The Sea to Sky Family Fair is set to be invaded by talking farmyard animals – but don't be alarmed. They're in good hands.
Veteran ventriloquist Neale Bacon is bringing his show to Squamish and he said he's looking forward to introducing his crazy critters to fair attendees.
“Horton Hog will be coming — he's kind of got a cheeky personality and tends to take over the show,” he said. “And Clarisse the Chicken will be there. She's a diva. I think of her as a Miss Piggy with feathers.”
Bacon said another of his characters will also make the trip and leaned heavily towards Stanley Sheep. He describes himself as a “nerd.”
Bacon, who plans to do two, 30-minute shows at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., said he prides himself on the fact that his show appeals to all ages.
“My show is basically a mix of vent and maybe a magic trick or two thrown in,” he said. “And there's lots of audience participation. I like to think of myself as a family entertainer as opposed to a children's entertainer. There's visual stuff that the kids like and there's another level of humour that mom, dad, grandma and grandpa can appreciate.”
Bacon said he got hooked on the world of ventriloquism as youngster when he used to watch Peter Rolston, who had a number of children's shows on BCTV from 1963 to 1981. His interest in the craft increased when he learned that a minister in his small northern B.C. town also practiced ventriloquism.
“The minister in my town taught a night school course on vent, based on the Maher School of Ventriloquism, and I learned that course with him,” he said. “As soon as I graduated high school, I moved to Vancouver for more opportunities and when I was about 20 or 21, I met my idol Peter Rolston.”
Rolston became a friend and mentor for Bacon before he died in 2006. Bacon said Rolston offered him excellent career advice, including encouraging him to focus on ventriloquism specifically when Bacon was considering doing more magic.
He said it's been a long ride learning his craft but it's all about the characters.
“I'm constantly practicing and working on developing characters,” he said. “Some work and some don't — it's a lot of trial and error and refinement. Unlike other vent acts, I have a pretty small cast of characters, but I know them well – you should never do material for one character that you think is better suited for another.”
Bacon said some of his career highlights include performing at libraries throughout the province and also doing his act for legendary ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson at a recent conference.
A big break for Bacon occurred when he appeared on the YTV show Zoink'd. The show gives entertainers 60 seconds to impress a panel of kid judges and if they don't, they could potentially be slimed. Luckily for Bacon and Clarisse the Chicken, the kids enjoyed what they saw. Bacon placed second on the show and said kids often recognize him from that appearance.
He said popular ventriloquist acts like Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator are helping bring the craft back into the public eye.
“Jeff and Terry have really elevated vent in recent years,” he said. “They've made it cool again. Another big thing is YouTube — a lot of vent stuff gets a lot of hits online.”
Bacon said youngsters interested in ventriloquism have a wealth of resources with YouTube, information on the Internet and many more books on the topic. He said those who want to learn more are free to ask him questions before or after his shows on Saturday.
For more information on Bacon and his crazy critters, visit www.baconandfriends.com.