Petal pushers

Volunteers for the Canadian Cancer Society will be out and about in the coming weeks as they gear up for Daffodil Month. Phyllis Clapp and Donna Burton, co-conveners for the Midland/Penetanguishene fundraiser, have been living, breathing and sometimes even sleeping the campaign for the past few months. Although they agreed it has been a challenge, heading up the campaign for the first time will be worth it in the end. “I think Phyllis has been living it 24 hours a day,” said Burton. “It seems to be our topic of conversation no matter if we are at a card game or bowling. It stays with us.” While money from most cancer-related fundraisers goes to research, proceeds from this campaign will go half toward research and half toward administration, drivers and support groups, noted Burton, who has been a cancer society volunteer for 18 years. “Everything raised here goes to our people,” she emphasized. Last year, the local branch’s volunteer drivers drove 344 clients to cancer-related appointments, covering 275,023 kilometres at a cost of more than $96,000. Clapp, a volunteer for two years, said knowing the money raised stays in the community is what makes this fundraiser so important. “About four years ago, I had to take my husband to Princess Margaret (Hospital in Toronto),” she recalled. “I didn’t know anything about the fact that there were drivers available.” While their reasons for volunteering may be different, both women have found themselves drawn to the cancer society. “Right from the time I was a child … my dad helped with cancer here in Midland,” said Burton. “It was embedded in my being.” “I lost my dad to cancer,” added Clapp. “I wanted to help raise money so that we can help in some way.” Daffodil sales brought in almost $3 million for the Canadian Cancer Society in Ontario in 2008 – with the local campaign raising $23,000. Burton and Clapp are hoping to increase that to $30,000 this year. Volunteers have fanned out in the community taking orders for the flowers. They sell for $7 a bunch or $12 for two bunches, with delivery scheduled for April 3. Daffodil sales will also be taking place in local stores, banks and malls on April 3 and 4. [email protected]


Cathy Jones headlines comedy festival

Veteran comic Cathy Jones will headline Orillia’s third-annual comedy festival (April 15 to 18) with a Saturday-evening show at the city’s venerable opera house. A founding member of the mock news program, “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” Jones spoke with Orillia Today in advance of her appearance, ruminating on character-driven comedy and the joy of finding humour in hardship. Jones, who turned 54 on Monday, began the phone interview from inside a Halifax, Nova Scotia car wash, where her Mini was enjoying a foam bath. Orillia Today: TV viewers know you for your role in This Hour Has 22 Minutes, where you work as part of an ensemble cast. What can you tell us about your upcoming performance at the opera house? Jones: “A lot of times, when I do a solo performance, I just talk and tell jokes, but I think I’m going to do a couple of character pieces, because the show is longer than usual. (At this point, the conversation turns to the car wash. “The dryer is so short – there’s only 20 seconds left,” Jones tells a reporter. “I’m going to back up and go through again.” She does just that, before returning to the subject of her solo performance.) “People do like to see a sprinkling of video, and I do have some fun things that I want to share. I’m hoping to bring a young actor that I have a lot of respect for, (who) plays scenes with me really well.” Orillia Today: Is there a sense of freedom with a solo act that you don’t have as part of a larger cast? Is there an intimidation factor there, arriving on the stage alone? Jones: “To me, if the show goes well, if I’m connecting with my audience, I am very happy to be there. Especially if I feel comfortable enough to explore things as I go, topics that I’m fascinated by. I have a history in my family of their being good at being MCs. My father had a very dry sense of humour, and a lot of times people didn’t know he was joking. If you didn’t have a good sense of humour, you might miss it. It is in my family, the show business thing.”’ Orillia Today: You’ve been described as a comic chameleon, able to slip into any number of characters with the help of a few props. Babe Bennett comes to mind. Can you give us some insight into the creative process required to develop these characters? Jones: “The truth is, I get inspired by stuff, but it’s been awhile. I’m kind of lazy. When I hear somebody speaking, I want to capture their accent. When I hear somebody talking, the voice comes back to me. Sometimes when I’m meditating I’ll be talking out loud and a character will come to me.” Orillia Today: Is it true that your female characters were modeled after your mother? Jones: “I think there was that broken hearted tenderness, even though I have my father’s aggression where I suddenly snap. I think my mom, she was incredibly generous – Newfoundlanders are incredibly generous – she was funny. She played the piano. She had a really deep voice.” Orillia Today: Much has been written about the East Coast having its own distinct brand of humour. Is that true, and if so, what sets it apart from other comedy? Jones: “It is harder to be funny when you are on top, because it is not as easy to fool around. When you are on the East Coast, you are almost the class clown of the country. We are like people who really know how to survive on a (expletive deleted) rock. Being the underdog and (yet) not being crushed is a great place for humour to come from.” Orillia Today: How do you choose your targets – I mean subjects – when you’re preparing for an episode of This Hour Has 22 Minutes? Jones: “What’s politically in the news, what are the hot topics. We have meetings Monday morning and there is a huge idea list generated and then people write and write. We basically have two days to write the show.” Orillia Today: Any favourite subjects come to mind? Jones: “I like stuff that’s smart. I like funny, funny stuff. I’m not a news junkie type of person. I’m more about people’s behaviour, how we treat each other, the changes in culture, like what we have done to life on Earth. What it is like to be my age, to be who I am. I am not a male standup comedian, I am character-driven.” Orillia Today: Carol Burnett was renowned for her characters. Jones: “She was very physical. It wasn’t about the snappy patter. It was the physical appearance. She was killer. Orillia Today: Within film and television, it’s often said comedy is perhaps the most difficult form to write well. What sets apart good humour writing from the mediocre stuff that seems in such ample supply these days? Jones: “Real comedy comes out of real situations. If you do something very unlikely, you get further away from good comedy. Something being true and genuine is way funnier than somebody trying to be funny. My favourite comedy comes out of real life situations. Real emotions can be very, very funny.” – Cathy Jones performs at the Orillia Opera House April 18 at 8 p.m., with tickets priced at $40, or $30 for seniors and students. For more information, call 326-8011.


