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The History of the Marion Cultural & Civic Center and WBVN

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The Marion Cultural and Civic Center is located in the southwest corner of the Tower Square Plaza in the City of Marion. The original building was built as a movie theater and vaudeville showplace.

Construction began early in 1919, and it opened its doors to the public on January 2, 1922. At that time it was a vaudeville/movie house known as the Orpheum Playhouse. It was the latest in design and theatrical equipment and could seat 1500 people.  Some of the leading stars of that era made appearances on its stage: Harry Houdini, Tom Mix and His Wonder Horse, The Ziegfield Follies, Anna Case, star soprano of the Metropolitan Opera, Bebe Daniels, and the doll of the stage, Barbara Bronell, who appeared in “Listen To Me” and “The Broadway Jingles.”

The first improvements to be made to the playhouse were in 1927. With the innovation of the “talkies,” $10,000 worth of sound reproducing equipment was purchased and installed to show the first talking movie, The Jazz Singer, featuring Al Jolson.

The loss of attendance and revenue, along with the increasing high cost of maintenance, forced the playhouse to close its doors in 1971. For the next few years the building lay idle and deteriorating. But in 1973 the City of Marion purchased the building and property for a modest sum of $11,000. No firm decision was made as to what the city would do with the property. Several ideas were suggested, but a new concept came about during this period —the civic center, a multi-purpose building that could be used for all types of entertainment, town meetings, forums and conventions was created.

The city council made a decision to hire a local contractor to make an evaluation of the building and to submit an estimated cost of repairs for their consideration. The contractor found this building to be structurally sound, but in need of a tremendous amount of repair before it would be safe for public use. Once the evaluation and estimates were received by the city council, a decision was made to appropriate $140,000 toward the renovation.

On May 9, 1975, Mayor Butler cut the ribbon at the grand-opening. Will Rogers, Jr., was the featured artist of the evening.

Since it re-opened its doors in 1975, two former presidents, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, have appeared on its stage. Music and television stars Red Skelton, Mickey Rooney, Donald O’Connor, and Gordon MacRae, along with country music stars Randy Travis and Mel Tellis, and the outstanding piano virtuoso, Van Cliburn, have adorned its stage. Some big name bands famous during the 40s and 50s-Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo and Doc Severinson-have made several appearances at the center.

WBVN has been a frequent patron of the Marion Cultural and Civic Center, enjoying the use of this venue to bring Contemporary Christian artists to Southern Illinois. The last WBVN concert in the old civic center was CCM artist Michael O’Brien on Friday, March 7, 1997. Three days later the 75-year-old civic center burned down.  After producing concerts in various locations including SIU’s Shryock Auditorium, the SIU Arena, Rend Lake College, Southeastern Illinois College, and frequently in the John A. Logan Auditorium, we finally established a series of concerts at the Aldersgate Methodist Church, near the original WBVN studios located in the warehouse at Sherlock Holmes Mobile Homes east of Marion.

In 2004 the New Marion Cultural and Civic Center was opened and we began a long run of concerts again at the original location of many of our early concert series.  Our first concert in the rebuilt civic center was Mark Schultz on July 17, 2004 to a sold-out crowd.  We would on May 6th, 2005, host the filming of Mark’s DVD, A Night of Stories and Songs.  We filmed two separate concerts with over 1800 people in attendance for a matinee and evening event.

Current statistics:

First Sell-out was Phillips Craig and Dean in 1993

The most appearances as of August 2021 has been NewSong (22) beginning in 1996.

Mark Schultz (21) since 2001 and Big Daddy Weave (19) since 2002

The following is a Historical List of WBVN’s Concert Series…Thank you all that have shared these nights with us and helped make the Series a successful outreach of this radio station.  Concerts have played a major role in what we believe this ministry is supposed to be doing for our listeners and their friends and families.

