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Meet the man who will relight Chief Theatre sign

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Nov 27 2013 11:57:35 PM CST

The Chief sign will light the night in Old Town Pocatello come Friday night, but we wanted to introduce you to the man who is going to flip the switch.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

Tom Potter has a history with the Chief Theatre.  When he was ten years old and living in Idaho Falls, he saw "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and when he moved to Pocatello 35 years ago, it just became a part of everyday life.

A few years after moving to Pocatello, Potter recalled seeing Randy Dixon riding on his bicycle by the theatre, and they struck up a conversation about how to restore the theatre.  Potter said one thing led to another, and the Dixon helped create the Chief Foundation.

In 1988 the doors of the fully restored theatre reopened to the show, "The Life and Death of Sneaky Fitch."

And just five years later, the theatre was no more.

"I just remember how sad everyone was when the Chief Theatre burned down," said Tom Potter, owner of Carpets Plus in Pocatello.  He's also the lucky Pocatello resident who will get the opportunity to relight the sign for the first time in over 20 years.

He said it all started at a Rotary Club meeting, where a member of the Relight the Night committee was asking Rotarians to buy raffle tickets for a chance to win one of several prizes.  Potter saw the second prize, and hand-stitched quilt, and decided he would try for that.

But after the meeting was done and he approached the committee member, she said she had just sold her last raffle tickets to another woman in the room.  

"The gal she'd just sold them to offer to sell me one of her raffle tickets, and as it turns out, that was the winning ticket," Potter said.  "So now I get the honor of being the guy to flip the switch and relight the night."

He said there are many people who wanted to help Pocatello remember this unique 1,200 seat theatre.  People like Randy Dixon, who had a theatre company that helped restore the theatre.

"The sign has more than one function," Dixon said.  "It preserves the history of the Chief Theatre, which really needs to be done in this community. And it becomes a beautiful piece of public art."

Both Dixon and Potter said the sign is just a representation of what the theatre meant and still means to Pocatello.  Dixon also said there is a lot of history of the Chief he would like to see preserved somehow.  

"I'd like to see a complete history of the Chief Theatre brought together," Dixon said. "Gaining or gathering the history of the Chief Theatre is another project altogether."

While Dixon said the purpose of the Relight the Night committee works to restore many of the historic neon signs in Old Town Pocatello, he says the Chief Theatre will always hold a special place in his heart.

The Chief Theatre sign will be relit on Friday, Nov. 29 at 8:05 p.m., right after the Night Lights parade in Pocatello.  The sign is located next to the Syringa wireless building on the 200 block of N. Main Street.

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