Rejected by Grand Rapids, the show goes on in Aitkin

On its 2,000 mile length, the Mississippi River has only one live theater, at least it did until Grand Rapids fell out of love with the Grand Rapids Showboat. The city is swapping land with the Blandin Paper Company so the showboat lost its lease at Syndicate Park.

But you know how theater people are.

A supporter convinced the Aitkin Chamber of Commerce to buy and move the boat to Aitkin, the Duluth News Tribune reports today. That’s Aitkin 1 Grand Rapids 0.

“We’re a riverboat town and we don’t have a riverboat that represents us, so it’s a very good fit for us,” Chamber Executive Director Amanda MacDonald tells the News Tribune.

As the last person to chair the Showboat Board, Nathan Bergstedt explained how the proposal from Aitkin developed. According to Bergstedt, the board recognized that the first step would be to offer it up to surrounding communities. Just a few days after the last annual meeting of Showboat, members got a call from the Aitkin Chamber of Commerce.

“They market themselves as a riverboat town but they didn’t have a river boat,” Nathan Bergstedt, the former Showboat boss, tells the Grand Rapids Herald Review. “This is an opportunity for the boat to have a new life.”

The new owners say, however, it’ll be a few summers before public performances are back on the river.