06/01/90 Farrell & Farrell 07/27/90 Rich Mullins
01/19/91 Bryan Duncan 03/22/91  David Meece
05/31/91 Jerome Olds 07/19/91 Wayne Watson
12/14/91 Bruce Carroll 01/25/92 Geoff Moore
03/12/92 Margaret Becker 03/22/92 Randy Stonehill
05/29/92 Steve Camp 07/17/92 Wes King
09/14/92 Ray Boltz 10/09/92 Brian Becker
01/08/93 Phillips, Craig and Dean 03/13/93 Kim Boyce
05/01/93 Ray Boltz 05/29/93 Bryan Duncan
07/02/93 Charlie Peacock 09/10/93 Phillip Sandifer
10/08/93 Margaret Becker 11/06/93 Mark Lowery
12/11/93 Phillips, Craig and Dean 02/19/94 Bob Carlisle
04/08/94 Susan Ashton Tour 06/03/94 Out of the Grey
08/27/94 Paul Smith 10/31/94 Geoff Moore and the Distance
12/10/94 Aaron Jeoffrey 01/28/95 Wes King
03/17/95 Phillips, Craig and Dean 05/20/95 Kim Boyce
06/17/95 Clay Crosse 07/22/95 Guardian
08/26/95 Aaron Jeoffrey 10/03/95 Wes King Tour
11/21/95 Rich Mullins Tour 01/06/96 Bruce Carroll/ Michael James
2/10/96 Bryan Duncan 03/12/96 Geoff Moore and the Distance
05/03/96 NewSong 07/06/96 Gary Chapman
08/24/96 Cindy Morgan 09/28/96 Randy Stonehill
11/23/96 Margaret Becker 03/07/97 Michael O’Brien (Last old Civic Center)
06/20/97 Guardian (SIC) 08/16/97 Bruce Carroll (RLC)
09/26/97 NewSong (SIU) 01/10/98 John Cox (JALC)
03/20/98 Randy Stonehill (JALC) 05/02/98 Bryan Duncan (JALC)
07/25/98 Scott Krippayne (JALC) 10/02/98 Phillips, Craig & Dean (SIU)
11/21/98 Wes King (JALC) 01/09/99 The Normals (JALC)
03/04/99 FFH 04/10/99 John Cox
06/26/99 Satellite Soul 08/07/99 Nichole Nordeman
09/09/99 Margaret Becker/ Ashley Cleveland 11/04/99 Phil Keaggy
01/08/00 Russ Lee 02/18/00 FFH
03/25/00 NewSong 05/05/00 Big Tent Revival
06/17/00 Natalie Grant 07/06/00 Chris Taylor Youth Event
08/26/00 John Cox 09/30/00 Ragamuffin Band/ Ashley Cleveland
11/04/00 Geoff Moore 03/17/01 Andrew Peterson
05/26/01 Phil Keaggy 08/04/01 Mark Schultz
09/18/01 Michael Card 10/23/01 Andrew Peterson
01/11/02 John Cox 03/08/02 Layton Howerton
05/04/02 Mark Schultz 07/27/02 Steve Wiggins
09/21/02 Big Daddy Weave 03/17/03 John Cox
05/17/03 Andrew Peterson                            (8/9/03 Bryan Duncan) 11/08/03 Downhere
04/03/04 Axiom 07/17/04 Mark Schultz (NEW Marion CCC)
11/19/04 NewSong 01/14/05 John Cox/ Axiom
03/05/05 4 Him 05/06/05 Mark Schultz (DVD recording) 2 concerts
07/16/05 NewSong 09/27/05 Mark Schultz ‘DVD Release’
09/30/05 Phillips, Craig and Dean 01/20/06 Point of Grace
03/25/06 Todd Agnew/Big Daddy Weave 07/07/06 Point of Grace
09/30/06 Mark Schultz/Big Daddy Weave/Klinkenberg 09/30/06 Mark Schultz/Big Daddy Weave/Klinkenberg
01/13/07 Watermark / John Cox 03/29/07 The Rock and The Rabbi
03/30/07 The Rock and The Rabbi 03/31/07 The Rock and The Rabbi
05/19/07 Peter Penrose 07/14/07 33 Miles
08/05/07 Andrew Carlton /Adam Cunningham 09/08/07 Big Daddy Weave
11/10/07 NewSong 01/12/08 Mark Schultz (matinee)
1/12/08 Mark Schultz (Evening) 02/02/08 Randy Stonehill
03/15/08 Shane and Shane 04/24/08 Phil Keaggy
06/14/08 Rush of Fools 06/15/08 Andrew Carlton/ John Cox
08/23/08 Bryan Duncan 09/13/08 NewSong/FrancescaBattistelli/NateSallie/TNolan
11/08/08 Big Daddy Weave/Rush of Fools 01/10/09 Christy Nockels/ Ronnie Freeman
02/07/09 Michael O’Brien 04/18/09 Shane and Shane
05/28/09 iShine 06/13/09 33 Miles/ Andrew Carlton
08/20/09 Glory Revealed 09/12/09 Mark Schultz/PointofGrace (matinee)
