On Saturday, about 1,000 people were able to freely explore various parts of the Strand and Capitol theaters in York City.

While typically guests must pay for a ticket, the theaters held free activities and performances, all open to the public.

That is something the late Louis Appell Jr., a prominent local businessman and philanthropist, would have liked.

The event Saturday was to unveil the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center's new name — the Appell Center for the Performing Arts, named after the family that had such an impact on the theaters. Appell and his father stopped the two theaters from becoming parking lots in the 1970s.

Appell died in June 2016 at the age of 92.

"The Appell family wanted this place to be beautiful, but also accessible," said the center's director of marketing, Becki Fellin. The event, she said, was a way to honor those thoughts.

"He really rallied the community ... to make sure this place doesn't go away," she said.

Appell: The center's CEO, Todd Fogdall, said Appell's family gave their blessing to the new name. Fogdall said that while Appell, a man who worked behind the scenes, wouldn't have liked it, Appell's wife "loved" the idea.

"I can't imagine a more perfect honor for him and a more perfect honor for us," Fogdall said.

He said the response from the community has been "overwhelming" since the decision to change the center's name.

"We think it's the right thing for the Appells," he said.

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Clifton Santiago, of York City, was visiting the center to check out some of the behind-the-scenes things at the theaters. Santiago, a 10-year resident of the city, had mixed thoughts on the new name.

"It's good that they're recognizing him," he said, but he added he's not sure Appell would have liked his name being so prominent.

"From what I know of him, he was always keeping a behind-the-scenes presence," he said.

Husband and wife musical duo Pete Richards and Lindsey Keeney, of York City, spoke positively of Appell. The two make up the band Free Breakfast and were providing music to those who entered the Strand Theatre.

"I think it's great," Richards said.

He said that although Appell was more of a "behind-the-scenes" guy, he should be recognized for everything he did.

Keeney, a painter, said Appell commissioned her to create artwork in 2014. She painted a picture of a snowy Royal Square, which Appell then gave out in all of his Christmas cards that year.

"He was a nice man," she said, adding that Appell had always supported the arts.

Community: The community day Saturday allowed visitors to go backstage, on the balconies and check out some local musicians.

"We just felt like we needed something that was free and engaging," Fellin said.

At the Capitol Theatre, visitors were able to see a "live" version of a Charlie Chaplin performance, complete with organ musical accompaniment.

There were crafts, music and an instrument petting zoo at the Strand during the day.

For more information on the Appell Center for the Performing Arts, check the organization's website,

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.

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