In one week, Dansville Lions Club will mark its fourth decade of bringing smiles to the community.

In one week, Dansville Lions Club will mark its fourth decade of bringing smiles to the community.

Those smiles have come not only in the form of entertainment, but also in the form of services generated through funds collected by its annual shows.

The shows have been the club’s largest annual fundraiser.

“This provides us with better than half our needs for the year,”?Barry Haywood, the show’s director for the past 28 years, said.

The club uses its proceeds for several outreach programs within the community, such as the Dansville food pantry, Project Christmas, Dansville Public Library’s children’s programs, and SUNY’s Campabilities, among others.

Among Lions Club International’s missions is eyesight conservation. The Dansville Lions Club uses minstrel funds to extend this mission locally to provide free eye-screening tests to Headstart, Pre-k and kindergarten students.

Not only are revenues for such causes generated through the show’s ticket sales, but also through business and individual advertisements placed in the show’s program booklet. Haywood said the majority of funds generated come from those ads.

For the minstrel show, each member of the Dansville Lions Club has a part to play – whether on stage or behind the scenes during and leading up to the big event.

The Lions minstrel show was born out of a conversation between a few Lions members back in 1973 after the local Knights of Columbus dropped its annual show.

About the show’s longevity, Haywood said he believes those Lions members would never have expected it to have lasted so long.

Haywood reminsiced about some highlights throughout the years, which have included “strange situations”?such as when the endmen let loose a live chicken in the audience, as well as last year’s male “synchronized swimming” grand finale' that had audiences in stitches.

Haywood said it will be hard to top last year’s finale', but audiences should be delighted to see “The Jackson 7.”

The show will continue its other crowd-pleasing traditions such as its minstrel chorus; its special acts and of course, the endmen bantering jokes between acts.

Haywood said many people have enjoyed seeing familiar faces return to the stage throughout the years, and that it wouldn’t be the same without them.

He noted Dick Gillard and Ron Higgins who  each had been part of the shows for more than 30 years; plus Ron Snyder who has been a part of the show for 29 years. Rachel Hitt has been the chorus director for more than 25 years.

Last year, Jim Helfrich took the reins as interlocutor. This year, Charlie Shealy will be a rookie endman.

Haywood also noted that Dansville and Wellsville are the only area clubs that have a minstrel show. Others, such as Campbell, have a variety show, which is different. A?minstrel show is like a variety show, only that it follow’s a particular theme.

This year’s theme is “Music of Your Life.” The show will run 7 p.m. March 29-31 in the Dansville 7-12 school auditorium.

Tickets for the minstrel show are $5 apiece for the March 29 show (students accompanied by an adult are free); and are $7 for the March 30 and 31 shows. Tickets go on sale March 23 through 29 inside the North Dansville Town Hall, and at the door, if available.

The local club just celebrated its 70th anniversary in November, and has 49 members currently.

Its bi-monthly meetings are in the Daniel Goho American Legion Post. Those interested in joining the club may attend a meeting at 7 p.m. on the second or fourth Thursday of the month (excluding summer and holiday months) or by   contacting a club member.


Contact Jeff Miller at jeffmiller@dansvilleonline or 585-335-2271.