Interview with Ruth Williams, AvCon committee chair

If you have attended or are familiar with the Avonlea Convention (AvCon), you may know there is a committee who organizes it. However, you may not know who heads it up. Who is the main person behind AvCon? Her name is Ruth Williams; she is the committee's Fearless Leader. Here is my interview with her.

What do you do when not working on putting the convention together?

I work as third party benefits administrator (health life and disability benefits) for employees of an automotive company. I also work in a health club, teach water aerobics and am going through extra certification to become a water personal trainer. I am married to a great guy who likes RTA/Anne; doesn't understand all the hoopla surrounding the show... but is supportive anyway. Mike and I are also volunteers for the Detroit Zoo. I love animals, travel, music, and photography. I got my University degree in Public Relations for the Performing Arts, so it is kind of poignant and ironic that I am involved in creating AvCon.

How and when did you fall in love with Road to Avonlea?

I started watching the show around season 4 on CBC... around 1993. But I had read several of the Anne-books as a teen-ager. I finished reading the Anne-series and the LMM shortstories after I got interesting in RTA during the mid 1990's.

Who is your favourite character?

That's tough to decide. I definitely feel a kindred spirit with Sara & Olivia because of their kindness towards others, their romantic nature, dreams of many possibilities, and willingness to take on a challenge. They are willing to step up to the plate and step outside of conventional roles and I admire those qualities.

What is your favourite episode or scene?

Can't decide on just one: I am a sucker for comedy and satire, so anything that drives home a point with little bit of humor added gets my vote.

What about the setting? Have you ever visited PEI?

Went to PEI/NS in 1999. Was supposed to go there on our honeymoon but plans got change last minute when the airline we were taking went out of business. So intstead we honeymooned in the Canadian Rockies and made it to PEI as a 5th anniversary trip. As far as the era, I would say part of me is stuck in the early 20th century and part of me is trying to get a handle on all the technology and possibilities of the 21st century. I love the possibilities and freedoms, without losing the values, dreams and stories of the past.

How did you get the idea to organize an Avonlea convention for its fans?

In Oct 2002 I got active on the Anne and RTA websites and forum boards. I knew about fanfests for shows like Christy, Start Trek and The Andy Griffith show and toyed around with the idea of finding a place RTA fans could meet, talk about the show and spend time together. Also, perhaps have a chance to meet the cast and crew, even though the show was no longer in production. There were so many fans, and so many people never had the chance to experience the show first hand... so I pitched the ideas on the forum boards, got together a group of volunteers to see if we could make it happen. The death of my brother and the SARS epidemic in 2003 temporarily shelved out plans but in Oct 2003 we regrouped the troups and I set on contacting Sullivan Entertainment and in July '04 we held our first convention.

What was the best thing to happen to you over the course of the first two conventions?

Meeting a great group of people (the fans) and becoming friends with so many different people from around the world.

What is AvCon's legacy? Have the conventions changed your life? What are the benefits from organizing and attending them?

I have learned so much: about people, about patience (of which I need to work on this skill), about upgrading my computer literacy, improved my business skills. But above all... I have gained valueable lessons in friendship and respect.

Do you have any behind-the-scenes anecdotes you'd be willing to share with other fans about organizing the convention?

Ruth with Zach

Two things come to mind right away. Upon meeting R.H. Thomson in 2004, he asked me where I was from. When I told him Detroit, he said I'm sorry. When I asked him why he explained that Toronto sends a lot of its garbage to Detroit to be put into landfills in Detroit and other places in Michigan. I just smiled and said : That's okay, we (meaning the US) sent you guys McDonald's . The second item happened while I was in Toronto getting things ready for AvCon 2005. Shelly had contacted Zach Bennett (Felix) to arrange a meeting for him to autograph auction items. I had been busy on the phone for much of the day trying to take care of covention business. The phone in my apartment at York University had been ringing off the hook, as they say. I was getting a little frustrated and the next time the phone rang I answered it: Grand Central Station (an old expression referring to a very busy railway station in New York). The voice on the other end of the phone asked if I was Ruth Williams and when I said yes he replied Hi Ruth, this is Zach Bennett!. I immediately turned 3 shades of red and responded Oh, Shit! Apologized for my glib answer. He laughed and we proceeded to make arrangement for the committee members to meet him to get the items signed. All the while Zsolt, Orsi and Mike were listening and laughing their heads off. It was a funny way to break the ice.

Are you planning any special thing for this year? What we should know about Avonlea Convention 2007?

Wait and see: AvCon is full of surprizes... like life, some planned and some unplanned, just enjoy the ride and get out of it what YOU want.

What is in AvCon's future? Will there be another one in 2008 or 2009?

Most of that depends on how popular or successful this one is... and if we have enough people willing to take up the planning for another one. Planning one of these takes almost a year of preparation. I know I plan to retire as committee chair and I don't know if anyone else wants the job. I would definitely attend another convention and maybe even be talked into helping out a bit... but it is time for me to move on and learn from other experiences... Though I will never forget this experience or the friends I've found.

Thank you for the interview.

Created in July, 2007.