09/12/09 Mark Schultz/ Point of Grace (Evening) 11/06/09 Margaret Becker
12/11/09 NewSong/BigDaddyWeave/ Francesca Battistelli 02/06/10 Downhere
03/20/10 Michael O’Brien 04/22/10 Rush of Fools
05/22/10 Barlow Girl 06/17/10 Mark Schultz
08/07/10 Francesca Battistelli 09/11/10 Big Daddy Weave/ Aaron Shust
12/09/10 NewSong/Newsboys 12/10/10 NewSong/Newsboys
01/29/11 Building 429’s Winterblast    (3/3/11 Watersedge studio) 03/12/11 Bebo Norman
04/30/11 Andrew Peterson/ Laura Story 07/09/11 Harris III
08/27/11 Jason Gray/ Finding Favour 10/07/11 Mark Schultz/33Miles/Finding Favour
12/09/11 NewSong/Kutless/August/Grace 01/28/12 Laura Story/An Epic, No Less
03/24/12 BigDaddyWeave/MIKESCHAIR/KerrieRoberts 05/12/12 Lincoln Brewster
08/04/12 Abandon/Anthem Lights/Watersedge 09/27/12 MatthewWest/MIKESCHAIR/LMcCaul/Everfound
12/07/12 NewSong/B429/FrancescaBattistelli/JonnyDiaz 12/19/12 Michael O’Brien
01/19/13 MIKESCHAIR/Citizen Way 02/18/13 SanctusReal/JJHeller/Unspoken/BreadOfStone  
04/06/13  Mark Schultz/Aaron Shust/Jonny Diaz 05/11/13 Chonda Pierce/Geoff Moore
07/27/13  for King & Country/Moriah Peters  09/21/13 BigDaddyWeave/CAugust/Unspoken(BDWDVDRecording) 
11/03/13 Veggie Tales Live!  12/10/13  NewSong/AudioA/SidewalkProphets/JCastro/L&TO
01/24/14  Phillips, Craig & Dean  04/13/14  Acts The 3-Man Show-Drama 
04/26/14  Ragamuffin Movie  05/10/14  Sidewalk Prophets/City Harbor/About A Mile 
07/19/14  for King & Country  09/20/14  Mark Schultz/Sarah Reeves
11/01/14  BigDaddyWeave/ChrisAugust/Group1Crew/DaraMaclean 12/09/14  NewSong/FrancescaBattistelli/SanctusReal/JoshWilson 
01/24/15  Josh Wilson 02/20/15  Ken Davis
04/18/15  WBVN Family Night 05/18/15 Sidewalk Prophets
07/18/15 The City Harmonic/We Are Messengers
09/18/15  Big Daddy Weave/Jason Gray/Citizen Way (Night 1)
09/19/15 Big Daddy Weave/Jason Gray/Citizen Way (Night 2) 10/02/15  NewSong Pop-Up Rehearsal
10/24/15 Jeff Allen (Comedian) 12/08/15 NewSong/Plumb/ Building429/RENO
01/23/16 Josh Wilson 02/20/16 Ken Davis
03/24/16 Mark Schultz 05/14/16 Jason Gray w/ Scott MacIntyre
06/24/16 August Rain w/Darren Mulligan 09/23/16 Phillips, Craig & Dean 25th Anniversary Tour
10/21/16 Big Daddy Weave/Plumb/We Are Messengers (night 1) 10/22/16 Big Daddy Weave/Plumb/We Are Messengers(night 2)
12/08/16 NewSong/MatthewWest/ Love&theOutcome/Reno/ JaredEmerson 01/28/17 Russ Taff
03/11/17 Mark Schultz 05/20/17 We Are Messengers
07/15/17  Chris August 09/30/17  Iron Bell 
11/11/17 Big Daddy Weave/We Are Messengers/Micah Tyler 12/16/17 NewSong/Crowder/Sarah Reeves (matinee)
12/16/17 NewSong/Crowder/Sarah Reeves (evening)  01/19/18  Taylor Mason 
03/10/18  Unspoken/David Dunn 05/19/18  Iron Bell
07/14/18  MARK SCHULTZ          #200 BVN Event! 09/15/18  David Dunn/ Axiom Worship
10/20/18 Carrollton 12/15/18 NewSong/Colton Dixon/Unspoken/Bethany Cruz
01/26/19 Taylor Mason  02/16/19  Lost In Wonder: Andrew Peterson/Sally Lloyd-Jones
03/09/19 Big Daddy Weave  04/26/19  We Are Messengers with JJ Weeks 
06/28/19 Steven McWhirter and Iron Bell 08/23/19 Russ & Tori Taff (concert & movie)
10/19/19  Bryan Duncan 12/14/19  NewSong/Mac Powell/Citizen Way (Matinee)
12/14/19 NewSong/Mac Powell/Citizen Way (Evening) 03/14/20 Mark Schultz (for the 20th time)
06/05/21 Mark Schultz 21 in 21! 07/09/21 Big Daddy Weave
08/06/21 We Are Messengers    


Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

On his program the other day, I heard Ravi Zacharias talking about the stock market.  I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the ‘most manipulated game in town,’ but stock charts are what Ravi was referring to in his program.  In the market, a lot of charts have huge ups and downs; the highs are very high and the lows are like the bottom of a roller coaster ride.  Sometimes those charts can constantly be changing up and down; those kinds of charts are referred to as ‘chop’.  They’re nervous charts.  Run one way a short while, and then change course and run another way in dramatic reversals. Now if you’re trading the markets, the ‘chop’ charts can be your friend.  In some market charts you can find people getting ‘whipsawed’, ‘retraced’ or trampled in a ‘breakout’ and you will learn that ‘head and shoulders’, is not just a shampoo.  However, if you’re living life like that, your life is constantly running one way and then all of sudden drastically reversing.  It’s not a very welcome emotional experience.  Ravi was talking about how, as believers, our life charts should begin to take on more of a horizontal line as we allow Faith to stabilize our daily life experience.  His point was that as we grow and learn as Christians we begin to take on a chart line in our lives that becomes more and more ‘flat line’.  If I remember correctly, Ravi talked of how Paul encouraged us by teaching that he had become the same in little and in much.  He was constant and consistent when it came to his life experience.  In shipwrecks, prison and persecution, Paul had learned to live free from the emotional roller coaster traveling between belief and doubt.  The more he knew Christ and his crucifixion the more the very high highs and the very lows became level, an easier road to travel.  The charts in our lives would, in chart talk, reflect lower highs and higher lows as we lived this life, and could, if we permitted it to be so, cause us to become simple men and women of Faith, a constant Faith.  In chart talk, take on a triangle shape with decreasing trauma to our hearts.

One of the most important things that Jane and I have been aware of is a lack of burnout, or growing weary, in our Christian experience.  I was in a discussion the other day with some friends and it dawned on me how blessed we were to have an ‘alive, moving’ Faith that continues to intrigue and reveal itself over all the years.  I think another way to say that is we have never stopped learning more and more about the Mystery that was Christ Jesus.  We haven’t stopped our learning experience to defend a doctrine, denomination or a persuasion.  We’ve been blessed to journey along the Gospel way and not camp anywhere in particular or quit in one place along the Way.  There’s a lifetime of discovery in this Message.  I don’t think we ever reach the fullness of everything there is to know about Christ, but we can add Revelation to each and every day.  God is a moving, alive God, and while He is unchanging, He moves in us and on us throughout our lives.  And, while we may think we’ve discovered all there is to know of God, in reality the learning and the experiencing never ceases.  This is always something new, something to be amazed at in His story, all the time. The picture God drew for us of this journey is the tabernacle.  As we enter the front door we pass along through a process, moving through altar, washings, candlestick, showbread, table of praise and stand at the entrance into the Holy Place.  We do not enter at the door and just stand, we move along through the Christian Life experience.

