Early this week, Northern Sky Theater, together with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), confirmed a 15-year commitment to their ongoing partnership in Peninsula State Park.
Northern Sky Theater’s predecessor troupe, the Heritage Ensemble, first began performing in the park in 1970. Over the past 45 years, the popularity of the theater has grown, and Peninsula State Park has established itself as the jewel of the state park system. While Northern Sky and the DNR have formalized many facets of their partnership over the last four decades, typically their agreements have had a life span of five to 10 years. This marks the first time the two organizations have extended their formal partnership terms to 15 years.
“This relationship is extremely unique and greatly benefits the reputation and economy of Door County,” said Rep. Joel Kitchens. “This is a shining example of the kind of public/private partnership that makes our state so innovative and original.”
In 2012, Northern Sky was awarded the inaugural Tourism Award for Arts Culture and Heritage, in part because of the symbiotic relationship between the non-governmental, not-for-profit organization and one of the state’s finest parks.
“The park will always be our home,” said Northern Sky’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Herbst. “Because of the partnership with the park and the loyalty of our fans, this little theater in the pines has become our heart and soul. It is our brand, and what happens here will always be our main event.”
“The DNR and Northern Sky Theater have a strong and long standing relationship. We are excited to be moving forward with another agreement that will secure a unique and special recreation opportunity for our visitors and the local community for years to come,” added Ben Bergey, State Park Director.
Also this past week, Northern Sky secured additional acreage adjoining the property they purchased in the fall of 2015 where they plan to establish a new Creative Center.
The additional 22-acre parcel, which borders the south and east sides of the existing 17-acre parcel on the corner of County Highways A & F, was purchased through a generous donation from Mike and Marge McCoy of Ellison Bay.
“Marge and I get so much joy out of watching how enthralled our grandkids are by those magical performances under the stars,” said board member Mike McCoy. “Northern Sky has laid a strong foundation through their partnership with the state park. It is with our grandkids in mind that we are pleased to help ensure the future of this wonderful organization.”
The company has no plans to attempt to rezone the parcel nor does it plan to develop the property. The additional acreage will enhance and secure the Creative Center property as an eventual place of serenity, reflection and artistic inspiration.
Northern Sky has partnered with the renowned architectural firm Strang, Inc., out of Madison, Wisconsin, and is currently working to finalize plans for the new Creative Center to house rehearsals, workshops, a scenery and carpentry shop, box office operations and intimate performances.
The goal of this new chapter in Northern Sky’s development is to safeguard their financial security and offer new opportunities for mission-focused, strategic growth. Peninsula State Park will continue to be their performance home for the summer.
“We are at a pivotal chapter in our development. We’ve come a long way since Dave Peterson had his inspired vision for that little ranger stage hidden away in a sleepy northern Wisconsin state park,” said Managing Director Dave Maier. “The new Creative Center will make everything that we offer at the Park come together more efficiently. Most importantly, the park and the new creative center will support, sustain and strengthen each other, our mission and the future of the theater that our audiences have come to love.”
This project, which will be unveiled in more detail in 2017, will allow the organization to continue and expand on this 45-year legacy.