Known for his support of Oakland-Craig and especially the athletic program, Donnie Dodge of Oakland has made quite a name for himself creating short videos in support of local athletes and teams. He recently took on another project in support of the Oakland 150 to be celebrated May 25th-28th. What began as a look into the history of the city park, Dodge discovered a beautiful love story filled with success and heartache. That story, A.E. Wells – A Man and His Park, will debut on Saturday, April 14th in the Oakland Auditorium.
Eight months of research filling three notebooks were laid open as Donnie sat down for the actual creation of the documentary. Arranging newspaper clippings, stories, maps and pictures in chronological order, Dodge of Dodge Well Productions, set out to tell the story of A.E. Wells, an early pioneer in the Oakland Community who gave Oakland, and daresay the Midwest, one of its most beautiful parks. In his research Dodge soon discovered there was more to Wells and his contributions to the young community of the late 1800's. “Wells was about family and community,” Dodge said. “He saw much tragedy in his lifetime. Through that tragedy he became very wealthy and used that wealth to give back to the community.”
He began his research utilizing the newspaper preservation website created through a grant secured by the Oakland Public Library. Searching through old Oakland newspapers, he soon discovered that he needed to expand his search to state and national historical archives. What he discovered was an amazing tale that he felt must be told and preserved. “I wish to thank Rosa Schmidt and the library in Oakland for helping me get started. The preservation website is amazing,” Dodge said.
The documentary led Dodge to put that history in book form as well. Those books will be available to order at the premier in Oakland on April 14th. “When people see the documentary or read the book, they will soon see what this man went through at a young age,” Dodge said. “You can't help but feel for him. He could have used the money for himself but he used it to take care of his family and his community.”
As to not give away the complete story, Dodge did mention that Wells was affected by the same things that we face today. “When you look back at the old newspapers you discover that they were going through the same things we are today if you just seek out those stories. When you begin to read, you just can't put it down.”
Dodge said it was only fitting to donate the proceeds from the premier of the film to Relay For Life of the Burt County Area. The Cancer Kickers Relay For Life team will be serving concessions at the premier. Dodge is also offering VIP passes to the premier which will also include a Wells Park refrigerator magnet, a simulated vacation photo of you in front of Wells Fountain in Wells Park circa 1895 and a red oak tree from the Arbor Day Foundation for the first 50 VIP ticket holders. Drinks and appetizers will also be served for those with VIP tickets.
Cost for the tickets is $8 pre-sale and $12 the day of the premier. VIP tickets are $18 pre-sale or $25 at the door. Doors open for VIP's at 5:30 with the movie starting at 7:00.
Be sure to check out www.oakland150.com to find out more about Oakland's big celebration. The site created by Dodge features short historical videos and celebration activities and schedules for the Oakland Sesquicentennial to be held on May 25th-28th in Oakland.