In this co-ed game, one of the men on Team Unwin scores against the London Devilettes women's team. The two teams play an annual game in honour of Jolene Unwin, killed three years ago in a car crash.
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Lens: Canon EF 100 mm f2 Light: Existing ISO: 1000 Exposure: f2 @ 1/125 sec.
A FINE Evening
Men serve the women at a cancer fundraiser at FINE A Restaurant in Grand Bend.
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8 Light: Speedlite with ambient ISO: 1000 Exposure: f2 @ 1/125 sec.
High School MusicalPresented by Drayton Entertainment Huron Country Playhouse May 19 to 30 Tickets: $39 for adults, $20 for under 18 Box office: 1-888-449-4463
Photos and story by Casey Lessard
Aiming for fame, more than 100 teenagers joined auditions in Exeter and Guelph for Drayton Entertainment’s summer presentation of Disney’s High School Musical, which runs at the Huron Country Playhouse May 19 to 30. After a weekend of auditions, including a full Sunday at South Huron District High School, 80 actors were chosen to join the P.E.P. Squad, the play’s chorus. “I saw it in the paper and right away I knew that it was something I had to do,” said Alicia Veens, 16, a student at North Lambton Secondary School in Forest. “I love the play a lot, and I love to sing. I love to dance, even though I’m not very good.” Veens and the rest of the teens had to show their abilities in both areas. Director and choreographer David Connolly and dance captain Michelle Black taught the audition attendees one of the routines those selected will be performing in the play, “We’re All In This Together”. “It was nerve-wracking,” said Viktor Coletta, a South Huron student from Parkhill. “I was scared out of my mind. I wasn’t expecting what they did. I felt better when we were in groups, but I think I did pretty good.” The Drayton team acknowledges the fear auditionees have. After all, for some, this is their first time trying out for a professional role. “We had kids coming to the door, still not convinced of whether they were going to do it at all,” Michelle Black said. “Still thinking it over and they got here. The fact is, they got the courage to learn the material and present at the end.” The process is not new for Grand Bend’s Meaghan Forrester. She was in the chorus of last season’s Oliver! “With my Oliver! audition, I screwed up, too, and let my performance suffer,” Forrester said. “This one I screwed up, but I felt my performance was better. You miss a step or have to catch up. “I hope I get in, but if I don’t, I’m applying to university and those auditions need work,” she added. “If I do get in, I plan to work a lot harder than I did on Oliver!, because we had a lot more time and it was less complicated. This will be less time and more complicated.” It seems Forrester impressed Connolly and Black; she was among those chosen to join the squad for eight performances this summer. But Connolly understands the pressure the audition process puts on a new performer. “These kids are making courageous choices to be here,” he said. “For some, it’s an obvious choice; their parents support them and they drove them and it was a no-brainer. There are others who moved mountains to get into that room. When you know what an audition is, it’s scary enough, but they don’t even know what an audition is and they’re walking into a room to put it all on the line.” Alicia Bradley, 17, of London put it on the line. The Central Secondary School student, who spends summers at a cottage in Grand Bend, has experience at the Grand Theatre in London, where she was a pianist. She was hoping to move from the orchestra pit to the stage. “I love to dance and sing, Bradley said. “I want to go into theatre at university, but I didn’t realize that until last year, so I’m trying to get my show experience now. I have a couple of auditions at Ryerson, York and U of T. I’m a dancer, so I thought this would be a good chance to get on stage.” Unfortunately, Bradley is not among those who will be on the Playhouse stage this summer. Neither will Beth Smallman, a South Huron student new to professional theatre. “I want to go into acting after high school,” Smallman said. “This was my first audition. I’ve been in a lot of drama things through school. I wanted to see what an audition is like and see whether I get it.” No matter, though. It was a worthy experience for the teen. “It went really well,” she said. “I learned a lot. I tried my hardest and it was a lot of fun.” That’s the kind of attitude David Connolly was looking for, even if it didn’t translate into a position with the cast. The overwhelming desire to succeed reminds Connolly of his early theatre years. “My first big audition was for Alan Lund at Kitchener-Waterloo Musical Productions. I had done some dancing with dance studios and competed a little, but Alan Lund was standing in front of me with Cynthia Toushan Brnjas, who was his assistant, and I didn’t even know that choreographers had assistants. I remember being in awe of that. I must have been so bad and awkward. But we’re looking for passion, someone who can’t think of anything else they’d rather do, and I must have had that.” It’s all about perspective, Michelle Black said. “If they did it again, it’s less of an audition and more of a workshop on life. Every time I spend time with David, I learn a little more about myself. Today, if they don’t get the show, the confidence they’ll get from being in the room with him is huge.” And it’s not for everyone. “We had a girl yesterday break down in the middle and say, ‘I can’t do this,’” Black said. “You can see that, for some of them, it’s terrifying.” It wasn’t a problem for Virginia Iredale of Exeter, who earned a spot on the squad. “The hardest part is keeping it all together,” the Grade 10 student said. “I don’t get embarrassed on stage. The easiest part was coming. I just decided, I’m going, my mom will bring me. Then it’s like, I’m here, guess I get to do it now.” Family support is important, and makes the process easier. “My mom made me (audition),” said