From the February 1983 Beacon:
“Something New: Bethel’s First Annual Sweetheart’s Banquet and Extravaganza is now being planned!”
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 12 at 6:30 P.M.
WHO: You and your sweetheart
WHAT: A delectable five course gourmet banquet catered by Portland’s five star chefs extraordinaire, Mildred and Martha. Followed by entertainment you will not soon forget (you may try to forget it but to no avail). All of this plus a night out without the kids for only $8 a couple ”
Which was followed in 1984 by the second annual Sweetheart’s Banquet. By 1985 they figured out that all the fun people were single.
Mildred and Martha were the two Crouse brothers who liked to cook. Erik Ingebretson was the mad genius behind the entertainment. Cast member were drawn from that first audience (with little warning).
And so a Bethel tradition began. A couple years in we realized that we could actually make money — what a thought! Aren’t you glad we don’t have to do dishes by hand? Thank the Bethel Players. You can also thank them for the majority of handicapped access funding (the lift and bathroom renovations); new furnaces, new roof, annex windows, fellowship hall floor, kitchen renovations… and probably more that I’m not remembering. Bethel Players admissions money goes a long way toward keeping the physical plant in one piece.
A few years later we realized that not only could we have multiple performances and invite in about a thousand of our closest friends — we could make them take bus and break down tables and ask them for extra contributions to help fund the Drop In Summer program. It’s been a roaring success — Bethel Players donations (in excess of admissions money) fund about half of the summer day camp for kids in our neighborhood.
Years have passed and changes happen: we lost Erik in 1993, but new playwrights and song writers arose. You do know that the plays are all original works written by members and friends, right? We have many new cast members and friends. Some of them aren’t even Lutheran (but they put up with the lutefisk jokes). We continue to be amazed and so deeply grateful for the fun and fellowship.