For 83 years, since it first opened as a junior high school, “Backus” has been the center for community gatherings of all types. During its days as a junior high school, the Auditorium and gym hosted basketball games, proms, baccalaureates, graduations, plays, concerts, guest speakers, lyceums, cooking classes sponsored by the Daily Journal, talent shows, pageants, Border Concerts, community gatherings and dinners. In 2002, its school days ended, the 1937 Art Deco building transitioned to the “Backus Community Center” and a new life as a home to community services, arts and cultural programs and youth activities.
During 2018, almost 60,000 people of all ages visited the building. Eighteen tenants lease space in the building providing mental health counseling, chemical dependency counseling, 4-H programming, MN driver license testing, crisis counseling, alternative education for secondary students, public access television broadcasting, services for the homeless, AARP free tax preparation, dance classes, orchestra rehearsal space, Thrivent Financial, and food shelf services. The Backus Center is home to Borealis Bards Community Theatre, Northland Art Society, Darcie’s Dance Studio, girls and boys basketball practice and games, Boy Scout Troop 150, a Performing Arts Series, art classes, summer arts programs, high school band/choir concerts, vocal and band music festivals, art exhibits, exercise classes, plays, dinner theatre and special events.
Three programs help address food insecurity: Ruby's Pantry, a monthly food distribution program, serves an average of 280 families per month with over 13,000 families benefiting since 2015; a twice-weekly “Community Café” served 16,913 free, hot, nutritious meals to children and adults in 2020; a free Summer Food Service Program served over 9,072 lunches to children during 2020.
Dozens of community events draw people of all ages including: Icebox Days, Arrowhead 135 Ultra Marathon – both in January; dinners, banquets, meetings, classes, a Halloween Treat Street, Logging Camp Christmas Dinner, Deer Hunters Banquet, candidate forums and receptions. Backus also supports local law enforcement agencies by providing space for training and education for officers and canines.
Comments from Backus stakeholders:
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Lower Level Tenant:
Backus Community Center | 900 5th Street,
International Falls (218) 285-7225
"Historic Backus Community Center, the heart of International Falls, where all generations celebrate the arts, culture, recreation, wellness and life-long learning."
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