Viktor Coletta. “I did this in London with Original Kids. I was Zeke Baylor, the cook. It’s a fun show, a lot of energetic people.” Alicia Veens came wearing a shirt that reads Born to be Famous. “My grandma bought me this shirt,” Veens said. “She loves what I do and hopes for the best for me. I want to be famous really bad.” And she knows what it takes to get there. “If you have it, you have it. You don’t have to be good looking, as long as you have the talent and believe in yourself.” Words David Connolly might argue were taken right out of his mouth. He hopes some kids discovered this about themselves during the audition process. “You can tell somebody they’re great, but that will never replace them feeling that they did it themselves,” he said. “That moment of doing it for themselves will stay with them.” Veens walked away wanting the moment to last. “I would love to get a letter in the mail saying I’ve made it. I’ve always wanted to be in a play like this.” “I’d like to see all the good people get it,” added Virginia Iredale. “I will definitely go see it now because it looks like fun.” No need to buy a ticket, Virginia, because you and Alicia are in it. Veens and Iredale were both added to the P.E.P. Squad roster. And yes, High School Musical looks like fun. To see it for yourself, visit http://www.draytonentertainment.com
The Grand Bend Strip leads all community newspapers in Ontario with eight nominations for this year’s Ontario Community Newspaper Awards, including best overall paper (a first for the paper) and photographer of the year for Casey Lessard, a two-time runner-up for this award. The paper also recently won two national awards, first prize ad design and third for photo essay in the Canadian Community Newspapers Association Better Newspapers Competition.The top three OCNA entrants were announced March 1. The Parry Sound North Star has the second most nominations with seven. Winners will be announced at the OCNA’s annual conference in Toronto May 14. CCNA winners were announced March 15 and will receive their awards May 13 at the CCNA conference. To learn more about the Grand Bend Strip’s history of awards since its first publication in May 2007, visit http://grandbendstrip.com/about/awards.
The Grand Bend Strip and publisher Casey Lessard are nominated in the following categories:
Canadian Community Newspapers Association
Best Ad Design (circulation up to 3,999) 1st place – Casey365.com – ad promoting website Runners-up: The Chief (Squamish, BC), Wainwright Review (Wainwright, AB)
Best Photo Essay (circulation up to 3,999) 3rd place – Five days of good, clean fun – Parkhill Five Fun Days Winner: The Provost News (Provost, AB)
Ontario Community Newspapers Association
General Excellence (best overall) Class 1 [under 2,000 circulation] Other nominees: Cobden Sun, Manotick Messenger
Photographer of the Year Casey Lessard Other nominees: Belleville EMC and Peterborough This Week
Education Writing Chicago! – SHDHS music trip Other nominees: Parry Sound Beacon Star and Richmond Hill/Thornhill Liberal
Best Photo Layout Five days of good, clean fun – Parkhill Five Fun Days Other nominees: Ajax/Pickering News Advertiser and North York Mirror
Best Feature Photo (circ under 9,999) Best Seat in the House – Dashwood soap box derby cover photo Other nominees: Aylmer Express and Bracebridge Examiner
Best Sports Photo Hockey Night in Zurich – Mark Buruma in dressing room Other nominees: Brampton Guardian and Mount Forest Confederate
Best Rural Story (circ under 9,999) Fields of Gold – Marcus Koenig, potato farmer Other nominees: Listowel Banner and New Hamburg Independent
Best Creative Advertising (circ under 9,999) Casey365.com – ad promoting website Other nominees: Mount Forest Confederate and Nunavut News/North
Crediton area rancher Julie Forrest is an animal communicator, which means she speaks with animals, expressing their thoughts to the people who take care of them. Forrest speaks to the animals – large or small – telepathically, and says they have a lot to say. She has used this skill to train the many horses and cattle on her farm, which are used as professional athletes on rodeo tours across Eastern Canada. Casey Lessard sat down with Julie Forrest, and invites you to sit back, open your mind and hear what she has to say about her work. As told to Casey Lessard Photos by Casey Lessard
I have communicated with animals since I was a kid, and I always thought everyone did. I didn’t realize it was a special gift or that I was different from anyone else. I always heard their voices. I’ve always heard them talk. People would say, I wonder what they’re saying and I’d say what they were saying. Everyone would laugh and I thought they heard it too, that it was no big deal. Then a friend of mine and I went away for the weekend to a course about 16 years ago, and it ended up being a telepathy course. I thought, I do that, but I didn’t know that was what it was called. I had always done it for family and friends, but from there I started doing it for other people. I came out of the closet. It was a very big social issue. People asked me, what makes you so special that you think you can talk to animals. But what I get from the conversations, it’s definitely a validation to the owners that that is their animal. They say one in 10 people can talk telepathically if they choose to focus. I can do people, but I choose not to for the simple fact that people are so hung up on themselves and the social or religious whatever. People are more critical. Animals say what they need to say. They don’t sugarcoat anything and they tell you like you need to hear it. End of subject. It’s not usually opinionated things. They’re telling the truth because animals show our truths. I always ask the animals to describe their essence, to tell me something that the owner knows they always do. It’s not like I go and tell them that they like to roll over and have their bellies scratched. Every animal’s different. Their response validates to the owner that it is their animal. Then we ask them their problems and what’s going on.
