both the Watertown Area Community Foundation (WACF) and Watertown Development Company have each made a second $150,000 donation to the restoration of the 130-year-old downtown landmark.

With the two latest grants, the “Light Up the Goss” capital campaign, which kicked off last June, now has raised $4.25 million. The campaign goal is $4.75 million.

“We are so close to our goal,” FoG Executive Director Missy Sinner said in a press release. “The community’s response has been beyond our imagination.”

With those donations now in hand, WACF Executive Director Jan DeBerg said an anonymous donor has offered a second grant of $250,000 provided the community can match it by March 15, which would complete the capital campaign. The anonymous donor made their first $250,000 grant last November, which was exceeded by the community before New Years Eve.

“It truly takes and entire community to do something as great as is being done here at the Goss,” DeBerg said. “We are honored to partner with the Friends of the Goss to ensure their success in bringing arts and entertainment to our community in this truly magical place.”

Donations can be made online at thegossoperahouse.com or by calling Sinner at 605-868-1556.

Since FoG purchased the Goss 13 months ago, the 130-year-old building’s restoration has included a roof replacement, an overhaul of the HVAC and electrical systems and leasing out all but one rentable spaces. Businesses in the Goss include the currently open Coco & Finn clothing store and Grace Dance Academy and the forthcoming Mavericks Steak and Cocktails restaurant.

Crews are currently installing a new sound and lighting system in the building’s signature second story opera hall,.

The renovated Goss is set to open its doors on Friday, April 24. The South Dakota Symphony Orchestra will hold the renovated building’s first concert that night. On the next night, Surfin’ Safari will play a concert featuring a mix of music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Over the next six weeks, FoG officials said they plan to have an ongoing campaign featuring virtual tours of the Goss’ restoration and ticket giveaways to events.

Day by day, the full vision for the Goss Opera House gets a bit closer to reality.

With new windows, an HVAC system and ongoing infrastructure work, 2019 has been quite the year of progress in restoring downtown Watertown’s iconic 130-year-old structure. With 2020 anticipated to be the year the Goss reopens to the public, the upcoming sounds of life will be complemented by a new sound system along with some new computerized LED lights in the second story theater.

Set to be delivered and installed in February by Jeff Engen, president and CEO of Brookings-based Audio Video Connections, the RCF HDL-30a Line Array sound system will fulfill the dreams of Chris Paulson, a music aficionado and a member Friends of the Goss (FoG) Board of Directors. Paulson noted the same system is utilized in clubs and theaters named after legendary singer Dolly Parton and late legendary guitarist and singer B.B. King.

“It’s a real high-end product,” he said. “We should have full coverage of the room.”

Paulson, along with fellow board member Michael Makens and music aficionado Mike Tomlinson, has led the effort in researching sound systems and meeting with audio executives since July.

With the sound system set to consist of 12 speakers — six per side on both the west and east ends as well as two 18-inch subwoofers and high-end microphones, Paulson said the Goss theater will be able to fulfill all of the requirements needed to get entertainment acts both big and small, including concerts and shows, to perform in Watertown.

“We really went for something that’s going to be not just for the local talent but also national talent,” he said. “We want to be able to have a rock show here one night, tear it down and have a wedding here the next day, Then, the next weekend we could have a comedy show or an opera.

“It’s going to be something that’s going to put us on the map for this whole region as far as a venue for performers.”

Goss Opera House Executive Director Missy Sinner previously said FoG is booking shows from April through September.

The new sound system will be paired with acoustic treatments to muffle the theater’s echo tendencies.

“That’s the first thing we’re going to do,” Paulson said of the acoustic treatments, promising the materials used will be applied so to preserve the theater’s character.

Although the costs of the new sound system were not revealed, Board of Directors President Milt Carter said the system was purchased at the recommendation and consent of major donors.

Friends of the Goss officials anticipate having the Goss reopened to the public sometime this spring.

An effort to match a $250,000 grant to the Friends of the Goss Opera House foundation is about half complete with a Dec. 31 deadline rapidly approaching.

Anyone who believes in the restoration of the Goss is encouraged to donate by year’s end to help take advantage of this opportunity.

On Nov. 15, Charlie Ewalt, chairman of the Watertown Area Community Foundation (WACF) announced the Friends of the Goss Opera House non-profit was the recipient of an anonymous $250,000 matching grant. The announcement came at an event held at the Goss. Just prior to the WACF announcement, Reliabank chairman David Johnson shared with event attendees that the bank would double its contribution to the project.

“Momentum. Amazing momentum! Since our November event we have seen current supporters increase their donation to take advantage of the matching grant. We have also had several new supporters join in the efforts to Light Up the Goss,” said Missy Sinner, Executive Director of the Friends of the Goss Opera House. “We remain focused on fundraising. Our steering committee is working hard to take full advantage of this extraordinary gift.”

The Friends of the Goss non-profit completed the purchase of the opera house and adjacent historic bank building on Dec. 31, 2018 and have since been working to complete the restoration of the 130-year-old building.

“We have replaced the roof, added insulation to all exterior walls and the attic, replaced inefficient windows, and are currently installing a new HVAC system,” said Milt Carter, Friends of the Goss Opera House board president. “It is no small feat to get this far, and we are proud to say that nearly everything in the Goss is being sourced and completed by local contractors and businesses.”

One of those businesses, Rausch Granite, offered to donate all of the granite for the project.

“When I first heard about the Goss, I was immediately excited at the prospect of having such a historical and quality venue reopened,” said David Rausch, VP of Sales and Marketing for Rausch Granite. “I think the Goss will be a great benefit to the local community, so I want to help make everyone’s experience at the Goss the best it can be.”

