LEWISTON — When Henri St. Pierre, 70, and Arthur Obie, 72, began meeting with people about their idea to create an arena-sized variety show for veterans on the eve of Veterans Day, folks wondered if they could do it.

Neither had a showbiz background. Obie ran tire stores. St. Pierre spent most of his career with Central Maine Power. Even friends questioned them.

“One of the guys looked at me and said, ‘I don’t think you guys will pull this off,'” St. Pierre said. “I said, ‘You don’t know me; and you don’t know my partner. We are shakers and movers. We’ll make it happen.”

Less than a year later, they have raised about $10,000 in donations, garnered lots of deals for veterans at restaurants and hotels, talked entertainers into donating their time and even convinced the owner of the Colisee, Jim Cain, to give them the use of his arena for a night.

On Nov. 10, they hope to fill the 4,000-seat Colisee with veterans from across Maine.

Tickets to their event — “Salute to Current Military Men, Women and Veterans” — will be $20 for the general public but free to veterans.

Entertainers will include the Androscoggin Chorale, the Tardy Brothers, stand-up comedian Mark Turcotte, magic man Anthony Leone and the Fanfare Concert band.

All will be aimed at veterans.

“We want you to come and enjoy a three-hour production,” St. Pierre said. “Forget about everything. Enjoy yourself. And, when you leave, be proud of yourself and what you’ve done for your country.”

It’s a feeling the two men know.

Twice before, St. Pierre, Obie and their wives spent the Veterans Day holiday in the show town of Branson, Mo. During that week the city’s theaters, restaurants and hotels open up to veterans. St. Pierre, who served in the U.S. Air Force and the Army Reserve, and Obie, who also served in the Army Reserve, felt the gratitude everywhere they went.

“We saw how they take care of the vets over there,” St. Pierre said. “Every door that you walked into, every restaurant that you walked into, somebody had a hand out to thank you for your service and gave you a discount for whatever you had there.”

On their flight home, they wondered why it had never been done in Maine.

“When we got back, we took it upon ourselves to make it happen,” St. Pierre said.

Within a few days, they met with Cain at the Colisee.

“We were (in his office) for only 15 minutes, and we had it,” St. Pierre said. “We walked out of there and had a bounce in our step. We were on our way. That was the key.”

The men then worked on filling the arena. They talked with a technical expert about sound and lights. They began making the rounds of local businesses and called and met with veterans service organizations around the area.

“We had over 100 businesses that bought ads (for their program) or made donations,” St. Pierre said. “No doors were closed.”

A few said no.

“Most of the time, it was two more doors that would open,” Obie said. Donors included AV Technik, Cote Crane, Modern Woodman, Ace Security, Collette Monuments and the Crestline Division of Geiger Brothers.

Obie and St. Pierre tried to line up some well-known national entertainers — including Larry the Cable Guy and Kris Kristofferson — but they were busy. In the end, they went to local entertainers.

Jason Tardy of the Tardy Brothers and AudioBody said he and his brother Matt were sold by St. Pierre’s enthusiasm.

“When he told us about it, we were kind of like, ‘OK; yeah,'” Jason Tardy said. “Just on faith. I wasn’t really sure what he could pull together. From everything I’ve heard, he’s actually pulled together quite a show.”

The brothers were also sold on the cause.

“It’s nice to give back to the veterans who’ve given so much to us,” Jason Tardy said.

The cause has drawn support from local and state politicians, including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, and Maine first lady Ann LePage. All plan to appear for the event.

If it succeeds, Obie and St. Pierre hope to do it again, they said. The men hope ticket sales will give them a nest egg to help fund next year’s show.

People can buy tickets online at thecolisee.com and at the Colisee box office. Any veteran with a valid military or veteran ID or discharge will be entitled to free admission.

People who have questions or who wish to donate to the production can call (207) 312-3546 or (207) 212-6908 for more information.

[email protected]


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