VALPARAISO | The owners of the local 49er Drive-In said storm damage to the large steel screen will be repaired in time for the annual spring opening.

"If you can plan something like that to happen, it's the perfect time for it to happen," said Phyllis Cotton, special events coordinator and spouse of Steve Cotton, who owns the 54-year-old drive-in with brother Mike Cotton.

Cotton said she and others were notified about the damage late Sunday night by the Porter County Sheriff's Department, yet they were prevented by the winter storm from investigating until Monday.

They found that heavy winds tore down a third of the screen from top to bottom, fortunately missing the classic box office below, which dates to the 1950s.

Cotton was unsure about the age of the screen, but she said it was in place when her family purchased the drive-in a decade ago.

The original screen, made of wood, blew down as well, she said, but that occurred years ago, while a film was being shown.

Cotton said fans of the drive-in have come forward offering donations to help pay for the repairs. While she appreciates the intent, she said insurance will cover the damage.

She said the loyalty is better directed at staying in touch at www.49erdrivein.com and preparing for next year's reopening.

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