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The Grand Oshkosh turns 140

The Grand Oshkosh
Posted at 5:39 PM, Aug 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-10 18:39:13-04

OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — As The Grand Oshkosh celebrates its 140th birthday, Director Joe Ferlo says a lot has changed since the theater first opened its doors in 1883, but The Grand's mission, remains the same.

"The Grand wanted to be known [when it opened] as a gathering place for the community…" he said, " provide the highest quality entertainment at the most affordable prices, and I thought, 'wow, that hasn't changed a lot in 140 years.'"

Ferlo explains that The Grand hosts all kinds of performances, ranges from national acts to local high school musicals. He says the theater has inspired generations of artists during its 140 years.

"We have performers who performed their high school show on the stage who are leaders on our board of directors now," Ferlo said. "They grow up to become supporters of the arts."

Also over its 140 years, Ferlo says The Grand has gained a reputation as the "most haunted theater in Wisconsin," and says visitors have recounted supernatural experiences including "mist on the stage, noises in the night, and things that were put in one place that aren't there when you go back later."

Whether the ghost stories are to be believed or not though, Ferlo says they still help make The Grand so special.

"Theaters were built for imaginations to run wild," he said. "So if the stories are true, The Grand's haunted. If there's no such thing as haunting, they're just great stories, and I'll settle for that."

Miranda Leggett grew up attending shows at The Grand and even performed there for her school musicals while attending Oshkosh North High School. She says the ghost stories, big stage and old-time charm of The Grand, made her performances there something she'll always remember.

"There's no feeling quite like being on a stage like that," Leggett said. "When you have the real light shining down and you've got full drop sets and everything like that. It's really magical."