Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WCRA mystery dinners put the 'fun' in fundraising

Inspector Clouseau. William Pinkerton. Sherlock Holmes. Bill Miner.

Two of them are fictional detectives, one from the movies, the other from books. One is a real-life detective. One is a real-life train robber from the Canadian west.

Inspector Clouseau, on the job in April.
So what do they have in common?

Well, if you attend one of the mystery dinner theatres put on by the West Coast Railway Association, you might run into one or more of these characters.

We ran into Mr. Pinkerton (well, an actor playing him) last Saturday during the most recent event hosted by the WCRA at the West Coast Heritage Railway Park in Squamish. And there were rumours that Bill Miner was floating around...but although a look-alike was found on the train, a true sighting never occurred.

This was the second time I'd been to one of these events. The first time was last April, when "Inspector Clouseau" (looking very much like Sherlock Holmes) was running around trying to solve a mystery, on the trail of a mysterious lady who claimed to be looking for her daughter, Isabella.

That play used three volunteer actors; this most recent one, "The Heist," involved five characters: Pinkerton, Constable Fernie of the B.C. Provincial Police, the Diamond Sisters and their friend Leroy.

The format for each event was similar, although there were some minor differences.
In September, two (?) coppers were needed.

Like most mystery dinner theatres, the actors interacted with the audience as much as possible, always staying in character, dropping hints about the crime while entertaining people before, during and after the meal.

The meals both took place in the park's roundhouse, with tables set up in and around restored train engines and cars. There is also a cash bar.

The first time, we had appetizers served while we milled around, prior to the buffet dinner of roast beef, vegetables and salad. While the dinner was similar - and just as tasty - the second time around, there were no appies served.

Dessert was handled differently, too. In April, it was served on the train (that's right - you get to ride an old restored train!) with champagne. Coffee came back in the roundhouse after the mystery was solved and the train returned.

This time, coffee and dessert were served back in the roundhouse after our train ride, and the play continued to unfold, as the saucy Diamond Sisters tried to make off with recovered money - only to be foiled by Pinkerton, Fernie and help from an unexpected source who must have paddled in from somewhere... (I don't want to give it away, in case they want to use the plot again, some day!)

Toot-toot...and it's not the train!

Both evenings were enjoyable, and if you're a train travel buff like I am, you probably will enjoy just seeing the old engines and cars and riding on the train. If you also like mystery dinner theatres, it's almost like a two-for-one deal. There are plenty of shenanigans during the train ride; this time, we were treated to a song and dance routine by the Diamond Sisters. (Like a parrot repeating itself, they could only sing one song - but an enjoyable rendition, it was, and humorously done, too!)

Of course, all the money raised goes toward the park/museum.

Be wary if the Diamond Sisters put the squeeze on you...
One of these days, I'm going to have just visit the facility when nothing is going on, just to see it during daylight.

The site presents a typical railway facility of the mid-20th century.

It provides visitors with the opportunity to tour authentic railway equipment in various stages of restoration. There is a gift shop and cafe on site.

And one of these days, I might even have to look at taking one of their rail tours, which include trips to Haida Gwaii, Barkerville and the Okanagan.

Ready to roll down the tracks.
The details about these trips are on their website.

If you want to hear about their next event so you can be a part of it, check out their website or "like" them on their Facebook page.

Or to make sure you're covered, why not do both? You might even get lucky...

For this most recent event, they ran a contest on Facebook and gave away two free tickets to the evening's event.

Then, it'll just be a matter of saying...All aboard!

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