Collingwood rejects Blue Mountains Pan-Am proposal

Collingwood Council won’t be backing the Blue Mountain’s bid to be an event host for the 2015 Pan American Games. At council on Monday evening, a request came forward asking the municipality to be a co-guarantor, along with TBM, for $1.8 million in funds for improvements to the Thornbury Horse Park, which would be used for the equestrian events. Counc. Ian Chadwick felt the event would not only be a great thing for the area but it might also get the municipality on board with the Collingwood Regional Airport. Collingwood has been asking TBM to become a member of the airport services board. Chadwick also felt this was a good chance to participate in a regional event. "Every hotel will be full. Every restaurant will be full," he said. "I just think we need to look at the regional impact. It will be huge." Counc. Tim McNabb disagreed and said if they aren’t going to support the Collingwood Airport, he wasn’t going to support their bid for the games. McNabb didn’t feel it was a smart move for the town to "go into debt," for a piece of property that isn’t in Collingwood. "I’m against this for the airport reason," he said. "I don’t think it’s appropriate." Counc. Kathy Jeffery was in favour of offering moral support for the bid but not financial support.


Downtown plan has some councillors nervous

If they build it, will they come? Innisfil’s politicians are hoping the answer is a resounding yes when it comes to the ambitious $17 to $20 million downtown Alcona plan. They’re betting the beautification plan, which will create an upscale streetscape, will attract businesses to Innisfil Beach Road between the 20th Sideroad and Lake Simcoe. But some councillors continue to express concerns over the project’s escalating costs. Last week, councillors Paul Wardlaw, Dan Davidson and Peter Kmet, opposed paying an additional $35,000 in consultant’s fees for the second phase of the project. Last December, those councillors were joined by Lynn Dollin when they voted against increasing the budget for the first phase between Jans Boulevard and the 25th Sideroad from $5.6 million to $6.1 million. “The numbers keep changing. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time,” Wardlaw said last week. “We haven’t even put a shovel in the ground yet.” The latest increase relates to the third “precinct” from 25th Sideroad to Lake Simcoe next to Innisfil Beach Park. Planning director Robert McAuley told council “there are some concerns” about how the architectural component will work on that section since it is closer to the lake. The streetscape should also mirror the high standards of the first phase, council has been told. “There is a risk the budget might go over,” McAuley said. “Until we really get into the project, we don’t know.” Much of the costs for the first portion, which will see construction this year, will be paid through development charges. But the section from the 25th Sideroad to the lake will have an impact on taxes, McAuley said. Mayor Brian Jackson, Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope and Coun. Rod Boynton continued their vigorous defense of the project last week. “If you are going to attract business you have to spend money,” Wauchope said. “You are not going to attract business the way the street is now. It’s an embarrassment.” Council has asked for a report breaking down the projects estimated costs, including how much will be paid through development charges.