By Kevin Greer, Communications Manager 

Shirley Stary has been instrumental in creating the Lakeside experience we’ve known and loved and led the charge in bringing chart-topping performances to the stage of Hoover Auditorium for the last 17 years. She says, “The time has flown by,” but the last two seasons have been by far the longest in her career.

Due to the pandemic, Hoover has been mostly silent for two years. But this summer, the floor and walls will be vibrating, and seats will be filled for the first time since 2019 as shows return to Lakeside’s social and cultural hub.

“One of the worst things about the pandemic was not being able to use Hoover,” Stary said. “People come here to see each other as much to see the show, and that’s been lacking the past two years.”

While Stary agreed that Hoover should have been closed, it was also a cause for concern for her. Like everybody else, she didn’t have a crystal ball and had no idea what the future looked like. 

“At one point during the pandemic, I was afraid I had done my last show at Hoover without knowing it,” Stary said. “I just thought, ‘What happens if we can’t open again?’ If you knew you were leaving, you’d stand on the stage and say, ‘All right, this has been a good run.’ So, I was mourning the fact that I didn’t relish that last show.” 

During Hoover’s two-year hiatus, Stary was also concerned for her staff because shows were part of their income.  

With much anticipation, the community will gather again in this central community gem as Masters of Soul take the stage on May 28 and Collision of Rhythm performing the following night.

Lakeside President & CEO Kip Greenhill says Hoover is a unique place that brings a sense of community that can’t be found anywhere else.

“Hoover Auditorium is one of several gathering places in Lakeside that brings people together from different backgrounds, varied geographic areas and a range of experiences to help enhance a culture of belonging,” Greenhill said. “The artistic programming done in Hoover, like the arts everywhere, further connects us into a true community feeling. We are so fortunate to have Hoover Auditorium open again and to bring us together.”

Jeannie Fleming-Gifford is entering her first summer as Vice President of Programming but is a Lakesider who knows how important and special Hoover shows are since she has attended several events there.

“The power of live arts experiences in a setting like Hoover Auditorium is nothing short of magical,” Fleming-Gifford said. “We are so excited to immerse Lakesiders of all ages and interests in a variety of quality, live entertainment programs and connect as a community through the power of the arts.”

Stary said this is a “rebuilding year,” but still has a solid lineup of shows, including The Spinners (June 25), Herman’s Hermits staring Peter Noone (July 16), Tony Danza — one of Stary’s “crushes” (July 23), family-friendly comedian Preacher Lawson (Aug. 6), We Are Messengers (Aug. 13) and Mercury: The Music of Queen & Freddie Mercury (Sept. 3).

Stary is excited for the return of Girl Named Tom on June 24. The sibling trio from Pettisville, Ohio performed in Lakeside last September, just a couple months before winning NBC’s “The Voice.” 

Stary noticed something was different about the group while they played on the Pavilion and asked them about it when their show was over, but they were sworn to secrecy by the network.

“I knew they were filming something, but they couldn’t tell us,” Stary said. “Their show was more polished from the last time I saw them. Something good occurred. Then when I watched ‘The Voice’ in the fall, it’s no wonder they were better because they had all this great coaching from Kelly Clarkson.”

Stary has several resources for Lakeside shows, not just at Hoover, but the Pavilion and Steele Memorial Bandstand, as well. She has a list of agents she contacts and attends conferences and conventions. Many performers hear of Lakeside and connect with her about booking shows, making her job somewhat easier while filling her inbox.

“Most summer venues of our level are outdoor amphitheaters, so people are knocking on our door,” Stary said. “A lot of regional acts don’t get to play in a venue this large and they love it here. I don’t create the show, I just take a show somebody else has created and put it on our stage.”

She also gets ideas from Lakesiders of all ages. A 12-year-old girl approached Stary about bringing in pop stars Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, but price, infrastructure and the thousands of people swarming Lakeside make their appearances very unlikely.

Conductor Daniel Meyer and the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will perform seven shows over three weeks, starting with a family concert on July 26. The LSO will have featured guest soloists for select shows, including violinist Stella Chen (July 29), Broadway singer/actor Ashley Brown (part of the July 30 Pops Concert), cellist Thomas Mesa (Aug. 9) and pianist Soyeon Kate Lee (Aug. 12). The LSO will perform a Symphonic Concert (Aug. 2) and with Verb Ballets (Aug. 5). The LSO concert series is made possible by the Ohio Arts Council’s 2021 ArtsNEXT grant.

“The Symphony is really a crown jewel at Lakeside,” Stary said. “What we cram into those three weeks is amazing. It’s a labor of love.”

In addition to the LSO and comedian Preacher Lawson, other family-friendly shows are booked for Hoover. Buckets N Boards (June 4), Juggler Mark Nizer (July 1), magician Jason Bishop (July 7), Disney cover band The Little Mermen (July 15) and ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger (July 27) are shows kids will enjoy. God Squad leader and Lakeside favorite Chip Richter and his band The Munks will perform June 22.

“There’s something special about his show,” Stary said. “It’s kind of like rock & roll for him. It’s a gig rather than a mission or ministry. We are blessed by Chip and Chip is blessed by Lakeside. It’s a beautiful win-win relationship.”

Stary says her job has its share of challenges, but scheduling shows at all the venues and working in Lakeside are special.

“This is such a dream job,” Stary said. “I enjoy getting to connect with the community and a young crew that I can help mentor in a career in the arts. I’m grateful and blessed I’m the one who gets to do it.”