Shindig becoming a holiday tradition in the Highlands
By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 15, 2016
For Mike Jaycock, the Christmas Shindig does exactly what any holiday event should. Building community, celebrating the holidays, bringing joy, reaching out and boosting a local charity are all in the recipe that makes the Shindig so popular.
Now in its third year, the structure is in place to assemble the variety show relatively easily, but that doesn’t mitigate the large amount of work for the small crew who organizes the lineup of local musicians, storytellers, humorists and dancers.
“[The shindig is] an opportunity for the community to come and celebrate our local talent, to have some laughs, to be able to bring the kids and grandkids and start their holiday season in a really positive frame of mind,” says Jaycock.
The evening is also recorded and sent to local long-term care homes for the residents to watch and enjoy.
The idea first came up through a conversation between Jaycock and his friend Lorraine McNeil, who frequently shares the airwaves with him on Canoe FM. He said he had always wanted to put on a Christmas pantomime: a variety show popular in the United Kingdom around the holidays. McNeil thought the idea was great, and added the charity component.
At that time, Fuel for Warmth wasn’t well known in the Highlands, but was a special cause to McNeil and her husband Lorne.
Along with committee members Kait and Adam Perecko, Betty and David Mills, Heather Smith, Sharon Foster and Scotty Morrison, the show started to come together and to their surprise and relief, the first year was a sellout. Year two was another sellout and a huge fundraiser for Fuel for Warmth, which was handed a novelty cheque for more than $17,000 on stage that evening. The final tally was more than $19,000.
“After the first year, they received considerable not just support but awareness of what they were doing and people’s interest in helping them was certainly increased,” Jaycock said.
“The help they were able to give increased as well.”
Last year, Fuel for Warmth helped 202 people who were having trouble paying their heating bills or obtaining fuel for their homes. This was a 31 per cent increase in assistance over the previous year. Recently, Scotty Morrison, Rob Gray and Marty Udvari purchased a commercial grade log splitter for the group to assist with the firewood component of the program.
Jaycock expects this year to be much the same, if not better.
Some of the funds from this year’s event will help purchase a trailer to deliver wood.
Ticket sales are brisk with the producer expecting all of them to be gone by the end of this week.
Two weeks ahead of the Nov. 26 event, Jaycock already had most of the pieces in place. A strong list of local performers had been confirmed, Sassy Digs will again be designing the set and Jaycock’s dress arrived the previous week.
“It looks pretty snazzy,” he said.
As co-host of the Shindig, Jaycock takes on the persona of Dame Beatrice, created in the mould of Dame Edna Everage, comedy circuit mainstay.
Dame Beatrice wears funky cat eye glasses, bright red lipstick with a face encircled in a poof of purple curls. Over the last three years, Beatrice has been shrinking as Jaycock became increasingly uncomfortable in heels. The first year he wore pumps. The second, kitten heels. This year?
“Next week we have to find me some flats,” he said. “The first year they were quite high … and by the end of the night I was having muscle spasms in the back of my leg.”
Dame Beatrice and Elf, Lorraine McNeil’s character, play host, bantering with the local acts and providing continuity for the show. This year, Jaycock’s brother Peter will be making an appearance as Sir Cedric – a John Cleese style announcer. Other acts include Haliburton Dance Academy, Trio Cappuccino (Thom Lambert, Sue Shikaze and Ed Poropat); Highlands Little Theatre (Ruth Carter and Jo-Anne Johnson); Fifth Business (Tracey Green, Shannon Neville, Joe Truss, Sean Pennylegion, Slinky Love plus Ken Loney and Deanna Hawley); Brian and Beth Kipping; Bethany Houghton and Luba Cargill; Steve Galea; Jeff Moulton; and Ragged Company featuring the Kowalski Sisters (Karen Frybort, Irene Merritt, Mick Frybort, Kaspar Brohm, Jeff Flowers and Tiny Tim Cratchet).
Jaycock said he hopes the Shindig continues as an annual Christmas tradition in the Highlands for many years to come.
“I think it’s the kind of event that can happen each year and I think it will evolve a little bit,” he said.
“The principle of having a community celebration just in advance of the holiday season, I think is a good thing for the community. It’s a good thing for the causes we support. And there are lots and lots of talented people out there.”
The Christmas Shindig will be warming hearts and cheering souls on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m., at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion. You must buy tickets ahead of the show and they’re nearly sold out. Tickets are available at Cranberry Cottage in Haliburton and Sassy Digs in Minden and are $20.