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Practice makes perfect for 76th Annual Hobo Minstrel Show

February 10, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@heraldmail.com
  • Russ Clever of Greencastle, Pa., directs participants during a recent rehearsal for the Rescue Hose Company's 76th Annual Hobo Minstrel Show.
By Roxann Miller, Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Since the beginning of January, practices have been underway to ensure that songs are pitch perfect and jokes are hilarious so that Rescue Hose Company's 76th Annual Hobo Minstrel Show goes off without a hitch.

Even Super Bowl Sunday didn't stop the troupe from practicing.

On the biggest day in football, the entire minstrel show troupe, including two premiere end men, six end men, a 70-member chorus and additional volunteers, practiced for more than two hours at the fire company's community room.

Forty-eight year veteran of the show, Russ Clever, 74, said the show is a Greencastle tradition and practice makes perfect.

"I might cut practice a bit short, but we're still going to practice even though it's Super Bowl Sunday," said Clever.

Sure enough, the fire hall was packed with performers eager to practice.

"Greencastle is like Bedford Falls," said Clever referring to the fictitious town from the movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life.' "Greencastle is unique. There might be people who love Greencastle as much as me, but there's nobody who loves it more. This is one of our highlights."

The Hobo Minstrel Show will be held on Feb. 24, 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Greencastle-Antrim High School auditorium. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children 10 and under. Tickets are available at the door. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Over the three nights, the show draws about 3,000 and earns about $6,000 to benefit the Rescue Hose Company.

"I know there are thousands of people who look forward to coming to the show. It's almost like the rites of spring in the Greencastle-Antrim community. We have people here from West Virginia, all over the tri-state area. People come from Philadelphia to see this old-fashioned entertainment," said Ben Thomas, who has performed in the show since 1979.

This year's show theme is Songs of the States and end men will perform some of the following: Larry Keener singing "Rocky Top Tennessee," Harry Gsell singing "All My Ex's Live in Texas," Tom Shook performing "Arkansas Traveler," Ben Thomas singing "West Virginia" and Russ Clever singing "California Here I Come."

Every year, the crowd loves to hear the rhythmic clacking of the bones played by Bud Wolfe and his son Dave.

"I'm glad I play the music. That way I don't have to come up with the jokes," said Wolfe who will play the bones to three songs.

He said the bones are wooden instruments made from ebony wood.

Clever and Ben Thomas are the premiere end men who along with six end men will entertain the crowd with their corny jokes and poke fun at each other and occasionally a well-known community member.

"Like someone said, 'there's no such thing as a new joke,'" said Clever. "They are revised and recycled. Every end man comes up with his own jokes on the Internet, Readers Digest, and Joke Books — wherever he can find them. We keep the jokes clean. It's a family oriented show."

The event has a long history in the town starting in 1929.

"It's a tradition with Greencastle, and it is one of the oldest running minstrel shows in this area. It's not a variety show, it is portrayed as a minstrel show," said Nancy Freshman who has been a member of the chorus for about 10 years. "I like the camaraderie of being together with people in the community and the fact that it's a fundraiser."

In addition to the Minstrel Show, the Greencastle Rotary Club will hold an All You Can Eat Spaghetti Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Greencastle-Antrim High School cafeteria. Tickets cost $6.50 for adults, $4 for children 6 to 12 and children younger than 6 eat for free. The spaghetti dinner benefits the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library.

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