An ongoing conversation They can hear you all the time. Animals speak telepathically, so whatever you picture, they’re also able to pick that up. People say dogs can always sense when you’re afraid of them. Chances are pretty good that when you walk away from that dog that you’re thinking in your mind, please don’t bite me. You’re picturing this dog coming from behind and grabbing you, so you have actually given that dog permission to do that. You’re giving him that visual image. The level of a conversation from an animal is so much higher than we can imagine. They have so much more knowledge of the universe than we do. Some can be extremely deep. The owners will write up a list of questions they want to ask the animal and I sit down and write out the conversation so they have a copy of it and I always have a copy. I’ll read it back to the person and see if there are any other questions from that. It’s important that the animal is able to convey what they want their owner/guardian to know or understand about their problems. I always read it back first to be sure it’s explained on that proper level, the way they want it. You could put out a piece of paper and 10 different people could read it 10 different ways. That’s why I always want to interpret it the way it is meant to be interpreted. Every animal has its own voice. Some have accents. I did a horse that had a really strong English accent with ye and thee, and it’s important to put that in the conversation as I hear it because it means something to the owner. He ended up being shipped here from England. They all have different personalities the same as we do, so of course, they’re going to have different voices the same as we do. They speak English. I’ve done some from Quebec that are raised French and I ask them to come to me in a universal language that I can understand. There may still be the odd French word in there and I write it down as it sounds because I don’t understand French, but the owner will know what it means. There’s none that are ever too shy to talk. As soon as you’ve given them that opportunity, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I can finally be heard. Yes! They’re getting it. I can convey what I want them to know.’ Animals all already speak on that level, and that’s why we have so much more to learn from them than from each other. The only animals that are really hard to work with are chickens and emus. I’ve done every other animal and they’re thrilled to be able to talk. I’ve done seven or eight pages of a conversation. Small animals like a cat or dog can take anywhere from 30 or 45 minutes to an hour. Some conversations with horses and dogs can take from two to four hours. I did a conversation with one horse that had hopes of being a Pan-Am horse racer and heading to the Olympics, and we talked for four and a half hours. That was almost a whole notebook. We wanted to make sure everything was covered.
Communication and rodeo I’ve been riding since I was three and showing competitively since I was seven. When Ed and I got together, he decided he wanted to do a more manly thing, so that was the rodeo and we’ve been together for 16 years now. We started off just competing in steer wrestling, barrel racing, and roping events, and it’s been about nine or 10 years now that we’ve been the stock contractors for the rodeos for Eastern Canada. We supply the stock (steers and calves) for the rodeos for steer wrestling, team roping, breakaway roping, tie-down roping and junior steer riding. That covers five of the seven mandatory events. We have always integrated the two businesses, communicating and rodeo. With the average calf-roping horse, it typically takes a full two years to train them to do that. I can do it in three to six months because I can talk to them and tell them, “This is what I want you to do. This is your job. Do you understand?” If I can’t explain what I want verbally, I show them a picture. I show them an image of, for example, “I want you to do a sliding stop when the rope becomes tight on that calf, and you have to face up to that calf and be in control.” Then I’ll ask them, “What’s the best time for your rider to get off? When you’re squatted or just as you go to stop? That rider has to come off and you’ve got to help send him off. Do you like the rope where we have it positioned on your face? ‘No, I don’t like it there, I want it lower.’” Then it hooks underneath instead of coming by his eye. Different things like that. We can really tell him, “When the gate cracks, you’ve got to follow that calf out.” Other people have to keep drilling it and drilling it, whereas I can talk to him and tell him what we need him to do, “Now what do you need us to do to make it better for you?” It makes for a better relationship and a faster training process. It makes everyone happier. Not all horses want to do that type of job. You could spend a full two years on a horse and it’d never be able to step up to the plate to be that champion horse or do the job to the best of its ability because it doesn’t want to do that. We’ve had some like that. That’s fine. We change their career or we sell them to somebody who’s going to be compatible with that animal. All our stock has to be trained prior to going to the rodeo. You can’t just pull a cow out of the field and say, you’re going to go and do this, so they’re trained so their muscles are stretched equally as well to ensure they don’t get hurt. It’s inevitable that at some point, some of them may get hurt, but we’ve had a really good record of not many getting hurt. You lose more from a sickness in a barn; we look after our rodeo stock very well. It’s our livelihood. It’s mandatory that they are looked after; it’s no different than our horses. They are athletes, so they need the best care and upkeep because we’re traveling. It’s nothing for us to travel 2100 km in a weekend. We leave on a Thursday, go to Quebec for an 18 hour drive, show there, travel all night another 12 hours to another rodeo, and from there another 10 hours home. I get lots of emails saying, “If you’re an animal communicator, how come you’re promoting the sport of rodeo? That’s cruelty to animals.” It’s not. It gives them a career. It’s no different than us having a career or the horses having a career. If those cattle are not used for rodeo, their only other option in life is to be in our freezer. These animals have a career for two or three – and some even four or five – years depending on what they’re doing. They follow the ranks up, starting with calf tie-down, then breakaway, then steer wrestling and team roping, and then to junior steer riding. If they’re good and like what they’re doing, they keep on going. Otherwise, most of them are butchered before they’re two years of age. Now they have a career. Being longhorns, they’re extremely smart animals.
