He may have thought he was going to exit quietly.
But after 16 years of delighting Okanagan audiences with an eclectic array of performers at the Creekside Theatre, theatre manager Horst Jassmann received the send-off that he was due earlier this month in a surprise evening honouring the first and only manager to this point at Creekside.
Jassmann was honoured at Creekside with a night featuring many of his favourite performers and to an appreciative crowd of theatre-goers ready to honour Jassmann’s incredible efforts.
It was a fitting tribute to a career at Creekside Theatre that began when Jassmann was hired out of the lower mainland to come and open Creekside Theatre, the quaint, 230 seat theatre that over the past 16 years has hosted a wide-ranging number of events brought to the area by Jassmann.
“When I look back at my time as mayor, I look back and think we made a lot of mistakes, but one mistake we didn’t make was hiring Horst Jassmann,” said former Lake Country mayor Bob McCoubrey, who told the tale of how Jassmann came to be the first manager at Creekside.
“We were a brand new municipality and had just gone through the rebuilding of George Elliot as a joint use facility. By the time we finished it we had run out of money. We asked around to find out what we needed to make this (theatre) successful and people told us you need somebody that understands music, somebody that understands drama, that understands how a theatre works, understands lighting and sound. They said we would need two or three people but we only had enough money for one. Horst was the only guy that had all of that experience.”
As the story goes, when Jassmann arrived in Lake Country, fresh from organizing theatre events in the Vancouver area, he inquired as to the budget to start bringing in acts.
“We said there was no budget,” recalled McCoubrey. “A lot of guys would have packed up and gone back to the city but Horst being the kind of guy he is, he just put his head down and got to work.”
And got to work he did, creating the kind of theatre that is a rarity nowadays: A true community theatre home to a wide variety of events from music to plays to all-candidates forums to talent shows. Jassman mentored students from George Elliot, introducing them to the arts and how to run a theatre.
The partnership between Jassmann and Lake Country was a perfect fit over the years. After being honoured, Jassmann spoke and true to form, he credited the community of Lake Country for all of its support.
“Sometimes when you are doing these things you feel like you are all by yourself,” he told the crowd. “But over the years so many people in this community have come forward and offered their help and been part of what’s gone on here on the stage. It just makes you feel like your part of a family and I’m sure glad I landed in Lake Country. This is some family….some family that takes care of all the artists.”
One man taking it all in that night was Ryan Donn, who has the daunting task of replacing a beloved theatre manager in a roll that will also include other duties in the district. Donn says he has no plans to change what Jassmann has built but instead wants to continue the legacy he laid down.
“He truly took this theatre from no budget, nothing really other than an empty shell and created something quite unique in the community,” said Donn, a performer himself who has been working alongside Jassmann for the past month as the shift to a new era takes place. “It was quite amazing to see and hear just how much of the community he touched over his term. The weight on my shoulders just kept growing.”
It’s clear in talking to Donn that the new era might not be all that different from what folks in Lake Country are used to when it comes to Creekside. And a familiar face may still be around backstage, rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.
“From day one of getting this job my thought has been, let’s honour his legacy,” said Donn. “I want to maintain what he has provided and then as we evolve put my own spin on it. The community wants his legacy to continue and I’m looking forward to putting on shows that Horst booked eight months ago. He made it the place it is today. And I’ve already booked him to help me.”
As for Jassmann, he urged Lake Country to continue to support the arts as it has done over his time at the theatre.
“I want you to come and see live theatre and live music because that’s the backbone of keeping entertainment alive,” he said. “When you’re in a room with a bunch of people having the same belly laugh or listening to the same tunes and tapping your feet, it just makes you feel like your part of a community. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this.”