Individually, they’ve performed with Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Carson, famous burlesque dancer and actress Sally Rand and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the legendary tap dancer and actor. Collectively, they’re known in their golden years as the Stardust Follies.
Everyone in the seven-member Stardust Follies is 55 and older, and proud of it. Some have been in show biz since childhood, while others are easing into it to keep their golden years lively.
As the Stardust Follies founder Lynda Pressey, 75, puts it, each day is a new beginning for the senior performance group, which practices at a dance studio in Puyallup.
When Pressey’s good friend Dianne Nixon was dancing with colleagues 15 years her junior, Pressey thought it was time to create a performing group meant for older individuals. Pressey and Nixon have now been dancing together for 31 years.
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“It’s a passion that keeps me going,” Nixon said about her 31 years of performing with Pressey.
For other members of the Stardust Follies, like 81-year-old Nan Gillis, the oldest member of the Follies, show biz and performing has been in her blood since she was a toddler. She started performing when she was 3.
“When you’re that little, you don’t realize that it isn’t what everybody does,” she said. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”
The Stardust Follies will take the stage at Pressey’s family-owned and operated Victorian Country Christmas, which runs Wednesday through Sunday (Dec. 2 to 6) at the Washington State Fair and Events Center.
“It’s like a Las Vegas show,” said Follies member John Yingling, 62. “It’s just not as sexy, and a bit older.”
The Stardust Follies’ performance at the 28th annual Victorian Country Christmas is merging Pressey’s career in show biz and her love of Christmas.
For Pressey, it hasn’t all been glitz and glamor. She and her husband Rod started Victorian Country Christmas just after Pressey’s sister, Pam, was given a month to live.
Shortly after Pam died at the age of 23, Pressey’s vision for Victorian Country Christmas finally came to fruition.
“I finally stopped crying so hard, and had something to think about,” Pressey said. “It all made sense, There would be choirs, professional dancers. I used to be a single mom, so I know how difficult it can be to find something inexpensive to take the kids to.”
According to Pressey’s daughter, Puyallup resident Shari Furnstahl, who now operates Victorian Country Christmas with her husband Dave, the traditional Christmas event got started as just a handcrafter show. The event hasn’t stopped growing since its first year in 1987.
“We’ve just always known that it’s going to be a show that will be around for a lot of years,” Pressey said.
The Furnstahls have worked diligently to keep the Victorian Country Christmas the same as where the Presseys left off.
“It’s truly to kickoff to Christmas,” Shari said. “We’ve had families who have come every year for 28 years. We’ve kept Victorian Country Christmas as an immersion experience, like walking into Disneyland. It’s a true immersion experience, reminiscent of Victorian times. The Victorian brings the classic and majestic side of the event. The country brings that warm and comfort feel for Christmas. We’ve chosen not to adjust that.”
Victorian Country Christmas
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 2 and 3)
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Dec. 4 and 5)
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 6)