Crescent marquee deserves encore

Contributed Photo The Stubborn Brothers are hoping to replicate this historic marquee that was connected to the Crescent Theater in the 1900s. The anticipated cost is $50,000, but the funding has not been raised yet.

Signs are everywhere. There are sandwich boards, neon signs, small signs, large signs, all saying one thing in a thousand different ways — come check me out.

When I first moved to Shawano more than seven years ago, I did a lot of exploring around the area. One of the places I came across was the Crescent Pitcher Show. It was my first time in a discount movie house, and I was more than a little surprised to see that they offered to make pizza, sandwiches and all kinds of goodies for you to enjoy while you watched the movie. I had grown up going to movie theaters where your food selection was limited to candy and popcorn, so I was eager to enjoy the new experience.

So what brought me to this place? What informed me that a new adventure awaited beyond the doors? It was the marquee sign. It stood out from other businesses on Main Street and drew me and countless others in.

Imagine my disappointment when the theater closed down in late 2013, meaning I would have to pay full price for movies when they came out at Shawano Cinema or wait until the DVDs came out. Besides my own lament over my weekend entertainment, there was also the matter of the big marquee sign that announced what was playing at a given time. Since the closure, the sign has gone from glowing beauty to painful eyesore as most of it has been removed.

I was resigned to the fact that the sign was gone for good when it was announced in 2016 that Erik and Aaron Gilling were purchasing the building and turning it into a microbrewery. It barely registered on my radar, as I figured the renovations would include newer, more modern signage.

Hey, I’ve been wrong before.

As it turns out, the aptly named Stubborn Brothers didn’t want to just create a place to sample unique beers. They also want their new place to be an event venue, and they’re hoping to restore the sign that made the Crescent an attraction for more than a century. Imagine my surprise when the story crossed my desk a few months ago along with pictures showing the original blade sign that adorned the building in the early and mid-20th century.

It wasn’t in the budget, but it was in the dream for the Gillings. To restore the existing marquee will cost $25,000, while bringing back the huge blade sign carries the price tag of $50,000. My thought was, go for broke, bring back the historical sign.

I still feel that way, as do most of the people consulted by the Gillings. The problem is that feelings are not translating into dollars. The Gillings offered tours of the building in April to show the historical features as a fundraiser for the sign, and Salon II held a cut-a-thon to raise money that same month. However, the Leader reported last weekend that the goal of $50,000 has not been reached.

It’s not a matter of being short a few George Washingtons or Abe Lincolns. It’s going to require a legion of Benjamin Franklins or possibly resurrecting some Grover Clevelands (the 22nd and 24th U.S. president who graced the $1,000 bill before it was retired decades ago).

Now, the Gillings don’t need to go out of their way to restore an old sign; they could probably do just as well with modern signage. However, the community has expressed an interest in adding a touch of class by making something old new again. They want to say to visitors, “Come check us out.”

How do we do that? We have people come up with ideas to raise money. We have more people carry out those ideas so that the full $50,000 can be raised. We had plenty of people say that they want this with their voices. Now we need to say it with our wallets. To give or to provide the Stubborn Brothers with fundraising recommendations, contact the Gillings at or 715-903-6118.

We need something big and beautiful in downtown Shawano that says, “Come check us out.” Bringing back the Crescent marquee will do that. Will you do your part to make that happen?

Lee Pulaski is the city editor for The Shawano Leader. Readers can contact him at