KENTVILLE, N.S. - On Oct. 26, you can take a step back in time while honouring Second World War veterans with a night of music, theatre, dancing, food and drinks at the Cornwallis Inn’s ballroom in Kentville.
Five years ago, CentreStage Theatre and the Kings County Museum joined forces to put together a wartime variety show honouring veterans with readings and vignettes in the courtroom of the museum.
Every year since then, the Soldiers Social has continued to grow. After two years hosting the show in the museum, CentreStage’s Nancy Henry, and event co-organizer, says they quickly realized they needed a larger venue and approached the Cornwallis Inn.
“We now have a troupe of 70 volunteers, and 30 entertainers including the band, dancers, actors, cigarette girls, and coat check workers,” says Henry. Volunteers from the historical society and CentreStage help with setup, take down - and everything in between.
Over the years, Henry says they have performed vignettes from both world wars.
“Last year we began with a tribute to the Battle of Vimy, as it was the 100-year anniversary,” she says.
This year, the Soldiers Social will commemorate the end of WWI with the story of George Price, the last allied soldier killed in that war. Guests will learn about the war brides and a vignette that deals with the Junior Red Cross in WWII, explains Henry. In addition, Ruth Manning will be performing her Remembrance Day tribute song, Unsung Heroes.
To get material for the show, Kate MacInnes Adams from the Kings County Museum, and co-organizer with Henry, says they searched through archival material focusing first on Kings County and then, if there is time in the show, they’ll explore broader ideas such as this year’s Junior Red Cross.
“This was my sister Beth Irvine’s idea,” explains Adams. Although Irvine is no longer is actively involved in the event she is still a source of inspiration, she says.
Henry says visitors always love walking into the Cornwallis Inn ballroom, seeing it transformed, as they work very hard to make it look like it did in the past.
The Cornwallis Inn elevator acts as the time machine, says Adams. Guests are greeted by a costumed bellboy who takes them to the main floor ballroom, which is decorated circa 1940. War propaganda posters and union jacks line the walls, the tables are filled with memorabilia including ration cards, advertisements from the day, postcards of the Inn in its glory days, and poignant letters from soldiers at the front, she says. Cakes and cookies from period cookbooks are presented on tiered plates.
“Many come in costume from the 40s and dance to the oldies,” says Henry.
Adams says her favourite memory happened a few years ago when, in the first or second year, they presented scenes from the play “Waiting for the Parade.” One of the characters was a German woman living in Canada during the second World War. Adams asked her German friend to play the role.
“At one point she sings “Lilly Marlene” where the English and German lyrics tangle together,” says Adams. “It was complicated and deeply moving for her as German citizen to play the role from the Canadian point of view. I’ve never forgotten how emotional and tender it was.”
This year’s Soldiers Social takes place on Oct 26 at 8 p.m. at the Cornwallis Inn ballroom in Kentville. Tickets are $30 each, or $25 for society members, and can be obtained by calling 902-678-6237. The show always sells out quickly, so Henry advises people to act quickly.
This event is not only a fundraiser for the societies, but also a night to honour our World War II veterans, says Henry.
“We look forward to welcoming you to our event as we rewind the clocks while recognizing the perseverance and sacrifice of our veterans.”
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