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Patrons welcome back Ritz marquee with ‘Birdie,’ ceremony

The Ritz came back to life on Monday night.

City officials used “Bye, Bye Birdie” – the Greenville Area Arts Council’s first show of 2009 – to show-off the newly renovated Ritz marquee in front of a crowd on Commerce St. Patrons popped confetti and cheered and the marquee’s brilliant colors brought back memories for some of those attending.

“House on Haunted Hill,” said Councilman Tommy Ryan, when asked what movies he remembered seeing at the Ritz.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) brought a special gift: A $25,000 check to help the GAAC purchase its first-ever sound system for the old theatre. The Ritz holds special memories for Mitchell as well.

“I remember coming here when me and my wife were dating,” said Mitchell, whose wife, Rosalind, hails from Greenville. Mitchell said he has helped contribute over $54,000 to Ritz renovations over the last three years.

The night was also a special one for Roberta Gamble also. Gamble helped lead the charge to save the Ritz from possible demolition in the 1980s. She didn’t think she’d see the day when the marquee was restored.

“At my age, you don’t even buy green bananas,” she said.