Hearties Family Reunion, part 1 - Meeting the Cast
In December, my coworker Chaney and I went off on an adventure that earned us several rolled eyes, jokes, and snide comments from family members and friends who just didn't quite understand. But my favorite TV show is Hallmark's When Calls the Heart, and Chaney loves it as well. So when we heard about the Hearties Family Reunion, or HFR2, which was being held in Vancouver, we knew we had to go. After all, we would get the chance to meet the whole cast, interact with 450 other Hearties (as we fans are called), and visit the set. And we got to go to Canada! And the city was decorated for Christmas! Yay!
It was quite an interesting trip. We left my apartment at 5:00 a.m. for our 7:00 flight, arriving in Vancouver around 1:30 p.m. We checked into our hotel and then braved the cold rain to take the sky train downtown to see a few of the sights and get a much-needed meal. We started walking from the train station, following two other women down the main road along the Vancouver waterfront, when a car drove past them and sprayed a huge puddle all over them - they were soaked! Chaney and I walked to the door of the closest restaurant, didn't even look at the menu, and said "we're eating here!" We had no interest in getting soaked like that! Luckily the meal was delicious (or were we just starving by that point?), and the rain stopped while we ate, so we were able to take in a few sights before heading back to the hotel and the Opening Ceremonies.
The Opening Ceremonies - oh my! Maybe it's just because we were exhausted from travelling all day, but I had a hard time getting into the festivities. And I was disappointed, because I wanted to love every minute. There were 450 crazy Hearties in the room, we were all given a red Hearties backpack full of goodies, and there were several give-aways by the leaders of the event. One of the best parts of the evening was the opportunity to watch the first 20 minutes of the coming Christmas special - it was so good and nobody in the room wanted it to end. You should have heard the gasps, awws, and other exclamations as we all watched together - too fun! I was a bit disturbed by the "testimonial time, to tell what When Calls the Heart means to you, how it has changed your life." I turned to Chaney and said "I feel like the Grinch, like my heart needs to grow 3 times bigger in order to truly appreciate this." She responded, "I just want to tell them Jesus loves you and there's a church for you!" (That shows you the difference in our personalities, lol.) We didn't spend much time at the meet-and-greet after the festivities, as we were worn out. However, the highlight for me was the chance to meet Janette Oke, the author of the book series that is the inspiration for WCTH. So cool - I couldn't pass that up!
|Me and Janette Oke!|
The next morning, I woke up refreshed and ready to experience the day, in a much better frame of mind to deal with all the other crazy fans. We ate breakfast in shifts so we could stand in the long line of Hearties (mostly women, of course) waiting to enter the ballroom and claim the closest seats they could to the stage where the cast would soon sit. We had three panels of Q&A, led by our Master of Ceremonies, Executive Producer Brian Bird. The first group was the production team. It was during this time that I realized I had left my zoom lens in our room, and since we were not very close to the front, I slipped out and skipped that presentation to make sure I had the tools I needed for the rest of the day. Then was what most of us had been waiting for - the Q&A sessions with the cast! You should have heard the screaming and cheering and excitement as the first group entered the room. Lori Loughlin (who plays Abigail) was holding her phone up doing "facebook live" for all the Hearties who couldn't attend. Dan Lissing and Erin Krakow were just as charming as expected. Pascale and Kavan were hilarious, so much like their characters. In the second group, my favorite was Martin Cumming - he is so UNLIKE his Scrooge-like character and has the whole audience rolling in laughter. It was so interesting to hear the cast talk about what they learned from their character, their favorite scenes, their family, etc. They really were very engaging.
|I really think Erin and I could be good friends. :)|
|Martin Cummings - hilarious story-teller!|
The other really exciting part of Saturday was the opportunity to actually interact with the cast. Now, I will tell you that it was not exactly what I was expecting - I thought we would have a chance to really dialogue, take pictures, get autographs. In hindsight, I suppose that was unrealistic, as there were 450 of us, all of whom wanted to meet each and every cast member. I do think this part of the event could have been handled better, but the organizers did their best. Here's how it went: there were two different sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and each session had cast members set up for photo shoots in the 4 corners of a large room of the convention center. The Hearties were divided into groups of about 20 people - we were in group 1 - and we moved as a group from corner to corner on the "red carpet". At each station, we quickly posed for a group photo, then had 4 minutes to interact with the cast members before a cowbell instructed us to move to the next group. If you do the math, you realize that 4 minutes for 20 people doesn't leave time to do much more than say hello. We weren't allowed to take cameras or phones on the red carpet either. I was very disappointed that I didn't even get to speak to Erin, but I was not leaving without speaking to Dan - I did get a hug, even though it was after the cowbell! It was like group speed-dating!
|with Jack Thornton and Elizabeth Thatcher|
|with Jack Thornton and Elizabeth Thatcher|
|Look closely - Chaney's getting a hug from Dan!|
|with Jesse, Clara, and Laura|
|with Rosemary and Lee Coulter, and Robert|
|with Mayor Gowan, Pastor Frank, and Timmy|
Funny story about when we posed with Martin and Mark Humphrey (above) - Chaney bent down to pose to the people behind her could be seen. Mark (who plays Pastor Frank) put his hand on her back to steady her, and she startled and said "Oh, it's you!" He kept his hand there through the whole photo-shoot.
|Cute little Opal!|
|with Shane, Faith, and Emily|
|with Bill Avery (Jack Wagner!) and Abigail Stanton (Lori Loughlin!)|
Funny story about our meeting with Jack and Lori - Chaney and I somehow ended up right behind them, and as we bent down to pose, Chaney exclaimed, "You smell good - both of you!" We all got a big laugh out of that.
Meeting the cast of our favorite show was AMAZING! Even though our time with them was limited, we all really enjoyed it, and they were so down-to-earth and personable. I just wish we had been able to spend a bit more time with them.
Saturday night, Chaney and I went out to explore Vancouver's Christmas decorations (more in another post), and then Sunday was probably my most anticipated part of the weekend and probably the highlight as well - our trip to the set, Hope Valley! More on that in the next post...