In times such as these, Jim Wafford insists entertainment is more important than ever.
That’s why the Wafford Theater owner is presenting his annual drive-in theater to provide social-distancing entertainment for Hamilton County residents.
“This is our 10th year doing movies here in Noblesville. We’ve been at Forest Park and, over the past nine years, we’ve sprinkled in movies at the fairgrounds,” Wafford said. “They haven’t been the (traditional) drive-in style (staying inside cars). People bring chairs and blankets, but because of the COVID-19 and issues of the whether we can use Forest Park or not, we made the decision to move the movies to the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds.”
Inititally, Wafford wasn’t sure if Forest Park would even open in June, so he reached out to the Hamilton County Commissioners for support. He conducted a Zoom meeting with the commissioners and fairgrounds staff and was granted permission to present the six-week drive-in movie series at the fairgrounds.
“Doolittle,” the last movie in the series, will be shown at 9 p.m. June 26.
“This year it was probably more important than any of our 10 years because the peoples’ choice of doing something together because of social distancing was less than it had ever been,” Wafford said. “Many are cooped up in their house, and this is a way to bring out the family. They can stay in their cars or bring chairs and sit outside in front of their cars.
“As a community, we need to get back to some type of normalcy. It was just good timing.”
Admission is free. The movies typically begin between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m. On average, about 300 vehicles pull in. Two movie screens are set up, and audio is provided through an FM transmitter that attendees can listen to on their radio.
Wafford, who also owns Logan Street Signs and Banners, said his business sponsors the Wafford Theater.
“Wafford Theater is more of a hobby. It doesn’t have any revenue-generating business,” he said. “It’s a matter of my hobby, and the sign shop goes and buys all the equipment and pays for what we do. Occasionally, we do rent out equipment to help fund our free movies. Movie night will average about $750 dollars a night which (pays) employees and, most importantly, (covers) the movie license fees. We have to pay to show movies.”
Wafford credits a variety of sources for the ability to present the series.
“I’ve got to tell you, we couldn’t do this movie series this year without the help of the sponsors and especially the county commissioners and the fairground,” Wafford said. “They are at the top of the list with helping out. They have security guards and take care of the bathrooms. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is helping with a presence and taking care of traffic control. The county has really got behind this community venture, and there are a lot of people outside of Hamilton County that have been coming, so that’s kind of an enjoyment.”
For more, visit Wafford Theater on Facebook.
Jim Wafford started Logan Street Signs and Banners on Logan Street in downtown Noblesville in the early 1990s. Since then, it has moved to 1720 S. 10th St. in downtown Noblesville but has remained in business for 29 years.
Wafford has several other ventures, too. He owns Wafford Theater, Hamilton County Television and Noblesville Trophies.
“We do the movies to thank the community for keeping me in business for 29 years,” Wafford said. “We do it to give back and also do it to help families create their own memories and have a good, no financial or low financial impact on their fun.”