By Alan Sorensen
More than a dozen talented Havre natives are expected to return to the Havre High stage this holiday season and provide the community with a rare glimpse of their special gifts.
The curtain is scheduled to go up on the first-ever Havre Schools Alumni Extravaganza on Thursday at 7 p.m. Each performance will be limited to between five and seven minutes, according to organizers.
The cost of admission will be $5 at the door, with the proceeds divided between the event's co-sponsors, Havre Public Schools Education Foundation and Northern Showcase.
The extravaganza has been a topic of discussion by several groups in recent years.
"The Showcase had talked about it, and the foundation," organizer Pat Newell said. "And the music parents had kicked it around a little bit."
"But nobody really jumped into it," said his wife, Kathie Newell, a Havre School Board member and member of the Havre Public Schools Education Foundation. "We decided to do it this year before someone else decided to run with it."
Newell said the extravaganza is the first fund-raiser hosted by the Havre Public Schools Education Foundation. The purpose for the foundation, she said, includes providing funding for improvement projects, staff development and scholarships within the Havre Public Schools system.
"We are starting slowly," Newell said, "but I think it will be a very successful group because there is so much community support."
The holiday showcase for Havre talent finally found a home this year thanks largely to the efforts of Havre High graduate and Northern Showcase member Gary Springer.
"My idea was to run it by people one more time and when it fell apart, I could forget about it forever," Springer joked.
The idea is now a reality that organizers hope will draw Havre's most talented alumni to the HHS stage each Christmas season. Springer's efforts have earned him the job of emcee for the evening.
The final decision to schedule the show for the Thursday after Christmas came in mid November. Names of prospective performers were being added to the list up until a couple weeks ago. Belated invitations to perform were sent to dozens of Havre products, but most were reluctantly turned down because of prior commitments.
"This year, we didn't provide people with enough notice as we hope to in the future," Kathie Newell said. "We hope to have it about the same time every year."
Pat Newell said a similar production has been held in Bozeman for several years. He said that production is held two consecutive nights and the seats are filled both nights.
Several of those who will appear here have careers in music or other performing arts, while others are maintaining a lifelong enjoyment of music as they pursue more conventional careers. Some will perform individually and others will perform in duets or ensembles. Each duet or ensemble is required to have at least one person who attended school in Havre.
Those scheduled to perform as of Wednesday morning were Carly Booth of Missoula, Alison Booth of Missouri, Lyle Dille of Havre, Kirt Miller of Havre, Michelle Hanson of Bozeman, Kyle Howard of Columbus, Nate Newell of Pennsylvania, Nick Newell of South Dakota, Lisa Wagner of Missoula, Aaron Riggin of Havre, Angie Riggin Pratt of Wyoming, J.T. Russell of Missouri, Loren R. Baker of Spokane, Wash., Dena Tippetts, Mavis Filler, Frank Payn and Marge Holt of Havre, Debbie Deppmeier of Missoula, and Katie Springer of Wyoming.
"We tried to get some from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and see what happens," Pat Newell said.
"Right now," Kathie Newell said, "we're looking at a dozen acts and a surprise ending."
Newell said organizers plan to put together a program that includes a short biography of each of the performers. Performances are expected to range from vocals and instrumentals to dancing and theatrical readings.
Aaron Riggin, a 1998 graduate for Havre High, said the program should offer something for everyone. "If you're tired of holiday music, it will be a good mix."