Making room: the Opera ceremony pays tribute to a devoted patron | News, Sports, Jobs

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Above, Fredonia Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis, right, and Cate Arroe stand next to a plaque dedicating the Esther Arroe Lanford Ballroom Monday. Cate Arroe is Lanford’s daughter. Below, a close-up of the plate.

On Monday afternoon, the Fredonia Opera House dedicated its basement reception hall to its longtime supporter Esther Arroe Lanford.

The Opera‘s executive director, Rick Davis, joined Lanford’s daughter, Cate Arroe, in unveiling a plaque at the entrance to the hall. Arroe made a donation to the Opera in memory of his mother, who died in 2020, which was used to fund renovations to the hall.

Davis said the ceiling and lighting had been replaced, the walls had been painted and the floor had been redone. Framed artwork has been added to the walls. Two 1930s film posters from the venue, when it was the Winter Garden Theater, will also go up once they are finished.

Lanford’s friends and family, along with members of the Opera’s Board of Trustees and staff, attended the hall’s dedication. A short reception followed.

In brief remarks before the plaque unveiling, Davis said meeting people like Lanford was the most enjoyable part of her job.

Above, Fredonia Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis, right, and Cate Arroe stand next to a plaque dedicating the Esther Arroe Lanford Ballroom Monday. Cate Arroe is Lanford’s daughter. Below, a close-up of the plate.

He recalled her Danish accent and how she would correct someone if they mistakenly called her German or Dutch.

Davis also remembered Lanford’s dry sense of humor. “Sometimes I had to take time off. “Is she joking or is she serious?” “Then she’d have a glint in her eye,” he said.

He added that she was very intelligent and had a deep knowledge of art. “She participated in various events. She had a wide range of tastes,” he said. She was particularly fond of satellite events, especially the Art & Architecture On Screen series.

When Lanford’s health began to decline and she could no longer drive, she would walk to Opera events from Fredonia Place. Davis said staff members would take her home.

Cate Arroe also opened up about her mother. “She spent a lot of time coming here and loved coming here,” she says.

In fact, when Lanford died, the Opera House was the first place Arroe thought of to honor his mother.

“I was glad it worked out. This place means a lot to her,” she says.


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