Ron Onesti is an entertainment industry powerhouse recognized as an innovative leader across the country.
Earlier in the 1980s, Ron joined the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, serving as president of its Youth Division for an unprecedented five terms. He was chairman of the IANU Foundation’s David Awards for more than 20 years, an active member of Amerital UNICO, and founder of Villa Scalabrini’s St. Joseph’s Table.
Ron has been an important liaison to the National Italian American Foundation, a supporter of the Italian American Veteran’s Museum and a big supporter of Casa Italia, recently being named its Man of the Year.
For more than two decades, Ron has been an integral part of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame on Taylor Street. He has produced its Gala for many years and was the lead designer of the museum’s exhibits. He continues to be a supporter of the JCCIA and the Columbus Day Parade as its Queen Pageant Chairman, and he was recently entrusted by the Consul General of Italy with the responsibility of producing the annual Festa della Repubblica in Chicago.
An accomplished writer, he had a column in Fra Noi for more than a decade and served as editor-in-chief of the Sports Hall of Fame’s publication, Red White & Green. His weekly column “Backstage with Ron Onesti” in the Daily Herald is one of the newspaper’s most popular features.
He has produced several projects for television, including a PBS special about kids against drugs and violence that garnered three Emmy Awards. He is currently a regular on-air host on the Chicago PBS station, WTTW Channel 11.
Ron has also appeared on numerous radio shows, including his own entertainment-based talk show co-hosted by his brother on FM radio in Chicago, and an entertainment-based show on Chicago’s WGN radio.
Ron is the president of Onesti Entertainment Corp., which produces concerts, special events and festivals nationwide. A specialty of the company is the production of Italian festivals. In the Chicago area, he is stages Festa Pasta Vino on South Oakley Avenue and the Little Italy Fest-West in Addison and coordinated and/or provided entertainment services for several suburbs.
In 2005, he took over the Arcada Theatre, a 900-seat vaudeville theater in St. Charles that was founded in 1926, restoring it to its original splendor and using it to showcase local and national talent in the far western suburbs. It is now the No. 1 live music venue in the Midwest, with more than 200 shows annually.
Ron was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, one of only three medals recognized by Congress, at an all-military event at the Statue of Liberty.
The Arcada Theater was built in 1926 by local millionaire and Chicago Tribune cartoonist Lester J. Norris. The new theater was a $500,000 example of the Norris family’s confidence in the future of St. Charles . With only 5,000 residents in town, 1,009 seats were installed. A popular stop on the Vaudeville circuit, the Arcada was described in the St. Charles Chronicle in this quote: “There may be larger theatres in Chicago , but for beauty of auditorium and artistic stage setting, there are none superior to the Arcada of St. Charles.”
Upon the Arcada’s grand opening, the public came in such large numbers that hundreds were unable to gain entrance. Chicagoans arrived by a special railway car to see the featured film “The Last Frontier” and the Vaudeville acts of Fibber McGee and Molly Lor. Patrons also heard a recital on the famous $25,000 Marr and Colton silver and red organ, which was adorned with flamingo carvings.
The Arcada became known as one of the outstanding Vaudeville houses in the Fox River Valley . Many legendary stars have graced the stage, including George Burns and Gracie Allen, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Olivia DeHavilland, the John Phillip Sousa Band, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Vincent Price, Jeanette McDonald, Walter Slezak and Maria Von Trapp, to name a few.
In May 2005, new life was breathed into the aging building when Onesti Entertainment Corporation assumed ownership of theater operations. As a producer of spectacular entertainment experiences all over the country, OEC brought ” Big City ” shows to the western suburbs of Chicago . But before the stars would come, changes to the infrastructure were vital. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on new dressing rooms, repairs and paint. Upgrades to the sound system, lighting, stage and rest room facilities were also added. Onesti Entertainment exclusively books the talent and produces all the shows.
Today, after another complete renovation in 2021, the “Gem of the Fox Valley ” is back to its original state of elegance, complete with the original pipe organ that rises from beneath the stage floor. Some of today’s most iconic stars – including Mickey Rooney, Jerry Lewis and Martin Short – perform before the venue’s nine hundred enthusiastic audience members. With each impactful show, the historic Arcada Theater lives on, enabling thousands to experience the joy of world class entertainment.