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.

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

Kelowna International Airport. —Image: Capital News file
Williams Lake medevac flight encounters drone at Kelowna International Airport

The airport is a no-drone zone to keep aircraft safe at all times

Williams Lake Community Policing Chair Baldish Singh Sunner. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake Community Policing request for increased funding denied

Council voted 4 to 3 in favour to keep it at $15,000 for one-year agreement

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Interior Health is reporting the COVID-19 outbreak at Cariboo Memorial Hospital is now up to 13 staff. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
46 more COVID-19 cases linked to Cariboo Chilcotin community cluster: Interior Health

Cariboo Memorial Hospital outbreak now at 13 staff members

Canim Lake Band remains in lockdown. (Martina Dopf photo)
Canim Lake Band grieves loss of second Elder due to COVID-19

Elder, who lived away from home, was ‘matriarch, a fierce protector’, Chief says.

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Worker at Swartz Bay terminal on Monday, January 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Former BC Ferries employee alleges he was fired because of his race

Imraan Goondiwala has been granted a BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple who travelled to Yukon for COVID vaccine ineligible for 2nd dose until summer

Health officials planning new measures to ensure people verify where they live before inoculation

Mask dispute in court leaves Vancouver cop with broken leg

Man allegedly refused to put on a mask and resisted arrest

(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Complicated, dangerous rescue saves man in avalanche near Cypress Mountain

North Shore SAR team braves considerable conditions to reach injured snowboarder

Most Read