The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Sep. 25, 2021

This Sunday — live entertainment’s back…

The long wait is over! This Sunday at 3 p.m., live entertainment will explode onto the Niswonger Performing Arts Center stage. This is the first ticketed event since Little Texas brought the crowd to its feet on February 29, 2020. When the last note of the encore was played, we departed the Saltzgaber Music Hall of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center not realizing that the world as we knew it was about to drastically change. Changing and adapting became a way of life for many industries throughout the past 18 months. The live entertainment industry took an unheralded bow waiting for the right time to open the doors and let the good times return.

For the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, that time has come. This Sunday, family entertainment returns with Buckets N’ Boards. These Disney Cruise Line entertainers who also have their own show in Branson, Missouri, are known for their high-energy antics and wildly funny percussion performance. All ages will have the opportunity to be enthralled by the showmanship and hilarious routines that have made Buckets N’ Boards an entertaining land and sea favorite!

The beautiful 1,200-seat Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio is ready for its first live performance in more than a year.

This return to live entertainment has many parents and grandparents alike thrilled to have the opportunity to bust out of the house on Sunday and spend time making memories together. Although much has changed in the world around us, one thing remains the same. The quality performances that you have come to expect at the Niswonger in Van Wert is still being delivered by a team of professionals that believe in making your experience so good that you will return. 

The rave reviews of Niswonger experiences serve as reminders of what makes live entertainment in Van Wert so special:

“Unbelievable to have such a big-city type of facility in a small town! Comfortable seats, good sound, and visibility from everywhere. They even have restrooms in the balcony. Wide variety of attractions every year, so there is something for every taste. Ticket prices are very moderate.” –Guest Review from Celina.

“Every time I go to the Niswonger I am impressed. This facility truly sets Van Wert apart from other small towns in northwest Ohio. The facility is beautifully done and, from what I have seen, offers many different types of entertainment. This allows the people of Van Wert to use this auditorium not just as an adult’s night out but also makes it a family-friendly place to visit.” –Guest Review from Wapakoneta.

We hope that you will soon find your way back to the Niswonger stage of inspiration in Van Wert. This Sunday at 3 p.m. kicks off the first of many shows that will keep us entertained throughout 2021 and the years to come. We can’t do it without you and the generous support of our Annual Sponsors Statewide Ford-Lincoln, Central Insurance, First Federal Bank of Van Wert and Presenting Sponsor Jeffery-Mohr Family Dentistry. Visit to see what artists are coming to the Niswonger stage. More announcements are on the way!

POSTED: 08/09/21 at 8:54 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Something inspiring…

Summer is winding down, but the Fountain Park stage keeps lighting up! This Friday will give fans something to feel good about.

Christian group Building 429 will entertain in Fountain Park this Friday.

Christian group Building 429 will take the stage and share its award-winning music. Known for writing songs about big faith showing up in everyday moments, Building 429 has amassed a strong fan base whose members will be warmly welcomed in downtown Van Wert.

Since the release of its debut album in 2004, Building 429 has garnered widespread popular and critical acclaim, receiving numerous accolades all while delivering lyrically driven, anthemic hit songs with a consistent message of hope along with high-energy concerts in sold-out venues internationally. The band received a 2013 Grammy® nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for “We Won’t Be Shaken,” which debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s Christian Albums chart and launched the title track to No. 1 on radio.

Building 429 also received a 2014 and multiple 2012 “Song of the Year” Billboard Music Awards for “We Won’t Be Shaken” and “Where I Belong,” respectively, a 2014 “Group of the Year” KLOVE Fan Award nomination, and a “Best New Artist” GMA Dove Award in 2005. The group’s certified gold single, “Where I Belong,” became one of the longest-running Christian No. 1’s in Billboard’s history at 15-weeks and has well over 246 million accumulative audience impressions.

“Where I Belong” has staying power on stages, in homes, and at worship centers around the world thanks to its powerful message and affirmation despite circumstances that surround us. 
Sometimes it feels like I’m watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing, but am I alive?
I will keep searching for answers that aren’t here to find.
So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance holding me.
All I know is I’m not home yet.
This is not where I belong.
Take this world and give me Jesus.
This is not where I belong.
When the earth shakes,
I wanna be found in you.
When the lights fade,
I wanna be found in you.
All I know is I’m not home yet.
This is not where I belong.
Take this world and give me Jesus.
This is not where I belong.

