In the last few weeks, Elijah Chester has been poring through 40 years of paperwork at the Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre.
"I found theater programs from 1974 to the 2017 season and I looked at every one of them," he said. "I also came across letters from actors and directors who once worked here, thanking James Wilson for giving them the opportunity to perform or work here."
"There's a secret here," he said of the work that the late founder and general manager James Wilson brought to the site. "It doesn't mean that we do it exactly the way that it's been done for years. We need to uncover what needs to change and what needs to stay the same. Snow Camp is a community of farmers, teachers and business people and we need the support of the community to keep the theater going."
Chester, a member of the board of directors for the Snow Camp Historical Drama Society, Inc., is hoping that through the help of the community, the theater will be restored and reestablished as a production site.
He is asking for help from volunteers on Sept. 22. A work day, to clean up the site, will begin at 8 a.m.
Volunteers are asked to bring leaf blowers, rakes, tools, paint brushes and cleaning supplies. Lunch will be provided by Ye Old Country Kitchen.
"Come anytime that day," he said. "If you can't come at 8 a.m., that's fine. We'll be here all day. And even if you can't attend, consider donating supplies or let us borrow your weed eater, rakes or leaf blowers."
He discovered recently, in trying to make some repairs to the site, that "we didn't have shovels, hammers or even a nail gun anywhere around here."
"The site has fallen into disrepair and it needs some tender, loving care," he said. "James Wilson did all of the work — including repairs — himself and it's our time to step up and help."
One of Chester's fondest memories of the Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre, as a kid, was the annual Haunted Forest.
The earliest piece of paper he has found documenting the haunted forest was in 1980.
"I attended while in middle and high school for sure," he said. "I haven't found documentation to show exactly how long the event ran, but I know it was popular in this area."
The Haunted Forest will return to the Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 19-20, 25-28 and 31. Cost will be $10.
"I've found some eerie-sounding cassettes and I'm hoping to find a cassette player to pay homage to James Wilson," he said.
It was in the woods near the theater site that men fought and died during Revolutionary War battles. In the Haunted Forest, a soldier will ask the visitors to accompany him to the encampment.
"There will definitely be some scare factors that will make visitors laugh and possibly cry," Chester said.
An overnight scare camp out is planned for Oct. 26 (after the haunted forest has ended).
"Folks will pay a fee and pitch a tent," he said. "They'll try to survive a night in the woods."
Cost is $25 for a two-person (small) tent and $40 for a large (four to six-person) tent.
If it rains that night, the event will be switched to another night that weekend.
"I'm a Southern Alamance boy and I'll be honest — it's scary enough in those woods. And it's dark. I know that at night, I'll have to switch the lights off and I'm a grown man, but I'll run through the woods in the dark and I'll think I'll hear things."
An autumn molasses festival, in November, also is in the works.
And the annual Holiday Market and Christmas Parade is planned for Dec. 8. The holiday market will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the parade will be at 1 p.m.
"We want people to come to the theater and see that we're not giving up," Chester said. "We're hoping to recreate the life and excitement that this place once had."