At  9:25 PM on Saturday night, the curtain closed after the Midtown Men took their final bow to a very gracious crowd. This marked the end of the first full year of live entertainment in Van Wert after the pause of the pandemic. It was a year of challenges, adaptivity, creativity, teamwork, collaboration, and celebration. March was the 15-year milestone of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. This iconic year was memorable for a worthy look back and also a heralded comeback. We celebrate this not as a self-indulged success statement but rather a humble thank you. In 2019, the organization sold the most tickets to live events than any other since the organizations start in 2007 with 27,934. In the rebuilding year of 2022, we are right on target with 25,742 tickets sold for Van Wert Live events at The Niswonger and The Grandstand. This article is our way of saying thank you, 25,742 times!

The Vision of the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation presenting Van Wert Live events is quite simple. We exist to make Van Wert an entertainment destination. The VWAPAF Board and Staff accomplish this by providing entertainment experiences that are so good they demand a return. Facing 2022, we were aware of the obstacles facing the industry. Many venues across the country had shuttered or minimized programming to navigate risk. Thanks to the generosity of our Annual Sponsors, Event Sponsors, Personal and Corporate Members, Ticket Buyers, Volunteers, and sustaining support from the Van Wert County Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council, our $2 Million dollar operation can look back on the year with gratitude and continued hope for the future of live entertainment in Van Wert.

There were some basic principles employed when setting the course for a year of uncertainty. First, Van Wert Live fell back on our Why, consisting of our vision, mission, and core values, wherein the epicenter is who we serve. We leaned on our staff and their unique gifts to find solutions and leverage strengths. We were recently awarded the Best Of The Region in Live Performance Venues by The Lima News thanks to the unique competitive advantage our small staff and volunteer base provides.

Next, we had to become comfortable with uncertainty. When knowing that uncertainty is to be expected we developed processes and strategies, ways to adapt instead of avoiding ambiguity and new consumer behavior trends. This looked like growing our customer base in terms of welcoming new patrons and then being intentional with incentivizing their return. Finally, we focused on finding our community. Not only with our supporters and ticket buyers but building alliances and industry connection points to open new opportunities for artists at our Van Wert Live venues.

We really couldn't do it without you. It took 25,742 ticket buyers to make this year a success. Van Wert accounts for 30% of our 2022 ticket buyers. Over 18,000 patrons traveled an average of over 30 miles to make Van Wert their entertainment destination. It takes a community to make the live performing arts thrive where a cornfield used to be. Thankfully, our community is made up of a region of supporters who believe that every show night is fun but the best is yet to come. 2023 is an opportunity to come and see what it's like to be part of the Van Wert Live Community.