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Solar company suspends plans at Mahoning Drive-in after learning its significance

It’s been a chaotic 24 hours for the Mahoning Drive-In Theatre in Lehighton.

It went public on Wednesday that Greenskies Clean Energy LLC, a renewable energy company headquartered in Connecticut, had the property which the drive-in sits upon optioned to it by Mahoning’s landowner.

Greenskies planned to install a solar field and demolish the drive-in.

But largely thanks to overwhelming support by locals, drive-in regulars and even local business owners, Mahoning Drive-In officials said Thursday that Greenskies “ceased all progress of the project” in Lehighton.

“The project no longer exists in Lehighton,” said Virgil Cardamone, publicity director/curator at the Mahoning Drive-In.

“They pretty much are pulling out 100% on this aspect of the option. It’s insanity to me. This whole thing shows the power of the drive-in. For an industry that people question every single year, the viability of it, boy oh boy, is this a win for the industry. We always said, we are like the future for drive-in industry. … It solidifies the Mahoning as the legend that it deserves to be for the rest of its days.”

Greenskies issued another statement Thursday on Twitter.

“@GreenskiesSolar suspends plans for the solar facility at the @MahoningDIT site. The landowner of the @MahoningDIT site and the management of the theater have entered into discussions for a long-term solution that will allow the theater to continue operations. @GreenskiesSolar is pleased to have helped facilitate these discussions.”

The statement said the renewable energy company will not pursue the project any further and will withdraw its application for zoning relief to Mahoning Township.

“We decided to have a hashtag and make a website with very easy and specific instructions on how to help save the drive-in,” said J.T. Mills, Mahoning production manager.

“We knew our devoted and hard-core fans would be really upset. It’s because of our fan base, and taking to that, and trending #SaveTheMahoning. It’s because of them that we’re open now.”

It was business as usual Thursday evening at Mahoning.

Vehicles with license plates from various states filled the venue to attend Joe Bob’s Drive-In Jamboree, featuring actor John Irving Bloom, also known as “Joe Bob Briggs,” famous for hosting the TNT series MonsterVision from 1996-2000.

None of this week’s news put a damper on Thursday night’s event.

“We have a drive-in in the town that I live in,” said Tony Pierce, from Auburn, New York. “Yet I still drive here three hours to check this place out. They turn everything into an event. When they bring in people from the movies, and you get to interact, it makes the whole thing better. I love it here.”

The Mahoning Drive-In Theater. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO