Joliet’s Rialto expands tour offerings
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org June 26, 2012 6:30PM
The Rialto Square Theatre, has daily tours in downtown Joliet, IL on Tuesday June 26, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media .
Updated: July 28, 2012 6:20AM
JOLIET — This summer, the Rialto Square Theatre is throwing open its doors for 10 tours a week in an effort to capture more downtown tourist traffic, whether it be foreigners following Route 66 or current and former residents who want a peek at their hometown treasure.
In the past, the theater offered only one tour a week on Tuesday afternoons. But more and more people kept popping in on other days of the week asking for impromptu tours, said Annette Parker, the Rialto’s director of marketing and sales.
“People stop by all the time during the summer,” she said.
Recently, Rialto officials, working with the City Center Partnership, decided the time had come to show off their theater five days a week. The twice daily tours will give visitors more to do downtown and should lead to more business for downtown restaurants and other tourist attractions, Parker said.
“The restaurants are working together and I think that all of the businesses are working together to just feed off of each other,” Parker said.
Rialto tours are offered at 10 a.m. and noon weekdays through Aug. 31. Tour tickets cost $5 and can be purchased at the box office at 102 N. Chicago St. or by calling 815-726-6600. No advance purchase is necessary.
Tours consist of a 45-minute walk through the 86-year-old theater followed by a 45-minute concert performed on the Rialto’s original Barton Grande theater pipe organ.
Recently, a group from Australia that was following historic Route 66 attended a Tuesday tour led by retired educator Lee Haldorson of Plainfield Township. A lot of the tour referrals so far have come from the Route 66 Welcome Center and Joliet Area Historical Museum, Haldorson said.
Haldorson, who has been leading tours for years, said he loves first-time visitors.
“The best part is when people first come in the theater and they come through those doors and you get the ‘ahhhhhh,’ ” he said.
Once inside, Haldorson leads them through the hall of mirrors patterned after the Palace of Versailles in France and under the “Duchess,” which is the Rialto’s stunning 2.5-ton, 22-foot long Czech crystal chandelier.
Haldorson said he gets a variety of people on his tours. Sometimes they are former Joliet residents who are visiting their hometown, other times tours are made up of tour bus groups from the East Coast.
Haldorson takes the groups into the theater proper and also into the green room where stars who have performed at the Rilato through the years have signed the walls.
Autographs include everyone from Huey Lewis to Alice Cooper to Taylor Swift.
Carol Burnett, who recently appeared at the Rialto, made sure she signed near former TV co-stars Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence, who all appeared at the theater in the past.
Haldorson said he’s thrilled the theater is going to be seen by more people more times a week this summer.
“I love showing her off,” he said. “It just makes my day when people say, ‘It’s so beautiful.’ ”
For more information on the Rialto or the tours, visit www.rialtosquare.com.