Lyrics alone are gratifying but set to music are much more satisfying. Savor their music like a psalm at Fountain Park this Friday night. It all begins at 7:30 p.m. in Van Wert, Ohio’s Music City.

POSTED: 07/11/20 at 12:34 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

Submitted information

Encore Drive-In Nights launches as the must-see concert feature experience of the summer, with shows to air at drive-in and outdoor theaters across the United States and Canada. These all-new performances will be filmed exclusively for each one-night-only event, and include cinematic interviews and storytelling. The concert experience will deliver a front-row look at the world’s most iconic recording artists to fans across North America. 

The series kicks off on July 25 with an all-new performance featuring Blake Shelton, who will be joined by very special guests Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins. The event is being shown at the Van-Del Drive-In near Middle Point. Tickets for the show will go on sale July 14 at For more information, visit
The Encore Drive-In Nights series is presented by leading event production company Encore Live. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in theaters have proven to be a safe, creative way to deliver fans world-class entertainment thanks to their ability to engage and delight large groups of people in open-air layouts. 

Fans will experience the “Encore Drive-In Nights presents Blake Shelton with Very Special Guests Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins” concert feature and additional Encore Drive-In Nights shows from the safety of their personal vehicles. Drive-in theaters hosting the Encore Drive-In Nights will adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended guidelines as well as all state and local health mandates. Staff will wear personal protective equipment and enforce at least six feet of space between cars. The series will also use contactless payment and ticketing systems and limit capacity in restrooms. Guidelines around concessions will be enforced to abide by individual state regulations. For a full list of procedures that the Encore Drive-In Nights is employing to keep fans and staff safe, visit

“This is such a great way to enjoy music with your family and friends and stay safe,” said Shelton. “I’m excited we’re getting the chance to perform a concert for fans and we’re going to go back and play old hits like “Austin,” newer songs like “God’s Country” and we might even introduce something brand new! So fill up those popcorn tubs and get ready for some country music!”

Encore Live launched the series in response to overwhelming fan enthusiasm surrounding its June 27 ‘‘Garth Brooks: A Drive-In Concert Experience’ production.


POSTED: 07/11/20 at 12:33 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

VW independent/submitted information

For 64 years, Wassenberg Art Center has hosted the annual June Art Exhibit. Come home to one of the center’s favorite art traditions; The annual June Art Exhibit.

Forms that contain complete rules, a downloadable entry form, and labels can be found on the Wassenberg website at Entries will be accepted Friday, Saturday, Sunday, May 17-19, from 1-5 p.m. Entry is open to all artists 18 and older.

A non-refundable fee of $25 for Wassenberg Art Center members or $30 for non-members entitles artists to submit up to three entries. A total of $1,300 in cash prizes will be awarded. A free, public, opening party will be held from 6-9 p.m. Friday, May 31.

POSTED: 05/15/19 at 10:25 pm. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment

PERRY LUHN/for the Van Wert independent

Perhaps the most famous of the many plays written by the playwright trio of Jones, Hope, and Wooten, is Dixie Swim Club. It has been produced nearly everywhere: A funny, sad, and serious story of women long past their glory years, “Dixie” has come to be the standard by which these writers are measured.

There are quite a few other hilarious shows penned by this trio that are making the rounds of the dinner theatre circuit, giving loads of stage vets lots of opportunities to participate in the laughs. I guess I didn’t realize this, but just last year, I, myself, got to participate, appearing in the romp entitled Christmas Belles. It was a blast.

In fact, every one of the JHW shows I have been able to attend has been a blast, not only for the cast, but for the audience as well. On Wednesday evening at Vantage Career Center in Van Wert, I was able to see Off Stage Productions’ presentation of Farce of Habit. This story, which is a little bit romance, a little bit thriller, and a lot comedy, is next in store for the patrons of the group, which always has ’em laughing right after dinner. The OSP crew always delivers on the laughs, and I was primed to go.

The story revolves around an inn that is run by a couple with their own problems, but who somehow manage to accumulate more woes. But, hey, it wouldn’t be funny if they solved their problems too soon, right? The couple’s son is, God forbid, an actor in community theatre, to the dismay of his wife, who is unaware of his hobby and thinks he is cheating on her.  

The inn owners, Wannelle and Gene Wilburn (Kelly Smith and John Vining), each have their own cross to bear. She can’t give up caffeine and he can’t stop scratching. Everywhere. The two actors are a match for each other in parts which must be over the top. Some of Kelly’s facial expressions are precious and tortuous at the same time. Mr. Vining’s scratching is appropriately annoying. He really wants to fish, not help his wife out with the inn tasks. These two must carry much of the first act and they make it work.

