The Thetford Hill Congregational Church has seen many changes. Built on the Thetford Hill green in 1787 to serve as the town meeting house, it became the Congregational Church and, in 1830, was moved — on rollers — off the town green to its present location and remodeled with the addition of the bell tower.
Even at the ripe old age of about 235 years, the changes just keep coming, most recently in the form of energy saving upgrades.
Presently on the books is the replacement of the double doors opening to the parking area. There's a drafty gap, especially where the two doors come together, that wastes heat and sends cold air to the downstairs daycare. The plan is to replace the two doors with a single, weatherproof door with a secure keypad. It will be flanked by two lights. In total the door replacement will cost over $5,000.
That’s where the Extravaganza comes in. It’s a variety show, highlighting the surprisingly diverse talents, from age 7 to 70, that exist in the community. The church has held six of these popular events since 2016, missing just one year due to the pandemic. And, as organizer David Hooke relates, it will be dovetailed with a fundraiser for the door. In spite of the logistics involved in holding a public event in a pandemic, “the show must go on” — safely.
Thus, the Extravaganza will be run as an on-line show, featuring a mixture of pre-recorded acts and live appearances. Charlie Buttrey will appear live as the Master of Ceremonies, deftly spicing up the narrative with his jokes. The MC will invite the performers to appear live, to say a few words about their acts followed by the recording of their performance. Viewers will watch using You Tube Live. This interweaving of live and recorded segments is possible through Stream Yard online streaming service that feeds everything into You Tube. There’s even a feature allowing audience comments.
Viewing is free to all — Thetford and anyplace beyond. And the fundraiser? That’s where the Dessert Boxes come in. People may order takeaway boxes of home-baked desserts to pick up on Saturday before the show. Donations in return are welcome! Viewers can also donate during the course of the performances. After the show, the audience will have the opportunity to meet online in breakout rooms so they can chat, mull over the acts, and, of course, enjoy dessert in each others’ company.
All of this couldn’t happen without a substantial effort behind the scenes. David Hooke and Nicky Corrao are the artistic co-directors (and also perform in one or two numbers); Sherry Merrick adds her abundant organizing talents; Mary Chin and many others are in charge of the Dessert Boxes’ contents; last but not least, the technical wizardry is the work of Chris Levy and Barbara DeFelice.
And the group effort doesn’t stop with the fundraiser. David says when it comes time to install the new door they will marshal every carpenter in the congregation. The plan — in one fell swoop — is to remove the old doors, unload the new door from the truck, and install it on the spot. No storage required.
As David says, it’s a group with a lot of dedication and energy, and above all, they are enormous fun to work with.