About Rainbow Stage
Following World War II, in the late 1940's, the Winnipeg Musician's Association provided Brass and Concert Bands to entertain in the City's Parks during the summer months. Oliver M. "Hap" Day, President of the Civic Music League, after the war, was asked by Frank Morris, newspaper columnist and avid supporter of the Winnipeg cultural community, about the Musician's Association plans for Band Concerts in the summer of 1950. He was advised that the bandstands at both Assiniboine and Kildonan Parks were in such poor condition, following the devastating flood that spring, they were now a hazard to the musicians. The following Saturday, Morris' column featured a picture of "Hap" Day and called for the building of an outdoor stage in Winnipeg. It took a few attempts to interest the City and the Parks Board, but finally Parks said they would try to do something.
A bit of luck and an Act of God brought the concept of an outdoor stage to fruition. Luck was in the person of the new Superintendent of Parks, Thomas R. Hodgson, whose interest in music came about while he was a choirboy at St. Giles Church. The Act of God was the 'Flood of '50', that washed away the original bandstand at Kildonan Municipal Park, in Winnipeg's north end. Hodgson suggested an ideal location for the proposed stage, sheltered by Kildonan Park's huge oaks and elms within sight of the Red River, and an agreement was made.
Following several studies, a unique plan was prepared by Smith, Carter, Katelnikoff, architects for the project. Mr. Dennis Carter arrived at one of their meetings with a cardboard model of the design. One of the group observed, that if lights were strung along the top curvature of the structure, it would look like a Rainbow. Thus was born the name Rainbow Stage Theatre. Construction began in 1951, and was completed in 1952, with funds from the Park Reserve Fund, the Junior Chamber of Commerce as well as compensation for the loss of the original bandstand from the Provincial Flood Fund. It was considered large enough to accommodate a full symphony orchestra or the cast of a full scale musical comedy.
After additional work on the amphitheatre, in 1953, the stage was completed, in time for a first concert, given on September 22nd, by the touring Kitsilano Boys Band from Vancouver. The next spring and summer, pergola walkways were constructed on either side of the amphitheatre, with seats and complimentary landscaping also added and on July 7th that year, the official opening of the 3,000 seat theatre was marked with a benefit concert, coordinated by James Duncan, featuring local artists Bill Walker, Len Andree, Eric Wilde, Maxine Ware, Cliff Gardner and Ethel Lowe. The first official year of operation, 19 performances were given to a combined audience of more than 19,000 admissions.
The new theatre was..."to make available facilities for the purpose of contributing to the dramatic, musical and artistic standards of Winnipeg and district ... to provide further opportunities for the development and expansion of local talent ... and to provide an additional summer attraction of interest to visitors."