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Michael WestmorelandMichael Westmoreland first discovered ventriloquism at 10 years old when he received an Emmett Kelly puppet and ventriloquism instructions for Christmas. Jay Johnson from Soap, a television show, inspired Westmoreland to become a ventriloquist. Like many ventriloquists, his goal is to entertain and make people laugh.

Ventriloquism evokes images of Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy and Paul Winchell with Knuckle Head, Jerry and buxom blond Tessie.

“Don Knotts and Johnny Carson had been ventriloquists,” Westmoreland said. “Actually Edgar Bergen was not that good and was often moving his lips when Charlie was talking. But then he was on the radio so no one really knew.”

Westmoreland admired Paul Winchell, who revolutionized ventriloquism. He and his contemporaries agree that learning ventriloquism is a fraction of the skill – learning to be funny and entertaining is key.

Considered a late 18th century and early 19th century stagecraft, ventriloquism gained popularity in Vaudeville. Ventriloquism is the act of “throwing one’s voice,” and is less of a trick and more of an actor’s art. Changing voice, switching character and acting along with the figure are seen nowadays as more of an art form than a quirky novelty.

Decades later, ventriloquists like Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator are keeping ventriloquism energized and novel. Many, including Westmoreland, have added singing. His figure, Scotty, loves to sing and does it quite well. But the magic comes in staging a performance. Add a comment

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Bike pathLocal bicycle and walking enthusiasts are in luck: the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) is soliciting their input into what bike and pedestrian paths to develop.

The TJPDC has set up an interactive map online in which participants can earmark suggested bike and pedestrian plans and include comments. Though most of the current suggestions focus on Charlottesville and Albemarle, the TJPDC wants to hear specifically from Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson and Greene residents.

“The goal for this plan is to engage the public,” said Zach Herman, TJPDC regional planner and project lead.

TJPDC is in the process of updating the 2004 Jefferson Area Bike and Pedestrian Plan. As a part of this project, it wants to hear from local bicycle and walking fans as to what sort of projects they would like to see developed in their counties.

The updated plan will be integrated into the region’s long range framework to “better prepare and equip the region and its member governments to select and fund bike and pedestrian improvements,” according to TJPDC.

“For each county we hope to have a list of bike and pedestrian projects,” said Herman. “Those lists will be prioritized based on safety, connectivity, feasibility and cost. We’ll have a list of prioritized projects for each county.”

Herman hopes that interested Fluvanna residents will hop on their computers and send in their feedback during the months of September and October. Add a comment

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Lake Monticello poolLake Monticello’s new community pool will be rebuilt in its current location beginning late in 2018, according to Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) Treasurer Marlene Weaver.

Weaver, one of two LMOA Board members on the pool design committee, outlined the evolving project last week.

Based on discussions with a pool contractor earlier this year, members of the Board initially believed it would be easier and potentially more cost-effective to build the new pool at a different location. Discussions with different engineers in recent weeks have convinced the design committee that “the more prudent decision is to replace the pool at the current site,” Weaver wrote.

Potential issues and costs involved in building on a new site include permitting, stormwater management, and relocation of utility lines.

In an email, Weaver said keeping the pool in its current location is “more expensive to build, but, since there would be other fees involved to move the pool, it was decided that the savings to move it was not worth the change.” She noted that using the current spot was always the most desired location, and given the problems that could arise in a new location, “we feel it would be the same cost either way after the engineers presented their information.” Add a comment

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altIt could hardly have been closer. On Tuesday (Aug. 29) the Fluco volleyball team edged the Barons from Bluestone High in Mecklenburg County by a final score of 3-1. The scores of each game were 25-22, 25-21, 19-25 and 28-26. In other words, over four games the Flucos scored 97 points and the Barons scored 94.

The Flucos had a number of top performers. Senior Abby Sherman was outstanding at the net with 11 kill shots. Joining her with an impressive performance up front was junior Christina Walker who had seven kills and five blocks. Katie Morris was the strongest server for the Flucos, recording five aces. Candice Shaheen, the libero for the Flucos, was in Coach Christi Harlowe-Garrett’s words “amazing” on defense.  In fact, Shaheen set a new school record for digs in a single match. Her 50 digs allowed setters Delaney Reed and Lindsey Ward to put the ball up high for Sherman and Walker. Harlowe-Garrett said she was very pleased with the play of these setters.

It immediately became clear that the two teams were evenly matched. As the game progressed, neither team could get much of an advantage. In fact, at no point in the game did either team lead by more than three points. Add a comment

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Loli StamsLoli Stams was an artist who will be remembered by Painters at the Lake and the Fluvanna Art Association (FAA) as a talented, enthusiastic artist who had a strong presence wherever she showed up.

Those who knew her were shocked to hear of her sudden passing on Aug. 22. “I just can’t believe it,” said FAA President Susan Lang.

A longtime member of both groups, Stams encouraged her fellow artists, teaching and sharing with them new ways of using their imaginations.

She asked no less of herself than she did of others, always challenging herself with new ideas and emboldening others to fly a little higher. Stams never believed in setting limits for herself or anyone else. She set higher expectations for herself and others because she believed artists who practiced their art could do better and that it would eventually show in their work. Add a comment

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