Valley residents contribute to Solvang Theaterfest rebuilding campaign

By Lois Brown

Solvang Theaterfest Board Member

Good causes during the pandemic range from stocking local food banks to rebuilding the Solvang Festival Theater. 

“There has never been a better time to support efforts to feed our most vulnerable residents,” said Erica Flores, People Helping People’s communications and development director “and yet, this is no time to forget the soul nurturing magic of live performance right here in the Valley.” 

Sonny and Lois Brown Photo Contributed After having to cancel their travel plans, many Valley residents, including Sonny and Lois Brown, above, use money earmarked for travel to contribute to the rebuilding of the Solvang Theater.

Flores has recently joined Theaterfest’s Board of Directors because she sees the value of supporting the full range of community needs.

The beloved 700-outdoor-seat theater was built 46 years ago and has housed thousands of professional theater performances and countless live concerts over the years. It brings tourists to Valley businesses and provides a venue for other local nonprofits to gather and raise funds for their own good causes. But now—due to all that wear and tear—it urgently needs a major restoration.

When Lois and Sonny Brown, Valley residents for over 12 years, learned their planned cruise to the Greek Isles had been cancelled and was unlikely to be rescheduled in the near future, they decided to replace their disappointment with the joy of giving. 

Lois is on the Theaterfest board of directors so they didn’t have far to look for a worthy cause, and settled on a naming opportunity in support of the $4.7 million rebuilding campaign. 

“We have always loved serving local wines at the bar in the Patron’s Garden before PCPA performances and live music concerts,” Lois Brown said, “so we will be lending our names to that bar. What better way to use cancelled travel funds than to pass along the joy of live performance to future generations.”

During the pandemic year, Lily Carey was able to give generously to a number of nonprofits, including Direct Relief International, UCSB Arts & Lectures, local Rotary and Theaterfest. Carey sees all types of performance arts as “necessary for everyone’s sanity.”

But she has an additional reason to support live theater: Her grandfather, Harry Carey — who appeared in movies alongside John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart — was a playwright and acted in New York theater before coming to Hollywood. So Carey looks with special affection at the PCPA performers who take the stage of Solvang Festival Theater each summer. 

“The performers are fantastic,” she said. “Even judged against performers in major cities, they are amazing,” she continued. “Besides, this wonderful outdoor theater is the gem of the Valley — as a community we have to do whatever it takes to be sure it will continue to thrive.”

Valley residents Bill and Kelley Brennan were vacationing in New Zealand last March when borders began to close due to the pandemic. Having to leave New Zealand early was a huge disappointment, but the travel company did come through with a refund. As more and more activities closed here at home, the Brennans had time to reflect on the many summer evenings they’d enjoyed over the years at the Solvang Festival Theater — sitting under the stars, sipping wine, catching up with friends and neighbors. 

“It just seemed right to put this travel refund toward helping to rebuild the theater, doing our part to ensure professional live theater and music for future generations of Valley residents and tourists,” Kelley Brennan said.

Paul and Suzi Matthies were expecting to visit France and to take several trips to Seattle and Connecticut to see their children and grandson. 

“But it’s a great feeling to realize the travel budget we couldn’t use this year due to such a terrible thing as a global pandemic can be re-channeled to do good in our community,” said Suzi Matthies, noting they had supported the local YMCA, Theaterfest, Santa Ynez Valley Community Kitchen at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley, Bethania Church Weekly Food Distribution, and Atterdag at Home.

Community residents have stepped up in big ways and small to support local nonprofits this year. When the 2020 summer PCPA program had to be cancelled, Star Patrons, who participate in a drink-and-dine reception before each play, almost universally donated their program costs back to the Solvang Festival Theater to help offset the loss in revenue due to COVID-19 closing. 

These nonprofits — and all the nonprofits in the Central Coast community — urge residents to be as generous as they are able. Whether to feed the hungry or support those programs and venues that make our area special — it is needed more than ever. 

Theaterfest is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation whose goal is to provide a unique live performing arts venue that promotes the highest quality experience for artists and audience members in a space that is safe and accessible to all. To learn more about the campaign to rebuild the theater, please email