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TELL CITY – “Guaranteed gut-busting laughs and great music are in store for you to help raise money for Catholic Charities in Tell City.”
That’s how organizers of an upcoming fundraiser bill the Oct. 13 appearance of Tell City native Scott Saalman and his Will Read (and sing) For Food players. Based in Dubois County, the group will perform a public show at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 13 at the Tell City High School auditorium. The show offers a unique blend of humor essays and live music, organizers said.
“Will Read For Food is a lot like Garrison Keillor's “Prairie Home Companion” but with a purpose. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to get up and dance,” said novelist Margaret McMullen, Melvin M. Peterson, endowed chair in Literature and writing department of creative writing at the University of Evansville.
Since their first show in Oct. 2011, WRFF has played for hundreds of people and has raised $12,800 for various charities in their community through 31 performances — an impressive sum, Saalman said, when you consider that most of WRFF’s shows only require you to bring a canned good or a monetary donation.
“For our food bank shows, we tell the audience, guaranteed laughs or you get your canned hominy back,” says Saalman. “Our audiences’ generosity never surprises me. They put a lot of green in our goldfish bowl.”
While Dubois County’s Community Food Bank is their core benefactor, WRFF has also raised money for Susan G. Komen Evansville Affiliate, Crisis Connection, Tri-Cap, various public libraries and the Paul Michael Ash Endowment for Music and the Arts. They also performed a show for Public Radio station WNIN in Evansville.
“Using humor essays and live music to entertain numerous crowds, the Will Read for Food volunteers have raised $12,800 for various worthwhile organizations. I applaud Scott for finding an innovative way to bring awareness and raise dollars for such important community causes, while entertaining crowds from many different backgrounds,” said Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann.
Saalman, a 1983 Tell City High School graduate, writes a humor column for The Herald (Jasper) and reads his humor essays on WNIN’s The Trend talk show (88.3, Evansville). His stories have also appeared in Evansville Living Magazine and in book anthologies, including the nationally released “This I Believe: On Love.” Last fall, he read an essay of his on “The Bob Edwards Show” on Sirius/XM satellite radio, and published a collection of essays, called “Nose Hairs Gone Wild.”
“I’m very excited to finally bring our fun and song to Tell City,” Saalman says. “The Perry County News was one of the first papers to run my essays. I just have to get back to TC. Plus, it has been 30 years since I last stepped foot into TCHS — I’m just happy they allowed me to graduate. One of the biggest compliments I often receive after a show is when someone will walk up to me — typically a husband made to attend our show by a wife — and say, ‘I had no idea what this show would be about, and to be honest, I didn’t want to come … but now I’m so glad I did.’ ”
Another featured humor essayist is Gene Baldwin, who teaches at Vincennes University Jasper Center and lives in Perry County, and Kris Lasher, of Ferdinand.
“The show presents writing that is funny, meaningful and compelling, creatively mixed with music to be downright entertaining,” wrote Greg Eckerle in the Evansville Courier and Press.
WRFF musicians are Billie and Buddy Hart, Kris Lasher, Marc Steczyk, and Ed Walston. The music includes original tunes, as well as some covers that fit well with the show. Guest singer-songwriter Hayley Beth Payne, of Hawesville, will also play with the group.
Each show typically includes an essay from Vietnam War veteran Walston about his experiences in-country and a song written by Saalman and Lasher in honor of the troops in Afghanistan.
“We plan to tug at your heartstrings, too. Guilty as charged,” says Saalman.
“There is no other experience quite like this. You have to see it to appreciate it. Incredible talent. Hilarious! My teenager and her grandmother enjoyed it as much as I did,” says Joyce Fleck, Director of Tri-Cap, based in Jasper.
Adult admission to the show is a recommended $10 minimum monetary donation. Those 18 and under will be charged $5. All proceeds go to Catholic Charities. Tickets are available at Catholic Charities, 802 Ninth Street, Tell City; or thru Glenda Gogel at German American Bank, 645 Main Street, Tell City 547-7025; or by calling Mary K. Cardinal at 547-8945. Tickets will also be available at the show.
Saalman is the son of Pat and M.J. Saalman, of Tell City, and grandson of the deceased Marion and Antoinette Saalman and Clarence and Lillian Goffinet.
“I’m fortunate enough to have all these musical servants and court jesters with me. They all volunteer their time to help others through our performance. That’s what it’s all about,” says Saalman.
To learn more about WRFF and see samples of their performances, “like” their Facebook page: Will Read For Food (Jasper, Ind.) or call Scott at (812) 827-9911.