Long-time executive director and visionary of Antioch’s restored El Campanil Theatre, Rick Carraher steps down

Rick Carraher and his beloved El Campanil Theatre. Photos courtesy of El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation.

Will continue so serve on foundation Board of Directors, passes reins to Theater Manager Joel Roster

By Allen Payton

Earlier this month, Rick Carraher, long-time executive director of the historic El Campanil Theatre in Antioch’s downtown Rivertown announced the third retirement in his life by posting the following message on the theater’s website:

“Dear employees, volunteers, and friends of El Campanil Theatre:

For over 19 years, I have had the pleasure to steer the historic El Campanil Theatre to become the grandest and most state-of-the-art performing arts venue in Eastern Contra Costa County. Now, at the age of 72, I will step down from the leadership role as Executive Director.

I have committed myself to the revitalization of downtown Antioch.  After 18 years at Bank of America, my wife Janis and I opened and operated Rick’s on Second for 25 years. I recall the day in 2001 when Nordyn Anderson and I were having a cup of coffee while looking at El Campanil Theatre across the street.  We both agreed that there was a need to bring vitality to the downtown and the theatre was likely to provide that focus. After creating an interest group of local residents, it was clear that there was a need for a place for families to come together and enjoy live entertainment of all kinds.

I’m so proud of what El Campanil Theatre has become over the years. The number of people who attend events on an annual basis reinforce the opinion that El Campanil is the cornerstone of the continuing process toward the revitalization of Rivertown.

I believe that we are now at a point where we need to strengthen our focus to the needs of the youth of the community, and Joel Roster brings that passion with him. When we are permitted, we will continue to bring quality entertainment that appeals to all ages.

I am so happy that we found someone with an amazing love of theatre. Joel’s enthusiasm is so apparent and he is determined to make El Campanil Theatre the center of performing arts and education in the region.

Joel strives at all times to keep in pace with every new development. His attitude has never been, “oh, we can’t do this anymore”, but rather “what can we do?”, and I think that’s been life-saving.

The past 19 years have been very rewarding – to myself as well as the community – and I am so happy that you have helped us with this journey.

While it is time to pass the title to Joel, we will still see each other.  I will remain on the Board of Directors and will be seen around the theatre in whatever capacity I can be helpful.

It has been a joy to work with all of you.

Thanks for all of your support.

Rick Carraher”

The theater during restoration in 2003. Photo: ECTPF

What his letter doesn’t say is that the group raised over $500,000 from CalPine to purchase the building and another $1 million for the restoration. Carraher and others formed the El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation to raise the needed funds, purchase the building from the Stamm family and has since operated the theater. (See more restoration photos, here)

“Back when we started, our budget was $1 million to get it to the point we could open,” Carraher said when reached for comment.  “$750,000 came from the city’s redevelopment agency and $250,000 from individuals, corporations and foundations.”

“Our annual budget before COVID averaged between $400,000 and $500,000 which was covered by ticket sales, individuals and foundation support,” he shared. “Our last campaign, at the end of last year to ‘Keep the Curtains Open’ we raised $50,000 over three months.”

Carraher has worked tirelessly since the mid-1980’s to revitalize downtown. For nine years, he served as president of the Antioch Rivertown Business Association, helping promote the city’s historic business district, and bring back the July 4th celebration and fireworks to the waterfront.  But he’s not done.

Carraher said he will continue to serve in whatever capacity is needed at the theater.

Donations to the El Campanil Theatre Preservation Foundation can be made through their website at www.elcampaniltheatre.com/donations.html.

the attachments to this post:

ECT restoration inside

Rick Carraher & ECTheatre

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