Son, Ty, the theatre nerd, is hilarious, not just because of the incredible costumes he carries off, but because of the deadpan expressions he can manifest when the others are making fun of his attire. A fun role for Jonathan Denny. He did a great job in the five-inch heels. Ty’s wife (or is she?), Jenna, is played with verve by Rachael Dettrow. She is going to make her hubby pay for his “indiscretion” and plays him like a fiddle. She gets her chance to play dress-up as well later on.

In fact, if I had to characterize this script, I would call it a “comedy costume piece”. It seems like everyone gets to try something outrageous on, and director Matthew Krol and his staff have found some pretty outrageous clothes. They were colorful, appropriate, and well-constructed. I was always wondering what kind of crazy thing would appear on stage next. 


POSTED: 10/19/18 at 7:38 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

VW independent/submitted information

Scott and Nikki Niswonger are presenting Dailey & Vincent at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert on Saturday, October 27, at 7:30 p.m. Get to know these Grand Ole Opry members and five-time Grammy Award winners.

More than 10 years ago, on December 29, 2007, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent had their first paid gig as a duo with a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. The duo became official Opry members last spring, capping a remarkable decade of building an award-winning career that now encompasses an eclectic mix of country, folk, gospel, and bluegrass music, along with television and comedy.

Dailey & Vincent will perform at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio later this month. photo provided

Dailey & Vincent occupy a unique space in popular music by forging a sound that honors their traditional music pedigrees, yet is edgy enough to appeal to more progressive audiences. That evolution has been both organic and a little calculated, borne out of trying to shake up their own routine.

“The first year or so we went out and did pretty much all traditional bluegrass and the second year we thought we had to come up with something different, so we went wireless with the vocal mics so we would walk around and sing,” Dailey told Rolling Stone Country over a plate of beans and cornbread before a Tuesday night performance on the Opry. “We were trying to make it more interesting.

“About two years later we hired a bass singer,” he continues. “When we did that, that got us into doing lots of variety — real gospel to quartet-style singing in both secular and gospel.”

Before they teamed up to become Dailey & Vincent, both men were already seasoned musicians with stellar reputations in the bluegrass and country communities. Dailey had spent nine years performing with legendary bluegrass outfit Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, while Vincent logged 11 years with Ricky Skaggs’ famed band Kentucky Thunder, as well as contributing to albums by Dolly Parton and others.

Vincent first met Dailey in 2001 at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards in Louisville, Kentucky.


POSTED: 10/17/18 at 7:40 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

VW independent/submitted information

Paul Hoverman, coordinator of performing arts for The Van Wert County Foundation and Chancel Choir director at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert, has announced the rehearsal schedule for the Van Wert Area MessiahChorus.

Rehearsals will begin Sunday, November 4, from 3-5 p.m., in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church, 113 W. Central Ave. in Van Wert. All singers are welcome.

Local singers and professional soloists sing “The Hallelujah Chorus” from the last community performance of Handel’s Messiah two years ago. photo provided

The performance will be Sunday, December 9, at 7 p.m. Rehearsals will be each Sunday afternoon from 3-5 p.m. leading up to the performance. The performance is the Christmas (Advent: Part I) portion of Handel’s Messiah,along with a few added selections from other sections of the beloved choral work.

Music books are available if singers do not already own a copy (Schirmer edition). Those participating do not need to be skilled singers, just interested in being part of a well-rehearsed and inspiring chorus. Of course, experienced singers are always welcome.

This biennial performance of Handel’s Messiahis a Van Wert tradition supported by The Van Wert County Foundation, in cooperation with First United Methodist Church. Professional soloists and a chamber orchestra will combine with the volunteer chorus to provide this Christmas tradition for the public to enjoy.

POSTED: 10/17/18 at 7:33 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

VW independent/submitted information

Van Wert Civic Theatre has announced upcoming auditions for the comedy Dashing Through the Snowby the writing team of Jones, Hope, and Wooten. Director Steve Lane will hold auditions on Sunday, October 7, at 2 p.m. and Monday, October 8, at 7 p.m. at the theatre, 118 S. Race St. in Van Wert.

The cast can be as large as 18 or as small as eight, with actors doubling parts. Lane promises this show will be fun to rehearse, fun to watch, and fun to perform.

