Bowlus lays out plans for 60th celebration

A September fundraising gala to celebrate the Bowlus Fine Arts Center's anniversary will feature a concert with the tribute band "Abbamania" along with a dinner, reception and auction.



February 27, 2024 - 3:30 PM

Daniel Kays, executive director for the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

The party is on.

The Bowlus Fine Arts Center will commemorate its 60th anniversary on Sept. 14 with a fundraising gala that features a tribute to the 70s and multiple options to keep the celebration going.

“Abbamania” will take the stage for the special event, recreating the feel of a live concert for one of the most successful pop bands in music history. This particular tribute crew has performed for the cast of Mamma Mia. Special guests will also feature the music of Adele and Night Fever, the Bee Gees. 

“This is going to be a great party,” Daniel Kays, Bowlus director, told USD 257 board of education members at a meeting on Monday. “We’ll have multiple ways of joining in.”

The gala will be a three-tiered event with dinner, a reception with a silent auction, and the show, Kays said. 

The evening starts with dinner. Tickets will be limited, with corporate sponsorship available to purchase tables. Those who purchase the complete $75 package will have VIP seats for the show.

After dinner but before the show, participants can attend the reception and silent auction downstairs. Tickets for just the reception and show are $45. Those who purchase this package will also have prime seats for the show.

Or, you can attend just the show. Balcony seats will be available for $20, with main-level orchestra section seats for $30.

Kays also is exploring the option for an after-party.

The goal is not just to celebrate the past but to look forward to the future. Kays hopes the gala will encourage potential donors to support the performing arts center.

He plans to use the event as a model for future fundraising galas, likely every two years.

USD 257 Board of Education members meet at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center on Monday evening. The school board typically meets at the performing arts center one time each year to hear an annual update. From left are board members Doug Dunlap, President Jennifer Taylor, John Masterson and Dan Willis. Board members John Wilson and Tony Leavitt, and Superintendent Stacey Fager are not pictured. Board member Robin Griffin-Lohman was not present. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

FOR THE 60th anniversary season, Kays plans to bring a delightful array of callbacks and tributes.

He offered school board members a preview of the acts but asked the Register not to share specific details as contract negotiations continue.

Instead, here’s a teaser of some likely performances:

Music series: Prepare to see tribute artists for a couple of the most legendary names in music history, as well as an up-and-coming new solo artist who formerly performed as part of a group of women. 

Another performance will tie the past with the present. A music duo performed at the Bowlus in the 1980s, and their children have now launched their own “next generation” tour. They’ll follow their parents’ footsteps straight back to the Bowlus.

Family series: Expect to see more callbacks, particularly another group that performed at the Bowlus in the 80s. This nostalgic and artistic puppetry group is celebrating its 50th anniversary, so it seemed fitting to bring them back to celebrate the Bowlus’s anniversary, Kays said.

And if you enjoyed the recent “Dinosaurs World Live,” you’ll definitely want to keep a watchful eye on next season’s events.

A special Christmas show will bring a combination of tap dancing, hip hop, beatboxing and more. 

Another family-friendly show features an illusionist. 

Recital series: Expect a variety of instruments and world-class performers. Two very different duos will combine unexpected instruments, while a trio offers a blend of classical music and rock-and-roll. Two of the acts also will offer educational programs for area students; one is a Halloween-inspired children’s story.

Speaker series: National Geographic is expected to return with a featured speaker who will thrill animal lovers. It also offers an educational component for students. 

Another speaker has produced a powerful documentary that will premier in April. Kays hopes to offer a free public viewing of the movie, along with an educational event for students and a separate speaker performance.

Another speaker is a world-renowned scientist, author and professor — once featured as Time’s magazine’s Top 100 Influential People — who has changed the way we interact and think about others. 

Educational series: As mentioned, several of the performers will do double-duty with educational programs offered to area students. Another event will bring a heartwarming European-style puppet show to students.