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Reichhold Center Celebrating 30th Anniversary Wednesday Evening

Oct. 7, 2008 — The Reichhold Center for the Arts is holding a 30th Anniversary Gala celebration Wednesday evening, with special guests Barbara Reichhold, daughter of the founder, and her son George.
The festivities kick off at 7 p.m. at the center with a champagne toast and birthday cake, followed by a performance of string music and tributes to past center directors Larry Benjamin and David Edgecomb.
The center got its start in 1976 courtesy of a $3.5 million donation from Henry Reichhold, who traveled to St. Thomas in the early 1960s and fell in love with the island and its people, according to Barbara. Reichhold, who passed away 20 years ago, helped construct the Bluebeard's Castle Hotel, where his wife still owns a condominium.
The Reichhold Center opened its 1,196-seat amphitheater Oct. 8, 1978, and since then has hosted some of the most prestigious names in performing arts, including Itzhak Perlman, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Beres Hammond, George Benson, Chris Botti and McCoy Tyner, to name a few.
Reichhold earned his fortune in the Detroit auto industry, where Henry Ford hired him as a lab assistant.
"He knew a lot about paint," Barbara said, "and he used a recipe from Vienna which made the paints dry much quicker."
However, when Ford declined to give him a raise, he opened Reichhold Chemicals, which grew into a Fortune 500 business with annual sales in excess of $2 billion. Reichhold ultimately turned his former employer, the Ford Motor Company, into his customer.
In 1962 Reichhold became an original member of the board of overseers at the then College of the Virgin Islands, now the University of the Virgin Islands. He played the violin and loved classical music, and wanted the university to, in his words, "… advance the cultural development of people of all ages … to inspire creativity in the arts, in science, in commerce and in every area which will make a better future for the young people of the islands."
His grandson still plays the same violin Reichhold used as a young boy.
Barbara said she tries to return annually, as does her mother. And upon arrival, the first thing they do is check the schedule at the Reichhold, followed by trips to Magens Bay and St. John.
Wednesday evening will be a sentimental one for her family, according to Barbara,, but unfortunately her mother was not able to make the trip.
"We really wish that Reichhold Center has a very long future still and that it will bring a lot of music and culture and happiness to this island," she said. "We think it's a good opportunity to keep up a nice tradition … I think the old saying goes, 'Tradition is keeping up the fire and not worshiping the ashes.'"
The public is encouraged to attend Wednesday evening's birthday celebration for the Reichhold Center. Tickets are $35.
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