Tears shed at Italian performance in hall

Hall's history includes markets, concerts and more

So here we were! We had just rekindled the HHS Recreation Commission, which had been dormant for three years and needed some money to go on. A market we were told, would be the best way to earn some revenue. The Memorial Hall could be used by us for free and a small ad in the newspaper would make sure that some vendors would appear. They did, but what most of them wanted to sell would, nowadays, not even make it into a garage sale.

I remember that there was also an artist who came to me crying after two hours saying that her art was far too good for this place and it was! She did stay, however, mainly because she did not want to let us down. What sold best were our kaisers with cheese &/or ham and coffee.

However, we had over calculated and ended up eating the surplus ourselves. In the end, we did make a small profit and we were on our way.

When we first saw the Memorial Hall we were dismayed. There were buckets everywhere catching the rain that was dripping through the roof! The hall was dusty because no matter when it was swept last it would be dusty soon again.

But somehow after awhile it became “our hall”; she was to us, like a beloved rag doll which we could dress up differently for each event. Sometimes she was changed into a Venetian Palazzo, or she became a European Market Place. At other times she represented a church or a whole town as for the play “Our Town”.

When it comes to special events, I do not know where to begin and where to end. There were so many!

People often ask me things like what was the longest event, the most beautiful one and which did I like best? I think that I will write about those that come easiest to mind… the earliest events were the Choir Concerts; with guest choirs coming to perform for us; the Chilliwack Evergreen Choir, the Frasertal Choir and from Vancouver – the Concordia and the Italian Folklorist Choirs.

There was once an afternoon performance of a concert and four choirs did a mass choir sing; it was “O Nabucco” in Italian. The hall was packed, the stage filled to the brim with singers and Helga Beluze, the Italian Folkloristic’s choir director, could not find something she could stand on while directing.

In the end she put two loudspeakers side by side and used them as a podium. The audience was thrilled.

Ed Stenson declared that he had never heard such a sound in the Memorial Hall and Bruno, owner of the HHS Restaurant – Conca D’oro, cried. All the while many of us were scared stiff that Helge, the director would fall off the loud speakers. It was quite a concert!

The longest events surely were the “Christmas Extravaganzas”. They started at the end of November and ran to the end of the year on a daily basis. Different school classes usually came in the morning to view a beautiful show of animated angels and dolls, put on by Frank and Lena Goertzen, and have hot apple cider and cookies provided by the volunteers. The Extravaganza’s great opening featured an elaborate Christmas Market and selected vendors stayed for the duration of the Extravaganza. Not to forget the HHS Multicultural Singers who at certain times caroled with the audience.

The EuroFest, a weekend event, stands out in my mind, especially a band of young accordion players from Switzerland. They came in the morning, started to play and the mood was set! There was a “Drehorgel” player from Berlin, a German Weingarten put on by the late Gerti and Rudi Zumer, a Dutch display and an authentic Swiss “Bauernstube” assembled by the Flukkiger family.

One of my personal favourites was “Christmas in the Market Place”, a combination of a one-act play put on by the Theatre Guild and local merchants disguised as market vendors. It was only a one evening affair but truly enchanting. So was “Carnival in Venice” with a deluxe buffet catered by none other than Bruno Giannotta, of the Conca D’oro, Art Gallery and truly elaborate decorations. But Bruno not only catered, he also sang “Mama”, a performance which those who were there.. still remember.

A Youthfest was another event I like to remember, that was held during the Labour Day weekend, with games, talent shows, a play called “The Tree” written by a local writer, Martin Weidemann, and a youth sandsculpture contest called “Sasquatch in the Sand”. Then there was the “Sasquatch Festival” itself, which surely was the most authentic Harrison Hot Springs event. It has great potential and I do hope that somebody, sometimes, will bring to life again. There were many other events such as “English Pub Nights” and of course, the all-time favourite “Oktoberfest”. The last one held only two years ago, put the bar out of beer in one hour!

Mysteriously, more beer came out of nowhere and we were saved!

Sometimes it’s hard to know who had more fun at these events; the guests or us, the hosts!

 

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To read more of Ruth Altendorf’s articles, click here.