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Fundraising phenomenon changes tack

Jemima Saunders and Luke Armstrong gave an eye-opening rendition of a Dolly Parton number during last year’s show. Will they be back this year?

Jemima Saunders and Luke Armstrong gave an eye-opening rendition of a Dolly Parton number during last year’s show. Will they be back this year?

This year’s Tumut Takes 2 (TT2) will feature an all star line up as the show reunites former contestants for a celebration of what the event has achieved over the past five years.

TT2 has been uniting the community in the name of fundraising thanks to event founders and organisers Jess Coleman and Evan Saunders.

During the previous four events, a staggering $350,000 has been raised for a range of charities, causes and organisations throughout the Tumut region, with $200,000 raised as a result of last year’s event alone.

Now in its fifth year, organisers have decided to give everyone involved and the community a bit of a breather from the usual format, which involves months of fundraising initiatives, instead opting for a more relaxed approach with a special celebration featuring some already established TT2 performers.

“We have a really small community and the people that put the show on year after year are the same people so we wanted to use this year as a tribute to what we have done so far,” TT2 organiser Jess Coleman said.

“I thought it being the fifth year that it could be something a little bit special.

“It gives the committee a bit of a break, but also gives the community a bit of a break because the amount of fundraising we do for such a little town is phenomenal.

“It is a way of saying thank you – now we’re just going to give you a show to celebrate what we have all done together as a community.

“It gives the committee a chance to celebrate and reflect on what we have done without the added pressure of all the fundraising because until now, it’s pretty much a 12-month gig. By the time we finish one show, we get the next couples up and running and they start their fundraising pretty much straight away so it’s nice not to have that aspect of things.”

The event’s band and committee discussed who they would like to see return to the TT2 stage, before inviting them back – an invitation which each couple accepted without a moment’s hesitation.

“The band members in particular give up a lot of their time with all the rehearsals so we wanted to give them the opportunity to choose who they wanted to work with again,” Jess said.

“With brand new rookies who are perhaps not musically inclined or have not performed before, there are a lot of hours that go into rehearsals.

“We just asked the band what were their favorite songs to play, what did they like doing, what were the biggest crowd pleasers and we narrowed it down.

“We were just trying to look after the band.”

The band also decided where they wanted the money raised to go this year, with Can Assist, the Montreal and a program designed to enhance local teachers’ awareness of epilepsy the chosen benefactors.

The committee is working hard to keep the names of year’s line up as quiet as possible until performers are revealed at the first show on Saturday, June 8.

“Obviously people know who it could be, but we are not going to announce who is in the show,” Jess said.

“We are going to try our hardest to keep it secret, but I’m sure they can narrow it down if they really tried.”

Every year up until now, each couple had their own charity that they fundraised towards, but the event itself starts fresh every year.

Each year, ticket sales are divided equally between the couples’ charities, so at the end of every year, the event has no dollars left in the bank.

This year, the money for the three benefactors will come from one general raffle that is happening at the moment and the ticket sales and this money will be split between the organisations and programs that the band has chosen.

TT2 has continued to build in success year on year and Jess believes this is a result of the local nature of the event.

“I think the secret to its success is because it is all local,” Jess said.

“People on the stage are locals. They’re the bankers, the politicians, the café workers, the people that work in the florists and they’re our teachers. The dancers on the stage are the kids at school. We fundraise locally and it stays locally.

“Even though the community is giving up a lot, it is also receiving a lot.

“The sponsors that we have had for the show have been ridiculously loyal for us.

“It has evolved hugely since the beginning and I’m really proud of the town and how much money they have raised.”

Whilst local charities and organisations have benefitted immensely from the event, Jess believes another success story lies with the performers themselves.

“After every show every year, you pull together 24 people, all the performers, who really wouldn’t otherwise cross paths,” Jess said.

“They come from all different little pockets, whether they be musicians, teachers, accountants, or someone that works at Visy, whatever, they usually don’t spend a great deal of time together, but they end up like a little family, which is another reason why we really tried to push for the all stars format this year, because it’s essentially a reunion for all the past contestants.

“To see after the show all their family and friends hugging them and kissing them and laughing and telling them how good they were, that is a really cool thing to see.

“And for those that are performing, they know that they might not be the best singer of our day, but they are brave enough to make absolute fools out of themselves in front of a crowd of 500-plus people two nights in a row.

“To watch those people step over those fear barriers is a really cool thing. For people that aren’t that way inclined, that stage fright is genuinely crippling, so to watch people overcome that fear with the support of their family and the audience and also the other people in the show is so cool and satisfying.”

In previous years, the two shows have been held on Friday and Saturday nights, however this year will see the opening show take place on Saturday, June 8 at 6pm, followed by the second show on the Sunday at midday.

Tickets are priced at $25 for adults and $10 for children for the Saturday evening show and $20 and $10 for the Sunday show. Under 5s are free, however they do not have access to a seat.

Tickets can be purchased at the Sounds of the Mountains radio station at 81 Capper Street, Tumut.

Residents are urged to buy their tickets promptly to avoid disappointment – the show is just about guaranteed to be a sell-out, just as in previous years.