The Municipality of Huron East’s Village of Vanastra in the Spotlight of CBC’s Hit TV Show starring Jonny Harris
It’s been said that people and communities are their history, with all the good, the bad and the complex that entails. Certainly, the residents of the present Village of Vanastra can relate. Once Canada’s top-secret radar training centre during World War II, this former Royal Canadian Air Force base was one with no runways, and no airplanes. But what it accomplished was outstanding, remarkable, exceptional – all that – an initiative that helped the Allies win the war and led to its successful and comprehensive educational programmes, which continued until 1971 when the base was closed.
The community’s rich history and recent checkered past have attracted the producers of the popular television show “Still Standing” and the series’ gifted star Jonny Harris who, with their talented crew, will soon be developing an episode featuring the Village of Vanastra.
“Still Standing” seeks out small towns that have seen better days, but where community spirit still runs strong and where residents smile through adversity, make jokes about hard times, and foster a ‘stand and deliver’ attitude no matter what happens. As the team likes to say, “We are on a mission to find humour in the funniest of places.”—in places that surprise viewers.
Hailing from Pouch Cove, Newfoundland-Labrador (population 1,866 in 2011), award-winning comedian Jonny Harris transports his infectious humour and upbeat outlook on life in small town Canada to every community he visits. He obviously enjoys meeting new people and infuses every encounter with a huge chunk of his heart. If you aren’t taken with Jonny within five minutes of meeting him, you probably aren’t capable of loving anyone—so says one of his team anyway. Harris also plays Constable George Crabtree on CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries with the same tongue-in-cheek, down-home but keen acumen he brings to “Still Standing”, which is described as a toast rather than a roast—a salute to villages and hamlets that never close their doors.
Colleague Chuck Byrn reports that, in developing its first season aired last year, Harris wrote and performed over eight hours of original stand-up material, visited 13 towns, eight provinces, two oceans and many lakes, met trappers, cowboys, farmers, beauty queens and businessmen, and birthed, caught, sheared, milked and probed all sorts of animals. Talk about daunting dedication to one’s art!
Executive Producer Maureen Riley feels Canadians particularly enjoy shows about themselves—and a light-hearted half hour is welcome relief from some of the bad news stories in the headlines. Riley reports that the crew and cast feel like “Super Tourists”—residents of the towns they visit are so open, so welcoming. The “Still Standing” troupe gets the red carpet treatment within a hometown welcome that’s special every time.
In addition to clips from conversations with interesting characters in the village, the programme will include a live comedy show, starring Jonny Harris of course, to be presented and filmed in the Vanastra Community Christian Reformed Church on February 5, 2016. This no-charge event is on a first come-first served basis with doors opening at 6:00 p.m. Further information about the performance is available from Huron East’s Economic Development Officer, Jan Hawley, at 519-527-0160 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And so Huron East’s historic village that recently launched a revitalization project after decades of benign neglect, will star in a 2016 episode of the CBC show, which recognizes it’s the people who make a place. Their stories enrich the fabric of their town and their laughter enriches all of us.
Watch for the new season of “Still Standing” expected in late summer or early fall. It’s refreshing. It’s original. And it’s definitely funny without being ‘precious’ (as Jonny says).
Written by: Carolyn Parks Mintz for the Municipality of Huron East