Jonny Harris thinks Oil Springs could become a real tourism hotspot if they take a chapter from the past.
The comedian who is the host of the CBC TV show Of All Places told a packed house at the Oil Springs Fire hall Saturday the village only has to draw from its history – especially the infamous fire on Black Creek to bring people to town.
“If you re-light that fire, THAT’S a tourist attraction for ya,” he says. “Fireworks? Ya, we’ve got a raging inferno on our creek!” Harris joked to peals of laughter.
Harris and the crew of the show which will begin airing in January had been in Oil Springs for week talking with everyone from the local owners of the variety store to oil producers such as Charlie Fairbank and Phil Morningstar and oil field workers who showed him some of the tricks of the trade including cleaning up small oil spills with sheep manure.
Harris then wrote a half-hour stand up show which he performed for the town. He innocently poked fun of people, drawing big laughs from the people who know them best.
The comedian says it is not too hard to pick out some interesting characteristics when you’re wedged between two oilmen in a pickup truck.
“You get to feel someone out pretty quickly,” says Harris. “Everyone knows he (Morningstar) is a bit of a character…as long as it is still respectful, everyone laughs.”
And that, he says, is the reason for the show – to let the rest of Canada see the strength of these small towns. “It’s a celebration of a town’s spirit in the face of adversity and challenge. It’s about people who are hanging in there and why they are there.”
“For me, and for most Newfoundlanders, I have an affinity for small towns, so if I can wave the flag for small towns, then I’m glad to do it.”
After the show, Harris told The Independent it was an eye-opening week. “I had no idea the modern oil industry started here,” says Harris. “It is a piece of the past the still exist in the present.
“Also I didn’t know about cleaning up oil with sheep poop,” he says with a laugh.
And while Harris was about to poke some good-natured fun about the village’s history and the people he met, he thinks people would come to Oil Springs to discover its oil heritage if they knew about it. And he’s glad his new job brought him to Oil Springs.
“I am the world’s most efficient tourist… I see all the interesting things and meet all the interesting people. Just learning their stories – its all pretty interesting.