We can learn so much I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a stupid animal. Animals are the same as people. You can be an old soul or a young soul. If you get a dog that doesn’t listen, it’s because their either don’t associate with their name, or because they’re a very young soul and it’s your job to teach them the ways of the world. You get some, that old soul that picks up things so quickly and is so intelligent and that’s because they’ve been here many times. An animal’s purpose in life is to be taught and to teach. To help us along the way. There’s so much that animals have to offer. Beavers build a dam that we have to blow up with dynamite. Why couldn’t we learn how to build something that strong? Birds build nests that can withstand tornadoes. Spiders’ webs are the strongest substance in the world. Ants build colonies that don’t destroy our land. People are destroying our natural resources and destroying different animal species for our own selfish, ignorant purposes. People are using monkeys for their gall bladders and eating their brains for a delicacy. They show us so much, like unconditional love, responsibility, not to be so endeavoured into ourselves and to think of others. Animals are a huge part of our lives. Our kids can grow up and move out, but our animals are still here. I’ve always been the type of person who gets along better with animals than I do with people. I always believe that animals have so much more to share with us than the average person does with each other. They’ve proven that a lot of animals – for example, gorillas – can speak by hand language. Animals whose owners are hearing or speech impaired learn those hand signals and know what they mean. Most people only use eight to 10 per cent of our brains. A lot of people are so caught up in our social and cultural structures that we’re not open enough to accept other forms of communication. Telepathy can be done through audio, pictures, feelings, or colours. When I first started, there were a lot of skeptics. People would say, ‘I’m going to let you talk to my horse just to prove that you’re wrong.’ And I did that in the beginning to prove that I was talking to their animal. I did that for the first two years, but now I don’t have to prove myself to anybody. If you want my services, you’ll ask for it. These days, there are a lot of people who do believe in it, and are looking for methods to help their animals other than pharmaceuticals.
Lessons from furry friends It’s just kept me very humble and not judgmental. Through the eyes of the beholder, it has made me realize that I’m equal with everybody. I don’t ever think I’m better than any one else. We’re all equal, and we have to be equal to coincide with everybody. I am not my dogs’ master. I may be their guardian and I am looking after them, but we are all equal. We have to learn from each other and teach each other. Every conversation with an animal is new and fresh. It never gets old. I love my life and I love what I’m doing.
Julie Forrest offers animal communication sessions for $75 for small animals (cats/dogs, etc.) and $125 for large animals (horses/cows, etc.). To learn more, visit http://www.julieforrest.com or call 519-234-6130.
Ashlan Hollingsworth cuts her hair to raise money for The House that Jack Built, a charity that builds homes in Haiti. It was started in honour of hairdresser Rachel Michielsen's late father.
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Lens: Canon EF 50mm f1.4 and 100mm f2 Light: Existing ISO: 200 Exposure: f3.2 @ 1/200 sec. and f3.2 @ 1/100 sec.
Finally invested in a roll of paper. How easy! Looking to do more studio and portrait work, so this is an important step, and I can't believe I didn't do it before.
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Lens: Canon EF 100mm f2 and 50mm f1.4 Light: Speedlite through umbrella ISO: 200 Exposure: f8 @ 1/125 sec. and f6.3 @ 1/125 sec.
A commissioned portrait for Velina Martin. To commission a portrait, please feel free to contact me!
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Lens: Canon EF 50mm f1.4 and 100mm f2 Light: Existing ISO: 640 Exposure: f2 @ 1/60 sec. and f2.5 @ 1/80 sec.