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The Versailles Republican

May 15, 2014 • Headlines



Education, manufacturing and local leaders got a close-up look at what the Southeastern Career Center students learn in the diesel program.

John “Dillon” Oliver, Kevin “Tyler” Ashby, Skyler Bell, and Wyatt Clendenning demonstrate testing the pop-off pressure for fuel injectors, as visitors toured the SCC facility to view the diesel program

The Advanced Earth Science Club at South Ripley are pictured with their instructor, Melissa Alexander.
The group recently visited Marengo Cave, a U.S. National Natural Landmark located in Indiana.

Southeastern Career Center diesel students show visitors how they learned
about balancing tires during the Education That Works program.

Tom Tepe Autocenter
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Friendship State Bank Whitewater Motor Company Inc.Ryan Holcomb at Edward Jones
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Drive-in opens with new digital projector

Mary Mattingly

Ripley County has something few counties can boast: a drive-in theater. There are just 357 left in the country, down from its heyday of 4,000 in the late1950s. The Bel-Air Drive-In opens this weekend, providing another season of outdoor entertainment for residents and the surrounding area. It’s a little piece of Americana right in our backyard, something many may forget or younger folks may not even be aware of.

Versailles Bel-Air Drive-in new digital projector
Allan Chorpenning shows the new digital projector for the drive-in.

Allan Chorpenning has taken over the business that started with his grandfather, Russell Kelley, in 1952. Allen’s mother than ran the drive in located on US 421 in Versailles for many years. Janet Kelley Chorpenning passed away July 9, but Allan decided he wanted to keep the nostalgic icon and memory alive.

The Indianapolis resident has been spending time lately updating the place. There’s a new concrete pad by the concession, a first in 62 years, and something many won’t see, a new digital projector. It was either fork over $50,000 for the new digital projector or let the drive-in die. Chorpenning explained that distributors are no longer sending 35-millimeter film. According to Internet data, 90 percent of drive-ins do not have digital, thus many are not spending the money. (The Gibson Theater in Batesville is currently asking the public for support to stay in business and help buy a digital projector.)

Founder of Bel-Air Drive-in at Versailles


Pictured at right is his grandfather, Russell Kelley, founder of the drive-in, with a movie star, Forrest Tucker.

While his mother looked at it as a hobby, he sees it as an investment, and wants to put any proceeds into updating the property and equipment. The projector room is newly painted and dry-walled over concrete block. “This new digital projector will have a brighter, clearer picture, and the sound will be better too,” he said last week as he was preparing the place for opening Friday. While the projector must be programmed initially, it doesn’t have to be manned. He has four part-time employees, who either work the ticket booth or concessions.

“I think the popularity of the drive-in is coming back,” he said. The closest drive-in is Shelbyville, so he believes Harrison, Cincinnati, even Northern Kentucky residents may want to drive to the rural area to see an outdoor movie. They have attracted that clientele before, plus the local teens and families.

Watching a movie outdoors is more social than in an indoor setting. “The good thing about the drive-in is to watch a movie you don’t have to worry about being quiet or bothering someone. People come in pickup trucks and they bring lawn chairs. They like to throw the ball around before the movie starts,” he said. Back in the 1950s, one-third of drive-ins had playgrounds. He recalled how his grandpa used to fry chicken to sell at the concession.

The ticket booth opens at 7:30 p.m., plenty of time before the movie lights up the screen. New this year is the drive-in will be open on Sundays, in addition to Fridays and Saturdays. There is a carload price of $25 on Sundays, otherwise it is $10 a person; $5 if under 12, senior citizen or active military.

Chorpenning is continuing with a family atmosphere, starting with the animated movie “Rio 2” followed by “Godzilla” this weekend. The first movie begins at dusk. “Godzilla” lends itself well to the drive-in format, and many of the older patrons may remember watching the original years ago. The feature movie will run for two weeks, and then he’ll rotate with a new first run movie as the second feature. On May 23, “Godzilla” will then run first, followed by “Blended.” He’s also booked Disney’s “Magnificent” for May 30. If the movie draws good crowds, he can opt to show the movie longer. His rule of thumb, he said, is at least 15 cars to run a show. “Last summer the biggest crowd was 114 cars,” he said. He recalled the “Harry Potter” movies several years ago were shown for several weeks as the crowds kept coming.

The movie title may be the draw, but many return because of the atmosphere. There’s just something appealing about watching the movie under the stars rather than inside. All generations need to experience it at some point, Chorpenning said, and they too might fall for it as he did years ago.

Malfunction causes local power outage

The power was out in Versailles late Monday night. According to Duke Energy, an equipment malfunction resulted in the loss of electricity around midnight. Versailles Town Marshal Joe Mann reported that stoplights, McDonald’s, Marathon gas station, CVS, besides residences were without power. He said it can be dangerous when the traffic signals go out. The outage lasted for 17 minutes. Duke Energy reported about1,042 households were without electricity.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Education that works! Diesel program gives students edge for jobs
• Spring cleaning: Council reminds people about pets, property rules
• Dillsboro Homecoming Festival this week

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