The Friends of the Goss also plans to have LATI’s building trades technology students back to work on restoration projects over the winter. The students assisted with demolition and drywall work this past fall.

While not yet announcing an opening date, Sinner said the Entertainment Committee for the Friends of the Goss is booking shows for the Opera House for April through September.

“Just a year ago, the Friends of the Goss was a small group of individuals working to save the Goss from demolition,” said Carter. “Now, the number of people who are actively engaged in helping to bring this treasure back to downtown Watertown has grown into the thousands. We live in a pretty amazing place.”

As 2019 winds down, so does the Watertown Area Community Foundation’s “40 Stories for 40 Years.” It is with that in mind, as well as the community-minded people who made the Foundation what it is today, that we feel it fitting to pay homage to more organizations and efforts that say ‘community’. One example of that is the Friends of the Goss Opera House.

One hundred and thirty years ago Charles Goss rebuilt the Goss Opera House after a fire destroyed it. The Watertown community supported him and the GOH so much so that his obituary in a 1905 Watertown Public Opinion read: “He will long be remembered in Watertown… He helped to build Watertown and in death he leaves many a good friend who will remember him only in a kind and generous way.”

The Friends of the Goss Opera House (FOG) continues to carry that torch as the Goss Opera House is being “rebuilt” yet again with community support lighting the way. Friends of the Goss is officially made up of an 11-member Board of Directors, a steering committee, campaign co-chairs (honorary and acting), and Executive Director Missy Sinner.

In recent months, however, Friends of the Goss has evolved to encompass many more. From an initial group of Watertonians who desired to keep the Goss doors open several years ago, to the establishing Friends of the Goss as a nonprofit, to several committees, to numerous area contractors, to individuals, businesses and organizations donating their time and dollars, to Lake Area Technical Institute students…the list goes on.

Support of the Watertown Area Community Foundation helped lead the effort, FOG said. The foundation awarded a $150,000 grant in 2018, which helped FOG purchase the building.

“The foundation and (Watertown) development company’s support have made a big difference,” pagsaid Milt Carter, FOG president. “That support has motivated people to do something. As far as the fundraising goes, I had no idea what to expect. it’s so encouraging.”

Campaign goals are being met and that prompts renovation milestones to be met.

Perhaps the fundraising success is partially due to Watertown area residents’ voices being heard.

“Revitalizing downtown Watertown has been on the minds of our citizens for quite some time,” said Don Roby, who together with his wife, Kelly, and Jeff and Paula Orthaus, co-chair the Light Up the Goss Fundraising Campaign. “This was clearly evident during the H2O-20 Visioning process.”

In November, the Goss got another positive boost. It was announced that a WACF anonymous donor will match $250,000 of FOG donations through Dec. 31, 2019. To date, $130,000 has been raised toward the challenge.

“We hope to meet that match and check another essential thing off our list,” said Carter.

The FOG checklist shows many accomplishments thus far: The Goss logo, designed by a Watertown native, was completed early on and features three ‘jeweled’ points, paying tribute to the three opera houses in Watertown during Goss’s time. The roof is done. The windows are done. Insulation of all exterior walls are near completion and when they are, LATI students will begin the dry wall process.

The opera hall is an extraordinary project all its own with a designated committee of local designers, historians and other volunteers taking the reins. Once the plaster cracks are repaired in the opera hall, painting the hall will begin. Patching, sanding and refinishing the floor was more expensive than replacing it, so the floor will be replaced. The good original planks will be repurposed as much as possible elsewhere in the Goss.

Installation of a sound system, curtains and acoustical treatments will proceed after the floor is completed.

“If we raise the money needed, we hope to have everything done by the time the restaurant opens,” Carter said. “Mavericks is fully engaged. They’re working on plans with a potential opening in spring 2020.”

The restaurant will join other renters as all but of the Goss’ business locations has been filled with offices, retail and a dance studio.

“Tangible results like the building are one aspect,” said FOG Board member Kristen Henderson regarding progress to date. “But it’s also exciting to see how the Goss has really become a community project. That’s been evident with the amount of money raised, support on social media and so much more.”

Sinner noted the strong community support.

“We see people in the community stand up to the occasional nay-sayer whether in public or on social media and that’s so positive,” she said. “And we can’t say enough about the army of people in the shadows who are helping. They’ve spent hours and hours on the Goss.”

Carter said the community support has helped him believe the entire project is going to become a reality.

“After months of planning, kicking off a fundraising campaign, renovating, hiring Sinner as executive director, more planning and more fund-raising, this December, the vision is becoming reality,” he said. “Next December, FOG fully intends the Goss to be a bustle of activity with every window lit up, not just with lights but with life.”

A New Year’s Eve party may have to be added to the list.

“Just like the community foundation is supported by people of all walks of life, the goal of opening the Goss Opera House is to have a gathering place for people from all walks of life,” said Chris Carter. “The mission is a broad cross section of events, both private and public.”

Events are already being booked. The South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra will be welcomed at the Goss for a concert on April 24 next year.

“The foundation’s support of the Goss is about supporting the arts, entertainment, historic preservation and downtown revitalization, but perhaps most importantly, it’s about community,” said Jan DeBerg, WACF executive director.

Milt and Chris Carter said there are many interesting places on the map, but they feel fortunate and blessed to have grown up and raised their family in Watertown.

“The Goss, too, is a place,” Chris said. “But the people are what make the place.”