York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

Ella Fitzgerald outshone UFO sightings during 1980 Strand-Capitol opening in York

At the Strand-Capitol


The theaters making up York, Pa.’s, North George Street’s Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center have enjoyed many renovations and grand anniversaries in the past century. An “Ella-bration” is planned for April 11, marking the 30th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s grand performance upon a major renovation in 1980. Also of interest: Ella Fitzgerald’s 1980 show was ‘memorable, not Memorex’ and John Luther Long: Miss Saigon’s York County connection and ‘Glory’ showing at The Strand dazzled the audience.
“York lights up skies for stellar evening,” the York Daily Record’s headline stated on Monday, April 14, 1980.
Those words referred to the two rotating spotlights at the northeast corner of George and Philadelphia that summoned the capacity Saturday night audience to hear singer Ella Fitzgerald christen the newly renovated Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center.
According to newspaper accounts, the spotlights also attracted the notice of several residents from Spry, seven miles away in York Township, who called 911 about UFO sightings… .

This York Daily Record photograph shows Ella Fitzgerald performing on the Strand-Capitol stage in 1980.
And all this action attracted a bomb threat that delayed the show by 30 minutes.
But none of that dimmed the glittering night.
Earlier that day, Fitzgerald told reporters that such performing arts centers, then opening all over America and often with an Ella performance, inspired people to keep music and the performing arts going.
“That’s something we need,” she said, “not only for people who like it, but for coming generations, something they, too, can look forward to.”
In 2003, the Strand-Capitol looked forward to – and executed – another renovation to the tune of $17.3 million.
And seven years after that, the Strand-Capitol is bringing in singer Fred Payne for an “Ella-bration” on April 11 to keep performing arts going … until the next celebration.
Also of interest:
Visit all York Town Square posts from the start.