The Shipshewana Town Center is currently undergoing a transformation into a theater to host top notch entertainers this week.
Chairs are going in. The sound system is getting hooked up. And the stage is being built.
Starting Wednesday, the Blue Gate Theater is moving into the town center as it hosts some very big names in show business, starting with world-class entertainer Amy Grant, who will be in Shipshewana Wednesday evening.
This is the second time that the Blue Gate has transformed the town center into a theater for premier musicians, having hosted Sawyer Brown and Ricky Skaggs in the spring. Amy Grant’s performance kicks off four nights of entertainers, with Guy Penrod following on Thursday, Ray Stevens on Friday, and Diamond Rio Saturday.
“The Blue Gate has been on the map for some time,” noted Grant’s representative Dan Posthuma. “Other artists told us about it and the great experience they had there, as well as the great audiences.”
But what put the small-town venue on such a large map?
“Mel is a terrific host,” Posthuma stated. “He understands artistry and hospitality. It’s that combination that put Shipshewana on the map.”
Andy Rhorer from the Blue Gate recalled the theater starting small with local and niche acts. “Mel hit on what started this, getting bigger names and well known niche artists,” Rhorer said. The theater brought in gospel, bluegrass and family-friendly comedy acts.
And while the acts were a hit with audiences, the venue became a hit with the artists. “We found that it became a favorite place for the artists to come to,” Rhorer said. Soon, the Blue Gate had a reputation among top Southern Gospel artists as a great place to play, and that word spread into the Christian music community. “It’s how we treat them. Shipshewana hospitality means a lot,” Rhorer stated. “It’s a nice change for them. They might get to do things they don’t normally get to.”
And an act like Amy Grant would seem to be the perfect fit to the small-town hospitality. “Amy is very much a people person,” Posthuma said. “Anytime you talk to her, there’s a real soul to soul connection.”
And the small venue that Shipshewana provides “brings out the best in Amy,” Posthuma added.
The evening will have an intimate feel as Amy will be on stage with only a handful of musicians and a fluid set list. “She has a lot of songs at her disposal,” Posthuma noted. What it will come down to is what feels right for that night. “She reads the people in the seats and can throw something in there to fit the night,” Posthuma added.
The concert is one of a handful Amy is doing. This time last week, she was in Hollywood with her husband, Vince Gill, who received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. “Amy is at a point in her career where she doesn’t have to tour all the time. She can do shows like this, with a couple of concerts here and there,” Posthuma said.
And Shipshewana has built itself up to be one of those stops.