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Vali-Hi Drive-In fans worry about its quiet summer

LAKE ELMO, Minn. — It could be the end of the road for a long-standing summer tradition.

The Vali-Hi Drive-In in Lake Elmo hasn’t been open all summer, and fans are wondering what’s next.

“It was always a happy place to go to,” said Andria Classen from Big Lake. “Best memories as a kid.”

Vali-Hi is one of the last drive-in theaters in the metro, and without it, you’d be losing not only a popular summer hangout spot but also years of memories.

“One of our first dates [with my husband] was there and it became this regular thing when we needed a date night idea,” said Ann Nasseff from Eagan. “Pack a cooler with dinner and snacks, bring the dogs. It’s always had a special place for both of us.”

Several people reached out to WCCO to share they’ve been going to the theater since they were children.

Lake Elmo’s mayor, Charles Cadenhead, grew up going to drive-ins near his home in Rochester and would be as disappointed as anyone to see it go.

“The land, if you look around I-94, is increasing in value,” he said. “There’s a new Amazon distribution center [across from the theater]. I’m sure [Bob O’Neil, the owner] looked at the cost of the value versus what it was doing and made a business decision.”

Cadenhead clarified he was speculating and hasn’t spoken to O’Neil.

Our multiple attempts to reach O’Neil were unsuccessful. A family friend who used the marquee to announce her pregnancy in 2015 also told WCCO she can’t get confirmation on what the theater’s future looks like.

But a post this week in a Facebook fan group noted that Google has it listed as permanently closed.



“It’s unfortunate because I would’ve liked to make a last visit had I known,” Nasseff said. “It’s sad. I have a lot of memories there.”

If you’re looking for the nostalgia of a drive-in this summer, Explore Minnesota’s website lists five other theaters:

– Elko Drive-In, Elko New Market

– Starlite Drive-In 5, Litchfield

– Long Drive-In Theater, Long Prairie

– Verne Drive-In, Luverne

– Sky-Vu Drive-In, Warren

Source: CBS Minnesota

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