June 5: Verne Drive In Theatre, Luverne MN

Verne Drive-In marquee

photo from the Verne Drive-In web site

It’s Day 156 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. My virtual odometer rolled over 20,000 just south of the Missouri River as I drove three hours from Neligh NE to the Verne Drive In Theatre in Luverne in the southwest corner of Minnesota.

The Verne was definitely built by Ken Sargent and opened before 1955. One source lists the opening date as 1954, but Walt Deutsch, who bought the place in 1966, told The Globe of Worthington MN that he “thought the first owners had the theater for 17 years before he took it over,” which would make the start date around 1949. The drive-in has always been a single screen with a capacity of almost 300 cars.

Deutsch, who had built a house next door, sold the Verne in the 1980s, and it closed some time after that. Glenn Burmeister bought the Verne and reopened it in 2000 after building new ticket and concession buildings and removing the old speaker poles. According to a great video by Pioneer Public Broadcasting, Deutsch and Burmeister are friends, and Deutsch still comes over to help sell tickets when the line gets too long.

I’m always happy to be at a drive-in that’s showing movies on a Monday night, even when that movie is latest Pirates of the Caribbean installment for my second night in a row. Snacking on honey drummies and pork shanks, I was able to make it through the movie’s two and a quarter hours one more time.

Miles Today / Total:  195 / 20171 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales / 72

Nearby Restaurant: The closest restaurant to the Verne, and possibly the best, is The Bluestem. The atmosphere is casual, but the menu is a bit upscale, or at least ambitious. Nothing beats a good filet mignon, and it was great to find someone who offers it. I added some breaded cheese balls and a slice of peanut butter devil’s food cake. I’ll eat healthier tomorrow.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The GrandStay Hotel & Suites was a regional chain I hadn’t run into before. Looks like it’s mostly around Minnesota and Wisconsin. At any rate, it was pretty nice. My room had a microwave, mini-fridge, a coffee maker, and good wifi. The hot breakfast was the best hotel breakfast I’d had in at least a few days. I’ll be looking for more of these GrandStays as I roam this region over the next week or two.

Only in Luverne: The Wayside Chapel just north of Luverne has more stained glass windows than seats, 6-3. (A photo from a story in The Globe from Worthington MN shows there’s also room for a standing preacher or two.) Parishioners of the Christian Reformed Church in Luverne dedicated the tiny chapel in 1963. The Rev. Bert Den Herder told The Globe, “It’s open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.”

Next stop: Superior 71 Drive-In Theater, Spirit Lake IA.

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