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Paul Bunyan Playhouse to honor Gill as celebrity star patron

The Paul Bunyan Playhouse will honor Helen Gill today as its celebrity star patron at Stars in the Street, a block party to celebrate the playhouse's upcoming 2009 summer season. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

From its early days at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge to its current downtown location in the Chief Theatre, Helen Gill has enjoyed many years at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse.

Today, the playhouse will honor Gill as its celebrity star patron at Stars in the Street, a block party to celebrate the playhouse's 2009 summer season. The first show of the season, "Sisters of Swing: The Story of the Andrews Sisters," will open June 10.

Stars in the Street will begin at 5:30 p.m. with attendees visiting Brigid's Cross Irish Pub, Chocolates Plus, Keg N' Cork, Backyard BBQ and Tutto Bene for appetizers.

A Celebrity Star Patron Parade in honor of Gill will follow at 6:45 p.m. The parade will feature music, classic cars, miniature horses and more.

At 7 p.m., Zach Curtis, playhouse artistic director, will give an on-stage preview of the upcoming summer season.

Tickets for the food tour and preview cost $10 and are available today at the playhouse's box office. The box office opens at 9 a.m.

For many years, Gill, who has lived in Bemidji all her life, has been a playhouse season ticket holder and served on the playhouse's board of directors.

She said being selected as the celebrity star patron means she has a closeness with something she loves - the playhouse.

"I love the excitement of it and the variety of it," said Gill, noting that she also loves sharing the playhouse with the people in the audience.

She said she enjoys all the playhouse's shows - whether musicals, mysteries or other types of shows - and plans to attend shows this summer.

Throughout many summers of shows, even bad weather didn't keep Gill from going to the playhouse.

One stormy night, she recalled, she was on her way back home from a show at the playhouse when it was housed at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge. Lightning struck around the vehicle she was traveling in.

"Nothing deterred us from going to the playhouse," Gill said. "What is the expression? The show must go on."