LEWISTON — One year after Henri St. Pierre, 71, and Arthur Obie, 73, leaped into showbiz by creating an arena-sized tribute to Maine veterans at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, they are back.
For this year’s Nov. 9 event, they’re promising a bigger show and an even bigger audience of military personnel.
Though it will remain free for all veterans and military personnel, the ticket prices for everyone else have been cut. Plans call for musicians, singers, dancers and comedians to perform. Maine first lady Ann LePage and Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald are scheduled to speak.
And there will be lots of flag-waving. Units from the Maine Army National Guard, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and various reserve groups plan to attend. All will be given their moment to be recognized by the crowd.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s rewarding inside because all doors are open for us,” Obie said. “The people remembered us. We had a track record.”
“They saw what kind of event we put on,” St. Pierre said.
Obie and St. Pierre, both veterans, came up with the idea two years ago after visiting Branson, Mo., with their wives and feeling the appreciation from the folks who ran the theaters, restaurants and hotels. St. Pierre, who served in the Air Force and the Army Reserve, and Obie, who also served in the Army Reserve, received gratitude everywhere they went.
When they returned home, they wanted to share the feeling.
Last year’s first tribute drew an estimated 2,200 people and ended $2,250 in the black.
This year, they hope to do better.
Once again, the Colisee is hosting the event without charge. The men have moved the event to the afternoon — it starts at 3 p.m. — and they’ve lowered the price for nonmilitary people. An adult general admission ticket will cost $15 instead of $20. It’s $5 for teens 13 to 17 and it’s free to children 12 and younger.
New performers will include comedian and juggler Michael Miclon, singer Laura Sidelinger and cloggers from the Young America Dance Center in Waterville. The Fanfare Concert Band and the Androscoggin Chorale are returning.
However, the spotlight for much of the event will be on the attendees.
“It’s all about them,” St. Pierre said, nodding at an early version of the Nov. 9 program. It showed an image of a military family in silhouette.
“People are disconnected with veterans and the people who are serving,” he said.
The Colisee tribute is meant to draw connections.
Sitting at Obie’s kitchen table, he and St. Pierre have choreographed entrances for honor guards and reviews of soldiers. When it’s over — after anthems both solemn and stirring — they want veterans to feel proud of their service.
“We want them to feel good about themselves,” Obie said.
To St. Pierre, it’s part of the same comradeship that’s learned from the first days of basic training, when service members are taught to care about the people on their right and left. Even when they are home, the caring continues, he said.
“We have each other’s back,” St. Pierre said. “That was drilled into us. No man left behind. We have each other’s back, no matter what.”
Tickets for the show may be purchased at the Colisee box office or online at thecolisee.com. Veterans and military personnel can redeem their free tickets by showing a valid military ID or veterans organization ID.