The grassy grounds behind Whipple Performing Arts Studio and the Skyhaven Airport in Tunkhannock will be transformed into a sea of tents and vendor booths July 27 as the Upstate PA Wings and Wine Fest returns for the third year to celebrate the region’s rich local history with an abundance of chicken wings, Pennsylvania wine and more.
The event will raise funds for new dinner theater in Tunkhannock: The Starlite Playhouse.
Featured among the event’s variety of foods for sale is Tony Thomas Catering’s chicken wings — mild, BBQ, garlic and hot.
Skyhaven Airport will have planes on display and weather permitting, an airplane and pilot will be available for plane rides, at an additional fee.
Wine lovers will have an opportunity to discover, taste and purchase a variety of Pennsylvania’s best. Among the wine-tasting booths on hand will be Antler Ridge Winery, Bee Kind Winery, Benigna’s Creek Vineyard and Winery, Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars, Capra Collina Vineyard, Ferrone Family Winery, Juniata Valley Winery, Maiolatesi Wine Cellars, Sand Castle Winery and Winterland Winery.
To round out the festivities, there will be many other foods to sample and several vendors showcasing arts and handcrafted items, apparel and jewelry, products for the home and garden and more. Live entertainment will be provided all day by local favorites, the High Falls Duo and Jeneric, as well as appearances by representatives of the Whipple Performing Arts Studio and the Wyoming County Players.
A long history of area entertainment
The Starlite Playhouse is the longtime dream of Ron and Kim Whipple, founders/owners of the Whipple Performing Arts Studio and the Wyoming County Players. After years of presenting programs and performances in dozens of venues throughout the region, the new Playhouse will provide a permanent home for performances, as well as rehearsals, classes and set and prop storage.
The process began when Marvin and Evelyn Sands built NEPA’s first drive-in theater in Tunkhannock in 1947. Their popular Starlite Drive-in had operated continuously for more than 30 years when daughter and son-in-law, Kim and Ron Whipple, took over the business in 1979.
When the Whipples later sold the property to a supermarket chain, they kept an acre of land to build a studio specifically designed for dance and the Whipple Dance Studio opened in 1991. Kim Whipple is a member of the Cecchetti Council of America, an international organization dedicated to teaching and maintaining the high standards of ballet.
In 2008, the Whipple Dance Studio became the Whipple Performing Arts Studio.
“The studio is constantly changing and redefining itself to the needs of its students,” said Ron Whipple. “Acting lessons were added with an annual Summer Theater Camp. Kim has started a Dancing Princess program, which gives teen dancers a chance to learn how to teach dance to young children while they themselves learn ballroom, leadership and etiquette. The Princesses do many community service projects plus promote the studio at festivals and fairs.”
The Whipples’ community theater group, The Wyoming County Players, gave the organization an opportunity to incorporate the studio’s dancers into many of their musicals. As the Players’ reputation grew, so did its performance calendar. The studio provided dancers and singers for the many musicals and dessert and dinner theater performances throughout the year. But the need for the Players’ own performing space became apparent when venues did not have adequate air conditioning in the summer or comfortable seating. Renting space to build sets and store props also became a financial concern.
So, the Starlite Playhouse became the goal: a beautiful new home, decorated in the early 1800’s opera house-style, where this creative group could set no limits on what they wanted to do.