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‘To see people have a good time,’ Young Rockton entrepreneur creates Drive 815 for families to build memories this summer

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Photo Credit: Tamir Bell

ROCKTON (WREX) — What better way to spend a Friday night than with a movie with your family? You can drive back in time to a throwback way of watching a film starting Friday night in Rockton.

Get your popcorn ready because you can now catch a film at the drive-in. It's not only weekend entertainment but a way to make lasting memories with your family and friends. That's exactly why Jalen Ponder, a young entrepreneur from Rockton, created The Drive 815.

Ponder will stop at nothing to see his company on the big screen.

"Once you have enough vision and drive to do something, you're going to find a way," said Ponder.

The Drive 815 is a new spin on an old classic.

"Once you come in, there is going to be a huge inflatable screen big enough for 300 cars to see, and there is going be concessions, people are going to be dressed in theme, there's going to be games and it's more of a social event," said Ponder.

"How fascinating this might be for little kids who never even imagined a drive-in theater because they kind of all but disappeared from the landscape. They were everywhere when I was a kid," said Beloit International Film Festival Executive Director Greg Gerard.

Bringing this nostalgic event to the Village of Rockton was a mutual goal and took on multiple layers of collaborations.

"This is a great match. I have a guy that wants to do drive-in movies and I've gear," said Gerard.

The Beloit International Film Festival dipped its toes into drive-ins during the pandemic. Thanks to Ponder's company, Evendtor and a few other partners, the idea turned into a summer long season.

"We never really mounted anything of this scope." said Gerard. "This year the prospect of having upwards of 16 weeks, I mean 32 films possibly. I don't know, we will have to see how it all works out but I didn't anticipate a schedule like that at all," said Gerard.

A jam packed summer full of motion picture entertainment.

"Kids are in pajamas," Gerard said when looking back at past drive-ins. "People are having a party and having fun. They are breaking out their food and beverages."

An outdoor entertainment event is a need Ponder hopes to fill with popcorn not just within the 815 but across the Stateline.

"Within the first two days we sold $1,000 worth of tickets," said Ponder with appreciation towards supporters. "It's going to sound cheesy, but I'm just excited to see people have a good time. That's why I am in the event industry."

A drive big enough to see play out on the big screen.

Friday night's movie is Tom and Jerry. It starts at the Rockton Athletic Fields on Old River Road in Rockton at 8:30 p.m. You can still purchase tickets for The Drive 815 online or at the gate.

A portion of proceeds will benefit the Beloit International Film Festival.

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Cassandra Bretl

Cassandra is the morning reporter for 13 News Today.
She joined the WREX team in July of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a major, minor and a certificate.
She is excited to bring her skills back to the 815 where she is originally from.
You can contact Cassandra at cbretl@wrex.com

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