By Dale Hemmila
Five Monday mornings each year, there is a flurry of activity at the McMorran Place theater.
A team of 23 women scurry throughout the building. It is their “game day.” All 23 have worked hard, months in advance, and those five Mondays bring to life the Port Huron Town Hall lecture series.
Port Huron Town Hall brings to the community nationally-known speakers, ranging from entertainers to authors and more. The lecture series takes place at 10:30 a.m. on various Mondays throughout the fall and winter months, and is followed by a luncheon, where guests can hear a more intimate conversation with the speaker.
In 2019, the 65th year of Town Hall, standing in the middle of the bustle will be Port Huron’s Rosella Mirabelli, as she takes over as Town Hall board president for this year and next.
“Being that this is my first year as president, I am feeling a little nervous,” Mirabelli said, as she contemplated the upcoming season’s program. “But I do have a wonderful group of women who make it easy, knowing that we are all working together as a team.”
It seems the team and teamwork is what drives Town Hall, and what has sustained it for its 65 years of existence. That team today, as it has been for its entire history, is an all-woman organization that plans and promotes each season, and fills all the roles for every presentation.
“That can range from being a ticket taker, usher, or being at one of our membership tables answering questions,” Mirabelli said. “We also have a board member helping with our media, a historian, as well as the board member who is responsible to pick up our speaker. We have two board members that will leave a little early to take tickets at the luncheon. For the most part, the day usually runs quite smoothly, and although it looks like chaos, it is controlled chaos. As president, I usually make sure all the board members know what their duties will be for that day.”
However, there is more to Town Hall than just any single performance or lecture. For Mirabelli, it begins with being true to the vision the founding mothers had in the 1950s.
“We’re very traditional in how we do things,” she said. “The bylaws and the rules they put in place 65 years ago have not really changed all that much. The core decision making and how the board is run is still very much in the vision and viewpoint these original ladies had.”
In simple terms, that vision is to educate and entertain.
To that end, the lecture series, over the years, has included a wide variety of presenters from political (President Gerald Ford, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) to media (Mitch Albom, Joan Lunden) to entertainment (Tim Conway, Marie Osmond), and other unique presentations to complete the long standing mission of bringing quality speakers and diverse content to the Blue Water Area.
“We fulfill a much-needed need for this community,” Mirabelli said. “If you look at the history of Town Hall, we’re one of the few left in the country. There’s not a lot that operate under the same premise, and to have 65 years of history of this is pretty amazing.
“I think we are very fortunate as a community, and the size that we are, that we can bring in the type of quality speakers to educate and entertain at affordable prices. I don’t know how many other communities can boast that they have this type of an organization that can do this for the community.”
For Mirabelli, who has 13 years of service with Town Hall, the next two years will bring that experience to bear as she leads the organization as president.
“I’m honored and humbled, but I have to admit it’s a little intimidating,” she said. “There have been some amazing women who have been president, or even within the board, and have worked really hard, and it’s been a very humbling and inspiring experience for me, and I’m very honored that they had enough faith in me to be at the head of the organization for the next two years.”