Finding venues and events canceled amid a pandemic, a Berks County teen entertainment columnist organized a drive-in event to honor essential workers.

The event — featuring live music, the premiere of an animated short film, two movies and celebrity greetings to honor essential workers — will be held at Becky's Drive-In Movie Theatre in Walnutport, Lehigh County, from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 28.

“My favorite part of this project has been making new friends, meeting new people, challenging myself, and the opportunity to do something positive for essential workers and movie lovers alike,” said Fleetwood teen Rodeo Marie Hanson, 14, a 9th grader this fall at the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School.

For the past 10 years, readers watched Rodeo grow up in her column “Adventures with Rodeo” as we followed her at age 4 to celebrity red carpet events in New York City and later interviews with celebrities. At age 7, she made an appearance as Honorary Zombie at The Zombie Mud Run at Shocktoberfest. Then, she reviewed movies shown at The Hamburg Strand.

More recently, Rodeo began writing her entertainment column “Rodeo's Drive-Thru Hollywood News” for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering local entertainment events, interviewing celebrities and even taking her own photographs among more seasoned professionals at big venues.

She has interviewed Charlie Daniels, Deana Martin, Jane Lynch, and Cheap Trick, “a very diverse group from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees to Grand Ole Opry members to television and movie actors.”

“I've had opportunities to be backstage at several concert venues to do interviews. I am very fortunate to have experienced some historic places in New York while attending movie premieres and post parties such as The Ziegfeld Theatre, Eddison Ballroom, and Alice Tully Hall,” said Rodeo.

Her endeavors as an entertainment columnist came to a standstill as the pandemic closed venues and canceled events, so she adapted.

“One of the things I did to adapt to the cancelling of venues and closing of events was to reimagine how entertainment reporting can be done when there are no concerts and or new films being released.”

Seeing a resurgence of drive-in theaters, Rodeo set out to organize her own event.

“The significance of my column’s title ‘Rodeo's Drive-Thru Hollywood News’ is a call back to the 1950s when times were much simpler, an era that fascinates me, so it makes perfect sense to connect it to a drive-in (theater) which is very much a part of that time.”

With help from David Daniels, who credits everyone involved coming together to help bring this idea to fruition, Rodeo reached out to her celebrity contacts. She has been calling and emailing agents, managers, and publicists to assemble an eclectic group of celebrities for the night.

“I received a tremendous positive response from some of the celebrities who were willing to participate in this project on very short notice,” she said.

Called "Rodeo's Drive-Thru Hollywood News Presents Special Event To Celebrate Essential Workers At Becky's Drive-In Theatre," Rodeo explained that the special event honors essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic at the American cultural icon known as the drive-in movie theater.

“The celebrities are being kept in surprise until the night of the event but I can tell you that it is a unique group of artists from music, stage and screen,” said Rodeo. “In addition to the celebrities involved, I had to find a venue that would provide the drive-in movie screens. Fortunately, Becky’s Drive-In, which has been operating since 1946, believed in the cause and provided the drive-in with two screens.”

“We want all the essential workers who work every day and night to know we all appreciate their hard work helping to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. We all admire their devotion to us to help make our lives safer,” said Cindy Deppe, co-owner of Becky's Drive-In. “I hope all the essential workers realize how the public admires them for all their dedication and commitment to their jobs during the pandemic. They put their own lives at risk to help the less fortunate and sick.”

Deppe hopes that all essential workers — health care workers, firemen, policemen, grocery associates, delivery workers, EMT, to name a few — will have an enjoyable evening watching the double features under the stars and “forget about all the responsibilities they have from their jobs.”

Rodeo was inspired to do this project after reading about workers at Braskem America who lived at the plant for a month so they could make protective equipment for healthcare workers.

“What I hope to achieve with this project is to get people to think about the sacrifices essential workers make during these difficult times,” she said.

Celebrity video greetings will acknowledge the efforts of essential workers projected onto “two larger than life drive-in movie screens,” followed by two feature films.

“It is important to honor essential workers because without them everything stops and most people don't realize this since these workers are not usually in the spotlight,” said Rodeo.

The event also features the premiere showing of the animated short film “Riddlewow Voracious Aliens” in which a coronavirus antibody is blown up in space. The film was created by Kutztown University alumnus Trey Wojciechowski, who currently resides in Los Angeles pursuing a career in animation.

Live music by Bex followed by the band The Unlikely will open the event.

Mary Kramer, a member of The Unlikely, will be performing.

“I've really enjoyed working on this event so far and can't wait to see everyone there!” she said.

Kramer is also the project's social media guru promoting the event. She put the artwork together for the event poster.

“I think this event is a great idea. This pandemic has been really hard on everyone and I think that acknowledging the efforts of essential workers is important. I think that this event is a creative way to do that,” said Kramer. “The concept of the event made me want to participate. I think it's a really great way to give back to the people who have been working hard during this tough time.”

“I hope that the event lets the community know that they are appreciated for everything that they have been doing,” added Kramer.

For attendees, she hopes they will have a fun night away from home.

“Everyone deserves to relax and take a break from the craziness going on. I hope people will leave this event with a smile on their face.”

For more information, visit Discounted admission for all essential workers with valid ID.

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