Approximately 450 participants including everyone from children to grandparents travelled from across Canada, the US and as far away as Germany to Langley, BC, to take part in a weekend of fun and fellowship centred around their favourite program. Highlights included question and answer panels with the creators and stars of the show, autograph and photo sessions with cast, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the set, which is located on a family-owned farm in Langley (if you ever get the chance to tour the MacInnes property and meet the hospitable family, I would highly recommend it!) I was impressed that the gracious stars, including even the youngest actors, stayed long past their scheduled appearance time on Saturday to ensure that everyone in attendance got a chance to spend a few minutes with them. They really seem to grasp the importance of making their fans feel valued.
The popular frontier drama is currently filming Season 5. Historically, Canada has been several seasons behind the US in airing the series; something that has proven quite frustrating for fans here. They are very active on social media and enjoy sharing news and discussing episodes online, and haven't been able to do that with their American friends. As of this fall, Season 4 has been airing on Super Channel, and we were happy to announce at this event that we will carry Season 5 at the same time as the US in February 2018. Response to this news was overwhelmingly positive, not only from fans, but also from cast and crew, many of whom are Canadian. They explained how disappointing it has been that this show, which is produced here, employs such a large number of the local film community, and is based on books by Canadian author Janette Oke, has been so hard for Canadian viewers to access. The fact that they and their families can now watch the newest seasons was so important to them, and they were very appreciative.
So, what is behind the incredible international popularity and success of this series? Well, as some of the cast explained it, the world can be a crazy, chaotic and sometimes cruel place right now. Viewers crave a safe, warm, positive place with solid values that they can share with their families. There are not many shows on TV right now that offer that type of viewing experience, but When Calls the Heart definitely does.
For many at this event, however, it seems to be more than that. Over the weekend, I learned a little about what the Hearties community has meant to its members. Many ladies have built incredible friendships through their online interactions, sharing not just their passion for the show – but also triumphs, tragedies and everyday details from their personal lives. Even the cast embrace the love of this extended family - I heard about one of the female Canadian stars who recently travelled to the US and then spent a day touring the city she was visiting with a local Heartie she had a relationship with online. A truly trusted and tight-knit group!
In television, there are no guarantees for the future of any show. But the Hearties work tirelessly to promote the series, and ensure that producers know its importance in their lives. Their enthusiasm is certainly infectious, and the popularity of an event like the Family Reunion is hard to ignore. I'm quite confident that there will be a 4th annual gathering next year, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if there are many more seasons to come of the program that brings them all together.
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