That moving thing is something I remember writing about a few years ago.  Faith by its very nature is an action.  I wrote of how necessary it is for people to ‘go on with God’ and not be encumbered by holding on to yesterday too firmly.  God is a ‘mover,’ and as His people we must constantly be getting in a position to ‘follow’ Him on our journey of Faith.  In the very first verse of Scripture, God moved on the face of the earth.  He’s still moving today.  He told Abraham simply to move, to Go!  Telling him very little else about ‘go where?’  One of my favorite biblical teachings is about Jacob.  If you remember, Jacob ran in fear after receiving (actually by deceiving his father and cheating his brother Esau) the blessing from his father.  At one place he stopped running and settled into a place called Beth-el, literally meaning ‘God’s house.’   That was the first place he met God.  As was traditional in that time, Jacob built an altar of stones to mark the place ‘where God was’ found.  Jacob could have stopped there, never left that spot.  He could have justified his life by just settling in and becoming comfortable with knowing God was there.  We sometimes act like that ourselves when we first meet God.  We get stuck in that one place, thinking all that God has for us is in that one location. We quit seeking Him any further.  We just stake out a little ground there and sit down.  We assume we’ve come to the end of our wandering and we establish residence in one place.  We think we’ve arrived and had all revealed to us in that one experience. Oh, when we get in trouble or need God to show up, we return to those same stones and hope God is still there in that place.  We go back and visit the same place and again do the same things we did before, because we want what happened the first time to happen again there.  But God’s a moving God!  We will need to find ‘manna’ at the next location!  (Seek Me and you will find Me; hunger and thirst for Me and you will be satisfied.)


Jacob did exactly that, left the safe place and packed up his family and re-located, this time to a place named ‘El-Bethel,’ literally, ‘God of the House.’   Jacob now had two experiences with God.  He had found where God was at the end of the first journey, and on the second he had found who God was.  Jacob had ‘located’ Him in the first and had come to ‘know’ Him in the second.  We have the same opportunity in our lives.  We find Him one day and over time we need to continue to learn of Him.  Just as with Jacob, there’s another journey to take.  That journey is the purpose and the fulfillment of the first two journeys.  For believers, God has prepared a place for us, revealing it in our hearts.  It’s not only a future Heavenly promise, but promises in our earthly experience as well.  In Jacob’s case it was called Ephrath.  As you read Scripture you discover Jacob had no idea why he was to go there.  (In fact, he had a lot of opposition to going to Ephrath.)  All that Jacob knew was that he was to go and simply followed God to that place.  At that time the town of Ephrath was of no real consequence.  However, generations later, we discover that Ephrath became Bethlehem.  Do you know why Jacob needed to go to Ephrath?  On the journey Rachel died in child-birth.  But a son was born to Jacob and Rachel.  A son Jacob named Benjamin.  Benjamin would raise his sons in Ephrath, and his son’s sons would be born there, and their sons would live there.  Jacob’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandson, Boaz, would be born there.  In Ephrath, Boaz would meet Ruth, they would have a son, Obed.  Obed had a son Jesse and Jesse had a son David and out of Bethlehem, out of David, would come a ‘Son’ named Jesus.  Jacob’s move had a purpose beyond what he could see.  God had a plan for all the earth and it was located in the last move of God in Jacob’s life.

Twenty two years ago, Jane and I moved from our comfortable spot and began this journey called WBVN.  In following Him to another place, we discovered more fully the provision and the very nature of God.  In this place we discovered ‘El-Bethel’ or the God of the house.  We believe by following Him here, moving with Him here, we discovered more of His personality, character and faithfulness.  In being led by Him, rather than just staking out a place of comfort, we found God everywhere we went.  Here, we learned more about who He is, not just where He is.  Here, we experienced miracles of God.  Here we grew more confident in Him.  Here we found His Grace sufficient.  He is new every morning because He leads us into a new place every morning.  Our ‘Christian talk’ of following Him and that He is a lamp unto our feet became more real than ever before.  Our encouragement to everyone is not to stop where you met Him.  Continue to move forward.  We have not arrived yet, you probably have not either.  We are refreshed by knowing that tomorrow is full of Hope and Love and those are places we find the Peace of God.

Obviously, for years now this ministry for us is about encouraging people.  It’s not this building on Market Street, though it is a wonderful place to have settled into.  It’s not the radio equipment and such, although it’s amazing what technology we have been permitted to use to share this Message.  It’s not being in some kind of show business, or the artists we have met over the years.   Really, it’s not even the music.  For us, it’s about changing people’s attitude about their God, who loves them so much that He gave.  For sure it’s about people finding the house where God is, but just as terrifically, it’s about encouraging them to find the God of that house.