•December 2, 2015•
For 30 amazing years Virginia Darnell directed the Prairie Winds from Sullivan as they performed for seniors in Moultrie, Douglas, Shelby and Coles counties.
Last week Virginia directed her final performance at Courtyard Estates in Sullivan, announcing it was time to step aside and do other things.
Darnell, Theresa Shaw, Anna Ruscin, and Mike Grose are all retiring from the group with a dinner reception in their honor set for Monday, December 7 at the First Christian Church in Sullivan.
While working as activity director at an area nursing home in 1986, Darnell noticed the folks there needed quality entertainment.
“People in our nursing homes need and appreciate good singing programs,” Virginia said of her reason for getting the group of eight together.
The original group included Debbie Seelhoefer, Teresa Shaw, Janet Roney, John Shuman, Jerry Dycus, Steve Jackson and Mike Gross.
The group first began rehearsals at Virginia or Debbie’s home with the guys and gals practicing separately. They combined for a joint rehearsal before the show.
The first year’s 12 performances were at nursing homes in Sullivan, Mattoon and Arthur.
As owner of Golden Horizons, which creates and sells activity products to nursing and senior centers, Virginia’s connections brought more performance requests for Prairie Winds.
The group has grown to 22 members who learn two separate shows a year for which they have 14 performances of each.
Although the group numbers and ambition of the shows have increased, one fundamental commitment has remained with Prairie Winds. In the beginning members made a commitment to dedicate nearly every Monday night for Prairie Winds. With the exception of July and December members still meet every Monday to either rehearse or perform.