Magrau the bird (from left), professional ventriloquist Kellie Haines and Kamilla the frog have formed a special bond with aspiring lakecity ventriloquist Zach Gillespie and his puppet Bart thanks to the Williams Lake Harvest Fair. Patrick Davies photo.

Lakecity youth mentored by Harvest Fair ventriloquist

Kellie Haines has made a lifelong personal connection with aspiring performer Zach Gillespie

Every year the Williams Lake Harvest Fair brings people together from across the Cariboo but recently it brought together an aspiring lakecity puppeteer and his mentor.

A familiar face on stage at recent harvest fairs, Kellie Haines is a comedic ventriloquist who delights lakecity youth with her vibrant energy, quirky personality and colourful puppets Magrau the bird and Kamilla the frog. After the 2018 Williams Lake Harvest Fair, however, Haines made a special connection with one of her fans which has led to a rewarding student-teacher relationship.

Zach Gillespie is a lakecity youth with autism who has always wanted to be a ventriloquist and expressed a real interest in becoming one shortly before Haines came to town last year. When he got the chance to meet her and expressed his interest in the art form, Haines took him under her wing and taught him the craft via the use of his puppet Bart.

Over the past year, she has been teaching him via Skype the basics of puppeteering including personality and character, manipulation technique and redirection as part of his homeschool program.

Read More: Lots to see and do at Williams Lake Harvest Fair

“What I like to do is to inspire kids and kids of all ages … to show their talents,” Haines said. “I’ve been travelling throughout North America doing shows that empower kids and youth to embrace diversity and (show) that being different is more than OK it’s extraordinary.”

Haines herself, as a young girl, used ventriloquism and puppetry as a way to accept herself and her own differences before eventually making a career out of it.

During the Tribune’s interview with Haines and Gillespie, a clear sense of affection and playfulness had developed between the two puppeteers over the last year, with Haines using her puppets creatively to keep things exciting for Gillespie. Haines said that she’s thankful the fair allowed her the chance to meet Gillespie whom she believes will be a friend for life now.

Gillespie loves making people laugh using Bart along with doing impressive impressions of popular media characters like Spongebob Squarepants. Haines said that Gillespie has an incredible memory for characters and puppetry theory and went out of his way to research performers and techniques she herself had never studied until that point.

While Gillespie admitted he had felt a little nervous prior to taking lessons from Haines, she felt that as time went on and he opened up his imagination which in turn really inspired her and brought on her A-game.

“He’s made me a better ventriloquist,” Haines said.

Throughout the entire process of teaching him, Haines really wanted to praise Gillespie’s mother Chanti Holtl who has been a constant source of patient, empowering support. Holtl said that what Haines taught her son went beyond simple ventriloquism and included confidence building amongst other life skills. While Gillespie has always enjoyed telling jokes, Holtl said she’s noticed him doing so with far more confidence recently that she attributes to Haines’ influence.

“Kellie, she’s just phenomenal, she knows how to pull him out of his shell like nobody ever has, it’s a lifelong connection they’ve already made, I think,” Holtl said. “We love her, she’s absolutely one of the best things that has ever happened to him.”

Holtl doesn’t know what her son will ultimately do with ventriloquism, but anything that helps him lead a more fulfilling and rich will be something she’ll support in any way she can.

Read More: Fun had by all at Community Living Month’s annual kickball game

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A pair of sandhill cranes stop for a walk near Horsefly. (Ivan Hardwick photo)
Casual Country 2020: In tune with their surroundings

Horsefly couple enjoy photographing wildlife in the comfort of their own rural property

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, many homes including this one on Moon Avenue, are decorated for Halloween 2020. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
EDITORIAL: Trick or treat

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate. Wait. Are they physically distancing?… Continue reading

Seniors in Williams Lake visit in the Seniors Activity Centre parking lot during a summer coffee house held during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Turkey ‘Dinner Out the Door’ coming up Nov. 7 at seniors centre

Derksen added in-town delivery is also available by calling 250-392-7946

North District RCMP are urging the public’s assistance in locating Prince George resident Amber Weutz, 25, last seen Oct. 18 in the Canim Mahood Lake area east of 100 Mile House. (Photo submitted)
RCMP release more information on missing Prince George woman

Amber Weutz, 25, was last seen in the Canim and Mahood Lake area on Oct. 18

Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune
SLIDESHOW: Nesika celebrates Halloween with costume parade, dance

Classes took turns within their own cohorts taking part in each event

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Michelle Stoney carved this pumpkin on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at her brother's home where their family gathers each year to carve pumpkins for Halloween. (Michelle Stoney, Gitxsan Artist Facebook photo)
Gitxsan artist carves culture in Halloween pumpkin

Michelle Stoney spent more than three hours on her latest holiday creation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

Most Read