Severo Avila

Severo Avila is Features Editor at the Rome News-Tribune.

There’s a community event coming up that I really think y’all will enjoy.

It’s the annual Floyd Against Drugs Murder Mystery.

What happens is that you pay $40 for a ticket (or you and your high-fallutin’ friends can reserve an entire table) and you enjoy a wonderful catered dinner at The Forum River Center. There’s a theme to the dinner. This year it’ll be a 50s SockHop. Think “Grease” — the movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

So you’re enjoying your meal at this SockHop and all around you the faculty and senior class of Skydale High is walking around talking about having their SockHop televised nationally and revealing bits of information about each other and about tensions that are mounting at school.

These quirky characters with names such as Rudy Del Fuego, Pink Lefever, Potzie Rogers and Chance Plantaine will interact with you, talk to you, ask you questions and reveal very important information that you’ll wanna take note of.

Anyhow, so these crazy characters will entertain you all night with their antics and their plotting and intrigues and then sometime before the meal is over, someone will get murdered.

It’s up to the guests to try to figure out who the murderer is, based on all the information they’ve been given by observing and listening to the characters.

I’ve had the honor of being asked to participate in this event for the past three years and it’s so much fun for the cast AND the guests.

All the money raised goes to help Floyd Against Drugs and their community programs and activities.

So the other day we had our first (and only) cast meeting. That’s where all the community members who are in the cast get together and eat catered Chick-Fil-A, get to know each other and discuss the event.

By the way, every time Chick-Fil-A has catered something I was at, they never send their waffle fries which is the best part of the meal. All the times I’ve had it catered, they send the little bag of waffle CHIPS which isn’t the same. I mean the meal was free so I really can’t complain. I just wanna know if it’s a logistics thing. Like will the waffle fries get stale after a while so they found that it’s best if they provide the chips in a sealed bag? Inquiring minds want to know.

But I digress.

So I walk into the cast lunch and I see some familiar faces and some new ones. These people will all be in costume and in character throughout the evening:

Brad Bushnell plays Denny Russo and his son Bo will play Lil’ Benny. Brad’s a natural at hamming it up. He’s perfect for this. He even comes up with these spot-on accents.

Robert Smyth plays Pelvis, a rock ‘n roll star who’s a special guest at the sockhop. Robert has never missed an opportunity to act a dang fool. He loves this sort of stuff and it shows. He really gets into his character and makes it fun for the guests and his fellow castmates.

Mark Webb plays a know-it-all student named Dexter Pelsnick. Big stretch for him.

Scotty Hancock plays Rudy Del Fuego. At the cast lunch, Scotty couldn’t even pronounce his character’s name so this should be interesting. No doubt his wife Ronda will be at the event to support him. Me and her always have a laugh at Scotty’s expense and she makes me smile so I’m looking forward to seeing her there.

Garrett Barnes plays Potzie Rogers. I’ve never met Garrett before. Stay tuned for a critical analysis after I do.

Randy Quick plays Coach Halcone. His voice and willingness to dress and act the part will make him one of the unforgettable characters I bet. He’s new to the event but I think he’ll fit right in.

Ryan Cox plays Chance Plantaine. He was too good to attend the cast lunch. ...I’m making that up. I’m sure he had a really good reason for not coming.

Jeff Fletcher plays Nicky “Flick” Murdock. Jeff works for the Rome Braves. He’s the guy who sometimes gets on camera during innings and interviews folks. I’ve seen him there whenever I go cheer on the Braves. He’s also a newbie to the event but he has the personality for it. Look for him to be a crowd favorite. Also, I think he drives a Buick SUV. Fancy.

Melinda Strickland is Candy Leigh. I once judged a local music competition with Melinda and she has a fun personality. She too is a new addition to the event.

Clem Slack plays Debbie Ritzo. I love Clem. She can ham it up with the best of them and I GUARANTEE she’ll take her character to the next level. She always does. She BECOMES the character and will have y’all laughing all night.

Krista Jackson will play Fran Jellopa. Krista’s no stranger to the stage and she’s so well known in the community that she’ll have a whole lot of people there supporting her and FAD. She’s always up for lending her time and energy to community events like this.

Cathy Kerce plays Cherie Rainier. Cathy played a great flapper in last year’s ‘roaring 20s’ event. I know she’ll be working whatever costume she’s in this year and making sure the crowd is entertained.

Rhonda Wallace will play Principal McGlee. Rhonda has been participating in this event ever since it started and she makes sure she dresses the part and really plays up the character. It’s great to see her get into character and keep it throughout the night.

Oh guess what? My arch nemesis, City Manager Sammy Rich was SUPPOSED to be in the cast but something came up and he couldn’t do it. He probably has to go supervise the work at his gold mines in Botswana or something.

Actually, he had a very good reason for backing out and honestly hated to bail but hopes he can participate next year. However, I’m spreading the false rumor that he’s skipping the event to go on a ski trip to his chalet in the Swiss Alps. Pass it on.

“Murder at the Skydale SockHop” will take place March 15 at the Forum River Center. Individual tickets are $40 and can be purchased online at Get them soon. And if any local businesses want to sponsor the event or would like to donate something toward the silent auction, please do so and tell them you’re doing it on my behalf. It’ll help me win a trophy at the end. And like I said, every single penny goes to help the important work Floyd Against Drugs does in our community.

I hope to see y’all there.