Local Strongman Rob Verkest becomes the new face of the St. Thomas Tom Zombie Festival.
In the build up to the 2nd annual St. Thomas Tom Zombie Prom, happening May 9th at the CASO Station in St. Thomas, organizers have introduced a new face to the festival they’re calling “The Ringmaster.”
Bryan Bakker, lead organizer for the Tom Zombie Festival, an event that encompasses multiple events throughout the year, put it this way; “The Tom Zombie Festival is all about keeping St. Thomas and area safe by following the tenants of a bargain sealed in 2010 to control the curse. That bargain requires there to be what we call a ‘Master of Transition’ whose job it is to make sure the contract is followed to the letter. Because the Legend of Tom Zombie has a tie in to the Barnum & Bailey Circus and the death of Jumbo the elephant in St. Thomas in 1885 we thought a circus ringmaster would be a great fit.”
According to Bakker the death of Jumbo the elephant ties into the Tom Zombie Incident of 1887, a story they call the ‘Rain of Fire’ the majority of which unfolds in London, Ontario at the London Roundhouse, a steam engine locomotive maintenance centre built in 1887; previously the Great West Steakhouse. The story is said to include a connection to the horrific ferry accident of 1881 that killed over 182 people on the Thames River just outside of Springbank Park, a connection to Benjamin Fish Austin, Principal of Alma College and Richard Maurice Bucke, Superintendent of the London Insane Asylum.
Rob Verkest, well known in the area as a professional strongman, Team Canada Jujitsu Champion and actor who won critical acclaim recently for his role as the genii in the Elgin Theatre Guild’s rendition of Aladdin, said of his new role: “This Ringmaster character is a ton of fun and gets to the heart of what the TZF is all about; dressing up, getting out of yourself for a while and having fun. We all need that from time to time and for me, and for a lot of people out there I expect, that means doing stuff like this. Add to that the huge potential this festival has for our region and I just had to be part of it.”
Expect to see the Ringmaster play a central role as the new face of the Tom Zombie Festival. He will host the Tom Zombie Prom and its ‘doomed couple’ competition, as well as the festival itself and its signature event, the Tom Zombie contest, held on September 27th at the Elgin County Railway Museum.