Valle Drive-in reopens after March 5 tornado

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Iowa’s oldest drive-in theater suffered EF1 damage from the same tornado that hit Winterset. It reopens this weekend with a double film.

NEWTON, Iowa – Is this heaven?

“No, it’s Iowa,” said Valle Drive-In co-owner Jeff Namminga.

This Friday, five months to the day after the March 5 tornado, the historic movie theater surrounded by cornfields will once again roll the spotlight.

Namminga didn’t know the drive-in had been hit until the next morning, when he saw pictures and received calls from those passing by.

“I was just glad it wasn’t something that happened while we were actually operating. If people were here, it could have been very tragic,” Namminga said.

By the time the long-tracked tornado reached Jasper County, it was producing EF1 damage, not the EF4 damage that parts of Madison County saw.

Five months later, after installing a new fence, replacing part of the screen and securing the roof of the dealership, Namminga is ready to roll the tape on Friday.

One of the featured films is incredibly ironic. The two co-films of the opening weekend? “Top Gun Maverick” and “Twister”.

An outpouring of support on social media has surprised Namminga, especially since Valle Drive-in doesn’t exactly represent the bulk of his daily life.

“Myself and the other family that owns it have full-time careers. Drive-in cinema is not something we depend on for our livelihood,” Namminga said.

Despite the damage last spring, Namminga sees the importance of continuing the Valle Drive-in.

“It’s an experiment. It’s a step back in time, it’s a bit slower,” he said. “It’s sitting with friends and family, putting away your phones and playing games.”

Tickets are on sale for this weekend’s shows and can be purchased in advance online. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for kids ages 5-11, and kids 4 and under get in free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and features begin at dusk.

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