Dashing Through the Snowtakes place four days before Christmas in the tiny town of Tinsel, Texas, as a colorful parade of guests arrive at the Snowflake Inn to cause holiday comedy. A niece and nephew try to end a 30-year feud; actors from a touring production of A Christmas Carolarrive to fulfill a promise; Mrs. Claus and one of Santa’s elves attempt a lover’s rendezvous: and a family plans a spur-of-the-moment Christmas Eve wedding. Trina, the innkeeper of this inn, has more than she can handle coping with these lodgers.

This show is split into four scenes. Each scene has its own characters and plot arc. Once that scene is over, those characters are gone — with the exception of Trina, the owner of the inn who is in every scene; Mr Boykin, a bed and breakfast reviewer who is heard over the intercom in the first three scenes; and Lou Ida, the surly housekeeper and cook who is heard offstage in the first two scenes.

Show dates are November 29 and 30 and December 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, with 8 p.m. performances, except for Sundays matinees, which are at 2 p.m.

Visit www.vwct.orgfor more information.

POSTED: 10/04/18 at 7:19 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

VW independent/submitted information

Off Stage Productions is opening reservations starting today to members and this Wednesday, October 3, to the general public for its next dinner theatre show: Farce of Habit, a two-act comical farce written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten.

Performances will again be held at Vantage Career Center, 818 N. Franklin St. in Van Wert. Show dates are October 19-21, and 26-28. Saturday and Sunday performances will be dinner theatre shows. For Saturday performances, doors will open at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7, and the show at 8 that evening. For Sunday matinee performances, doors will open at 12:30 p.m., dinner at 1, and the show at 2 that afternoon. Cost for the dinner and show is $28.

Residents and guests of the “Reel ‘Em Inn” lodge (above) discover there is an axe murderer on the loose. Off Stage photo

Both Friday performances will be “Popcorn Night” performances and will not include dinner, although popcorn will be included with the cost of the show. Water and soft drinks will also be available for purchase. Doors open for Friday performances at 7 p.m., with the show starting at 7:30 each evening. Cost for the “Popcorn Night” performances is $13.

Reservations can be made by members by calling the Off Stage reservation number at 419.605.6708. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. All reservations must be secured by credit card, and any cancellations must be made by the Wednesday prior to show date for a full refund.

Comic fireworks explode in Farce of Habit, an absurdly funny Southern-fried romp that takes us back to the Reel ’Em Inn, the finest little fishing lodge in the Ozarks. The proprietor, D. Gene Wilburn, is looking forward to a peaceful weekend on the lake. But there are only two chances of that happening: slim and none.


POSTED: 10/01/18 at 7:40 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

P.S. LUHN/special to the VW independent

I remember the first time someone told me about a new musical by a guy named Dan Goggin that essentially has Catholic nuns singing and dancing. I had some flip remark like “who wants to watch a bunch of penguins singing and dancing on stage?” After I saw the show, I was singing and dancing a different tune. The show was unique, cutting edge, and extremely entertaining.

This was many years ago, and this “genre” has been so successful that many spinoffs have been penned by this musical wizard, all wonderfully entertaining. I haven’t seen them all, but I know they’re still being done everywhere.

So, when Van Wert Civic Theatre put this one on their schedule, I wasn’t even worried what the story line was. I just knew these “penguins” were going to knock me out. And when I saw the list of actresses directors Amy Boley and Jerry Zimmerman had lined up to populate this cast, I was nearly salivating with anticipation. Many of the crazy characters I’ve seen and acted with are the very best you can find anywhere around. When I wrote my pre-review I ended it with “Can’t wait!”.

I took some friends from the Lima area to see the show. They had not seen many musicals at VWCT and I admit I pumped them up a bit about the kind of talent they would witness in this production. The reality did not disappoint, as my companions were highly impressed and complimented the cast again and again.

The story line of this musical goes like this:  The Convent of the Little Sisters of Hoboken is putting on a benefit to raise funds. Due to a tragic cooking accident, 52 of the sisters were poisoned by some improperly cooked vichyssoise. The sisters buried their dead. All but four, that is, which they have stored in the freezer, until they can raise the funds to properly inter their … sisters.

So the idea is, the convent is staging a “revue” showing off the talents of its residents. Now, I don’t always care for revues, but Goggin, and directors Boley and Zimmerman, never let me believe I was watching a musical revue. Just a bunch of habits having fun.


POSTED: 09/27/18 at 8:17 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News