By Savanah Mandeville

Through a variety of fundraising efforts, the citizens of Lamar were able to raise over $40,000 toward a new projector for a beloved pillar of the community: Barco Drive-In Theater.

Barco Manager Scott Kelley discovered the projector in the 71-year-old drive-in wasn’t working after a showing on the night of June 11.

“When I saw it wasn’t working, I knew it wasn’t going to be a quick fix,” he said. “The projector we had was out of the end of its warranty life, and the parts we were trying to use to fix it weren’t working. I knew we would have to get a new one.”

A new projector runs upwards of $50,000, which was funding the drive-in just didn’t have available. Kelley was forced to announce on the Barco Facebook page the theater would be closed until further notice. To make matters worse, the announcement came in the wake of a recent transition to daily showings to combat COVID-19 blues in the community.

Support from loyal customers immediately began pouring in following Kelley’s announcement.

“It makes you feel really good to know the community loves the drive-in so much and wants to keep it running,” Kelley said.

Lamar resident Samantha Mayfield started an online fundraiser “Save the Barco Drive-In Theater” via GoFundMe June 12.

The GoFundMe page brought in $2,255.

Shortly thereafter, Kelley got connected with Pat O’Neal, president and CEO of Lamar Bank and Trust, to begin collecting donations via the “Lamar Bank & Trust Company Care of Community Plaza Rescue” fundraiser.

The drive-in is owned by the 501(c)(3) Community Plaza Rescue (CPR) and leased from the owner, Wanda Felts. Pat O’Neal is also the president of the board for CPR. Betty Kuhn, Kathy Jenkins, Lynn Calton and Jerri Finley are also on the CPR board and were instrumental in fundraising, Kelley said.

By June 16, less than a week after the projector broke, fundraising efforts totaled more than half of the goal.

In addition to these fundraisers, Kelley said a large portion of donations came from folks just stopping into the theater to give cash.

On June 20, Kelley announced on Facebook he had ordered a new Christie 4230 4K projector for the drive-in, two upgrades newer than what the drive-in had before.

“The picture is capable of 4K, so it’s an amazing projector,” he said. “The picture is absolutely stunning.”

The drive-in reopened for business July 4 with a showing of The Jungle Book. Even though it’s back in business, donations continue to pour in from dedicated moviegoers.

“This weekend alone, we brought in $180 in cash donations,” Kelley said.

“We’re proud to be the longest-operating drive-in in Southwest Missouri that has never shut down, and it’s nice to know the people of this community take pride in that, too.”