Elaine Snow stabbed Dr. Brad Bushnell in the back last year. Reeling from the shock, the gruesome act culminated with his collapsing on a table flanked with appalled diners. He convulsed to his dramatic demise under the flashy, art deco décor of The Grand Gatsby.
The year before, Judge Tami Colston had had enough. She poisoned the pint of Dr. Clem Slack, who staggered and crashed, twitching on the filthy floor of an Irish Pub, while drunkards belted drinking songs at the tops of their lungs.
Just kidding. But seriously.
The annual Floyd Against Drugs Murder Mystery Theatre Dinner has become a must-attend event in Northwest Georgia. This year, another slew of well-known, quirky Roman personalities are gearing up for the 4th annual fundraiser, and the audience will help reveal just who exactly has blood on their hands.
Dressed to kill in leather jackets, shades, poodle skirts and saddle shoes, the performance of “Murder at the Skydale Sock Hop” presented by Harbin Clinic Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine will debut before a packed house at the Forum on March 15th. The doors open at 6 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner at 6:30 and a silent auction. Tickets are $40 per person, and event-goers are encouraged to dress the part.
“It’s not required, but costumes are more than welcome,” says Catherine Fricks, an event organizer and board member of FAD, adding that members of the board, cast members and volunteers will all be in costume.
Dr. Brad Bushnell, a surgeon at Harbin Clinic Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine has been a participant in the Murder Mysteries for the past two years.
“It’s unique,” he says. “There’s nothing else like the FAD Murder Mystery in town. It’s fun for the audience, it’s engaging and it’s a blast for the participants. We get to cut up and be in character. The fundraiser’s popularity is reflected in how fast this thing has grown.”
“We’ve had a great response each year,” says Michelle Edmundson, an organizer and FAD board member. “We’ve sold out every single time, pretty early on. This year, we were able to increase the number of tickets we’re selling because the Forum provides a bigger space than we’ve had. So instead of 200 tickets, we’re selling 300.”
Sock Hop or Slaughter House?
Skydale High has been buzzing for months in anticipation of the Sock Hop that will be held in the newly renovated ballroom at the Forum. Word has it, the Sock Hop will be televised on National Band Stand hosted by Chance Plantaine. Better yet, National Band Stand’s special guest will be the infamous rock-and-roll star, Pelvis.
Though the students are ready to show off their mad hand-jive skills in the dance competition, there’s been a build-up of tensions from the first semester of classes between some students and adults. Principal McGlee announced over the intercom that everyone had better behave and make the school look good on national television and in front of her special guest, Pelvis.
This year’s cast includes Dr. Brad Bushnell as Denny Russo; Bo Bushnell as Lil’ Benny; Robert Smyth as Pelvis; Mark Webb as Dexter Pelsnick; Scotty Hancock as Rudy Del Fuego; Severo Avila as Vinny Copano; Garrett Barnes as Potzie Rogers; Randy Quick as Coach Halcone; Melinda Strickland as Candy Leigh; Clem Slack as Debbie Ritzo; Elaine Abercrombie as Pink Lefever; Elaine Snow as Fran Jellopa; Cathy Kerce as Cherie Rainier and Rhonda Wallace as Principal McGlee.
“We’ve had several cast members who have been with us every year of the fundraiser,” explains Fricks. “They have so much fun, they keep coming back. As it grows, we’ve reached out to other people in the community that we think would enjoy doing it.”
The cast of brazen characters have to keep their improv skills sharp as they mingle among guests, dropping hints about who they are, and of course, their motives. In addition to the buffet dinner and silent auction, Three Rivers Photography is slated to join in the festivities once again with a photo booth, including props, so guests can strike a pose.
“It’s fun for everyone to dress up, mingle, have dinner and take photos,” says Edmundson. “I’ve even seen some guests get up and grab a character, pull them to their table and ask them questions. It’s a very interactive experience. One year, one of the doctors who attended – who was not part of our cast – got up and did mock CPR to our dying character. People really get involved and we encourage that. It makes it more fun.”
From a cast perspective, saying “It’s fun” is an understatement.
“We go all in for this,” says Bushnell. “Two years ago, for the Irish-Pub-themed Murder Mystery, I would not break out of my Irish accent at all. I refused to. I was running into patients of mine and kept in character. It drove everybody nuts.”
Paula Bowers and her husband Jim have attended every FAD Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre fundraiser to date, and say they always have a blast.
“We’re supporters of theatre, and we’re even members of the Rome Little Theatre,” says Bowers. “This event is something we enjoy; that kind of entertainment is what we love. We like the camaraderie and meeting other folks at the Murder Mystery fundraiser.”
Bowers says one of their favorite parts is having the chance to drill the characters before the show and notes it’s fun to see high-profile Romans in a different capacity.
“Of course, we never can figure out who the killer is, and I don’t even know if (the characters) know who it will be until the very end. But it’s a lot of fun to try to figure it out and watching the people, getting the clues.”
“It’s really laid back,” Bowers adds. “I think it’s a great cause and very good for the community. I really appreciate Floyd Against Drugs.”
It’s Not Just a FAD
Chances are, your child has come home from school in October sporting new shoestrings with Drug-Free phrases or wielding a Drug-Free pencil. Those items were purchased by Floyd Against Drugs with money made from the Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre event.
Every year, these funds are put toward helping FAD’s various campaigns and initiatives in prevention education for school children in Floyd County.
“We are responsible for the Red Ribbon Week activities that happen at schools in October,” says Fricks. “Last year, we purchased over 70,000 items with Drug-Free messages. It went to all Pre-K through 12th graders. We distributed pencils, carabiners and shoe strings, and we also do some social campaigns, such as ‘Safe and Drug-Free Prom’ campaigns (where students send in photos of drug-free ways to enjoy prom night). We even hosted one event targeting parents called “Parents Who Host Lose The Most.”
From a firsthand look, Dr. Bushnell sees the effects of drug abuse and alcoholism daily in his line of work.
“I’m a reserve sheriff’s deputy on the SWAT Team’s medical corp, and from that line of work, from some of the trauma surgeries I’ve done, I see what drugs can do in our community. It’s really sad. Really, the way you fix that is to stop kids from going down that road in the first place. Prevention starts with anti-drug resources in our schools, and that’s where FAD comes in.”
FAD’s greatest mission is to help ensure the youth of Floyd County are armed with information about the ramifications of drug and alcohol use so they can say no before they’re even asked to partake.
“Drug and alcohol addiction is an extremely prevalent problem in this community,” says Edmundson. “Drug use has ripple effects that affect everyone. If we can help prevent kids from taking that first step toward trying drugs or alcohol, we’re going to save lives in the long run. We’re bettering our community.”
For “Murder at the Skydale Sock Hop”, the deadline for procuring a silver or bronze sponsorship level that includes your business’s logo on the poster is March 2nd. The deadline for submitting items to the silent auction is also March 2nd, and $100 dollars is the starting value for items donated. Tickets will be on sale online through March 12th.
Visit floydagainstdrugs.com to purchase tickets for the “Murder at the Skydale Sock Hop” Murder Mystery event online. Tickets can be bought in person at Floyd County Juvenile Court. Tickets will NOT be sold at the door on event night. For more information, you may call 706-291-5187 or 706-291-5181.