Augustana Student Association (ASA) is making it easier for students stuck on campus in COVID protocol to get out of town for a fun evening outdoors.
Freshman business and management major and Luverne native Gracie Rozeboom recently reached out to ASA proposing a program where Augustana students receive free admission to her family’s drive-in movie theater this spring. The Verne Drive-In Theater is located in Luverne, Minnesota, and is about a half hour away from campus. Students receive free admission from April 23 to May 22 this spring. The theater has shows every Friday and Saturday night throughout the season.
The drive-in was built in the 1950s. From 1988 to 2000 it was closed down due to the screen being too expensive to replace. It was reopened in 2001 under new ownership and has been open since then. Rozeboom’s dad bought the theater just before the pandemic hit in 2020. Despite coronavirus’s challenges, they were still able to be open from May 12 through Oct. 31.
Rozeboom started working at the theater in eighth grade. Her brother, 22-year-old Doug Rozeboom, works there as well.
“I do more of the behind the scenes stuff,” said Rozeboom. “My older brother, Doug, he actually operates it. He makes the popcorn every night and presses play on the projector. But I do all the emails, Facebook page, getting the movies and ordering food.”
This is the first time Verne Drive-In has offered a student discount to any college. Rozeboom came up with the idea herself. She said she saw it as an opportunity for advertising as well as an event where social distancing could take place in a location off campus.
ASA President Cole Tessendorf said he is excited about this new opportunity.
“It supports an Augustana family. It’s only 30 minutes away; it’s something completely different. It’s outside, so as far as safety you can’t get any better,” said Tessendorf.
Clubs have struggled finding COVID-safe events on campus. While virtual events may seem like an easy option, it can actually be more expensive because of the cost of online programs. Tessendorf explained that they looked into putting on a game night, but the cost of the program would have been $5,000.
The theater is offering a different double feature every weekend. For this opening weekend the Rozebooms are showing Wonder Woman 1984 and Godzilla vs King Kong.
On Saturday, May 1, ASA is offering students rides and giving students discounts for concessions, including chicken strips, cheese curds, popcorn, slushies, pop, pretzels and ice cream. The theater offers mobile ordering through the app FanFood, so customers can pick up the food instead of waiting in line. The full menu can be found on the Verne Drive-In Theater Facebook page.
Even though the theater is only 30 minutes away, getting transportation to the theater has been an obstacle.
“It’s across state lines, so a lot of commercial busses won’t go across state lines,” said Tessendorf. “We found a company that would do it, but we’re also looking to find something cheaper.”
Another question that presents itself is the issue of students bringing alcohol into the theater.
“It says on the rules on our website that no alcohol is allowed,” said Rozeboom. “But if [ASA] wanted us to do a check, we could do that.”
Tessendorf encourages students like Rozeboom to approach ASA with their ideas.
“We have set aside money for projects specifically for students,” said Tessendorf.