Chemainus is already famous, but about to gain more national acclaim.
With the 40th anniversary of the mural project on the horizon next year, the filming of a segment on Chemainus for the CBC-TV series ‘Still Standing’ is sure to raise a whole new awareness and exposure to the town, particularly with the younger generation. The show’s crew and host Jonny Harris – also of Murdoch Mysteries fame – were in town for several days, culminating in the filming of the show wrap-up Thursday night.
The audience space allotted for the show was expanded to 120 from the original COVID plan in compliance with a change in provincial health protocols. A tent was set up in the parking lot at the former St. Joseph’s School to serve as the venue.
People usually pack into community halls or school gyms to see it, but this is the fourth show of the seventh season that’s been held in a tent instead due to COVID.
Executive producer Anne Francis was not part of the entourage that travelled to B.C. to also do a previous show in Hope, but took it all in at home in Toronto.
“I get piped into it,” she said. “I’m watching along with it and then texting seriously. I thought it looked great, though, with having to do it in a tent.”
Those fortunate enough to get a seat were treated to a great performance, first from comedians Fraser Young and Graham Chittenden as warm-up acts, before Harris took the stage for the main event.
“I marvel every time,” said Francis, who joined the Still Standing staff during Season 4 after extensive work on other shows in the industry.
Harris provided a great combination of information on Chemainus and comedy to be digested by a national audience – and surely beyond that to international destinations – once the show airs in 2022. Exact dates won’t be confirmed until the completion of filming for Season 7.
The show has a dramatic impact across the country and previous towns featured have benefited greatly from the exposure.
“We’ve had a lot of communities come back to us and say the’ve had an increase in real estate sales,” said Francis. “We have people who do Still Standing tours across Canada.”
“We’re all very, very proud to work on it. It’s like a love letter to Canada.”
While she didn’t travel this time, Francis has found going to small communities from coast-to-coast an amazing experience.
“You go to places you would probably never ever go to on your own,” she indicated. “There’s many reasons to love working on this show. It’s like a family.”
Lucie Cerny and her Rescue and Sanctuary for Threatened Animals was among the featured segments on the program.
“It was an honour and I’m grateful to be included in the show,” said Cerny.
She said Harris and crew spent several hours at her Chemainus Road location for an interview and filming.
“It was pretty surreal seeing the amount of work and how many people are involved in the crew in creating a production like that,” added Cerny. “They were incredibly nice people and kind and considerate and great to work with.”
She was pleased Harris brought up the issue of teacup potbellied pigs in his presentation. They are becoming increasingly popular as household pets, but don’t remain small for long, and it’s a huge problem for the pigs and families, resulting in many being abandoned.
Harris told the tale of Cerny’s initial move to Chemainus from Alberta that involved five trips of more than 1,000 kilometres one way, hauling a 40-foot trailer.
“I bet after two trips she thought, would that get any easier?” queried Harris. “Maybe when pigs fly.”
The evolution of the mural project a year before the previous Chemainus sawmill closed down was foremost in Harris’ recap of the town’s history.
Other Canadian communities like Churchill, Manitoba and Botwood and Bell Island, Newfoundland have followed suit, but Chemainus was the innovator.
“It was Chemainus, that is where it all started,” Harris said. “The Little Town That Did is the Town That Did it first. Before Chemainus, who’d have thought a mill town that lost its mill could turn it around with art?”
Harris figures he could play a youngish mural guru Karl Schutz in a TV special. “It’s going to be called, He Schutz, He Scores.”
Harris spent some time with Michael Marks in his bright yellow ‘55 Chevy to get the “car scoop” from around Chemainus.
“Him and his buddies got jobs before they even left high school,” he noted. “Jobs at the mill paid pretty well and you could start building yourself a car. All of this so you can ‘burn out.’”
Harris met with Maynard Johnny Jr. to hear his story about creating Coast Salish art. His art is in high demand at galleries in Vancouver, Victoria – even New York City – and one of his pieces has been featured on the set of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy.
“One of the only times an artist doesn’t mind his art being doctored,” quipped Harris.
Aly Tomlin and Ralf Rosenke told Harris the details behind their Riot Brewing Co. enterprise in Chemainus.
Harris said he felt like Norm on Cheers going into the building.
“They actually clap in a lot of the locals as well,” he observed. “I guess it’s the Norm.”
Harris kept the jokes flowing just like the beer that’s on tap.
“I haven’t slung that many Junk Punches since junior high,” he observed.
Harris talked to Brittany Pickard about being a so-called boomerang kid, someone who grew up in the town, left for a while but was lured back.
Harris summarized the program in his trademark rhyming fashion at the end.
“There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on here right now,” he concluded.