Solvang Theaterfest will honor some 30 community members who in the early 1970s dreamed of building an outdoor theater in the small town of Solvang. Acting on their ambitious vision, they raised the funds, selected a site, and built the 700-seat theater that opened in 1974.

The founders tribute event is at 4 pm. Thursday Nov. 2 at Solvang Festival Theater, 420 Second St., Solvang. In anticipation of Theaterfest’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2024, the gathering will bring together founders, relatives, and friends for an afternoon reception on the stage.

Among the guests will be Sue and Erling Pohls. Erling, a well-known general contractor who led the original construction, and his wife Sue who have stories to tell about the resourcefulness and creativity of the project — even the designing of plans on a napkin.

Judy (Lewellen) Guder, who lives in Seattle, is returning to join old friends and acknowledge the generosity of the community in raising almost $90,000.

Donovan Marley, retired artistic director of the Denver Center Theater Company will also attend. In the early 1970s he was the artistic director at PCPA (Pacific Conservatory Theater) and is credited with inspiring Solvang business leaders to raise the funds and build the destination theater.

A cooperative relationship between PCPA and Solvang Theaterfest has endured with PCPA continuing over 50 years to bring summer productions to Solvang. The Solvang Festival Theater is owned and maintained by the nonprofit Solvang Theaterfest with a local board of 18 members who will greet the guests.

John and Jan Severson, represented by their daughter Kathryn Menteer, will also be honored. Along with Betty Williams, the Seversens donated land to create the garden lobby that now serves for summer concerts and other events.

In recognition of the founders’ contributions to the theater, a bronze plaque bearing each of their names will be placed on a theater seat. The new seats, fittingly in Copenhagen blue, are a highlight of the newly rebuilt theater that reopened last spring.

For more about putting a name plaque on a seat, those wanting to honor other individuals or who desire to be part of the theater legacy, can visit the Solvang Theaterfest website.

For more contact Solvang Theaterfest executive director Scott Coe at, or call 805-588-4112.