“I liked the Sugar Plum Fairy dance,” wrote one third-grade student to Wells Fargo last year. “Those ballerinas are really on their toes!”
Another student favored the Candy Cane dancers in the second act. “I liked it when the people with jungle bells came out,” was the first sentence in her note.
These are the responses that cast a warm glow each Christmas season for Knox Concert volunteers who combine their efforts for “The Nutcracker” to be held Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. this year at the Anniston Performing Arts Center. But there is one energetic volunteer that takes great pleasure in working weeks before the curtain opens in order to ensure that the ballet has large audiences. Pam McKenzie of Oxford is ticket seller extraordinaire. She has been the ticket contact for 16 years now and has become friends with the families that call her for tickets. Calls start coming in to her in early October, she said. She feels she knows the people well as she puts their tickets in the mail
“I talk to many of our repeat buyers once a year,” she said. “I’ve sold tickets to parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles for the ballet. I talk with them all. I catch up with how they’ve been doing, and how old their children are now. I also like hearing how the fathers are planning on taking their daughters out, just the two of them, for the ballet. There are so many stories! “
For many, seeing “The Nutcracker” has become a family tradition, according to McKenzie, who works at The Surgery Center in Oxford. She likes hearing the excitement in the voices on the other end of the line when they call each year. Occasionally, a patron that moved out of state plans to return to the ballet and contacts her. “Once the ballet is announced, the response is really great,” she added.
“It is really special to me,” she says about the telephone conversations, even though some of the phone calls last only a few moments. “For that moment, I feel a part of these families.” And, at the ballet, she said, many of them seek her out and say hello.
Adults who have children in the ballet are always proud, and eager to see the story unfold once again. This year, 29 local children will be on stage, said Missy Beverly, local dance coordinator. They are making progress at the rehearsals, she said.
“I’d say the children are above average in their abilities,” Beverly commented. “They are extremely eager to focus, cooperate, and do well.”
Young dancers from Oxford in the Mother Ginger scene, the Polichenille dancers, are Araya Martinez, and Skyler Watkins. Appearing in the Candy Cane scene will be Analeigh Adams, and Jazmine Watkins (This is the group that wears jingle bells).
Tickets will be available up to the day before the ballet, McKenzie said. Tickets prices for general admission are $12 for ages 12 years and under, and $20 for all ages above. The reserved seating price is $30 per person. McKenzie can be reached at 256-832 4554.