The newly formed The Hodgepodge Players all contribute to this success

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

‘Tis the season to give, so why not give yourself an afternoon of entertainment at the Windermere District Legion in downtown Invermere on December 18 as they host their first Christmas play, Santa’s New Sleigh, presented by The Hodgepodge Players. Tickets are only available at the door at $10 apiece. Doors open at 3 p.m. and the show goes on at 4 p.m.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving: as all the proceeds from the play will be donated to the Christmas Bureau.

“I think that the Christmas Bureau is, in many ways, a lifesaving organization,” said
Juanita Rose Violini, founder of The Hodgepodge Players. “The joy they bring to many people of all ages, can lighten their hearts and help restore faith in others. This effect can continue far beyond the time of a single Christmas. The work the Christmas Bureau does is a priceless gift to us all. The Hodgepodge Players hopes to raise as much money as possible to help support them.”

The Hodgepodge Players was created only two months ago, when Violini inquired about the interest of live theatre on the Invermere Community Share Facebook page.

“I received over 40 responses. I wasn’t really looking to start a theatre group but with 40 responses I figured that it would be worth having a meeting,” said Violini. 

Violini has a long history of writing scripts and producing live murder mystery entertainment. She owned her own murder mystery company in Vancouver and has been in the business nearly 35 years. She currently does mystery plot consulting and sells her scripts and expertise online ar   

Last summer, Marius Hoofd, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #71 Windermere District Invermere, expressed an interest in seeing more live entertainment and dinner theatre in the valley and this was the start of act one.

“After the abundant response from Invermere Community Share, I contacted Marius and asked if he was interested in a theatre group and if we could meet at the Legion and he responded with an enthusiastic yes,” said Violini. “The Hodgepodge Players is a team! Everyone contributes to the production, and everyone is responsible for their part. My interest in sourcing a theatre group is very specific, and I was clear from the beginning about what I had to contribute and what was expected other people would contribute.”

Like the the saying goes, ‘All the world’s a stage and everyone plays their part.’  All the actors are responsible for their own lines, costumes and props and Santa’s new Sleigh youngest member of eight years old is writing a song for the show, while another volunteer committed to the making of the sleigh.

“We wrote Santa’s New Sleigh together. The idea for the play and having it be a fundraiser came out of our brainstorming sessions,” said Violini. “We are thrilled with how the production is coming along. One of our props-savvy players is creating a nose for Rudolph that lights up and a fantastic community member has volunteered to make us a sleigh that flies! We have every age group imaginable from the valley, as well as some adventurous international students.
Violini said the play is coming together because of the support of the Invermere Legion and Marius Hoofd. Without a budget, having the Legion as a space to rehearse and perform the play is invaluable. There is no monetary goal, just one to raise the spirits of both the audience members and the community with all proceeds being donated to the Invermere Christmas Bureau. These proceeds will help the Christmas Bureau purchase grocery gift cards, gifts for children, including teen and senior gift bags with some small gifts and goodies for people who may need a little extra TLC over what for some can be a hard holiday season.
“It means a great deal to the Christmas Bureau to receive the proceeds from the play Santa’s New Sleigh,” said Carrie Rickards, Christmas Bureau chair. “Every donation helps us to make sure that families in need will get some support during the holiday season. The Christmas Bureau of the Columbia Valley’s goal is to help make Christmas brighter and cheerier for families from Spillimacheen to Canal Flats.  Everyone from time to time has needs a helping hand.”

The Christmas Bureau raises enough funds to support over 250 families a year, allowing these families to have a holiday meal and some gifts under a tree that otherwise would be bare or not standing at all.

“I feel that it is always important to care for each other and act with kindness and generosity every day of the year,” said Violini.  “A community’s real strength comes from accepting each other and helping each other to the best of our ability. Fundraisers during the holiday season is a valuable part of the strength of our community.”