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Jeff attended his first Vent Haven Ventriloquist ConVENTion in the summer of 1976…

JD and Jimmy Nelson

Monty, Jeff and ventriloquist legend, Jimmy Nelson – Ventriloquist Convention 1976

And believe it or not, he’s been going every year since!

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Jimmy Nelson and Jeff – Ventriloquist Convention 2015 (Monty can now be seen on display in the Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum!)

As a youngster, Jeff competed in the junior contests held at the convention, taking top honors year after year. Eventually, they kindly requested that he no longer enter the contests so that other kids and teens would have the opportunity to win.

Nowadays, Jeff takes the main convention room stage to teach a lecture every year and has done so for the past couple of decades. And since I started attending the conventions with Jeff in 2009, I’ve been fortunate enough to be present for the last seven of them…

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2009

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2010

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2011

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2012

2013

2013

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2014

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2015

Each year, Jeff chooses a different topic to talk about during his lecture, but always ends his hour by bringing out one of his famous side kicks for a bit of “LOL” entertainment!  This year, Walter was his guest of honor.

Also during his lecture, Jeff usually let’s the group in on his most recent projects and also which specialty merchandise items they can expect to see over the coming months. The project that he shared this year was the upcoming taping and airing of his new NBC primetime special, “Unhinged in Hollywood” set to air on Sept. 17th. The merchandise item he shared is something really, really cool, but I’m going to let Jeff be the first to publicly talk about it… Ok, I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with Achmed and it’ll make a great gift at the holidays!

By far, our favorite part about attending the ventriloquist convention is having the opportunity to see our friends; many that we only get to see this one time each year.

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At the convention with our friends, Leslye, Tom and Lisa in 2010

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This year, Annie made it in the photo, too!

It’s lots of fun meeting new people, as well, including some who travel from other countries to be there. This year we met a couple of folks who flew all the way from India to attend the convention!

And last, but certainly not least, we also love visiting the Vent Haven ventriloquist museum which is just ten minutes down the road from where the convention is held. This museum consists of three small buildings filled with more soul and history than you can possibly imagine, thanks to the 800+ ventriloquial figures on display. There’s a section inside one of the buildings dedicated to Jeff and his characters and all of their tremendous accomplishments. In the photo below, Jeff is shown with the Walter currently on display in the museum. This particular Walter was made by Jeff because he required a waterproof version of him for a 1996 Hertz Rental Car commercial, where Jeff and Walter were to stand in the poring rain!

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Thank you, Vent Haven,  for giving me permission to post this photo!

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Walter and Jeff in a 1996 Hertz Rental Car Commercial

As you can imagine, this museum is very special to Jeff. So special, that this year he went above and beyond by volunteering to mow the lawn out front in preparation for all of the convention attendees set to visit over the weekend.  What a guy!

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Perhaps next summer, our new baby twin boys’ first plane ride will be one traveling to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky for the annual Vent Haven Ventriloquist ConVENTion. I certainly hope so, because we already have their outfits all picked out!

IMG_2423(Thanks again for these, Tom and Leslye!!)

Until next year, then!

 

 

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Comments

Chris J.

Great article Audrey! The ConVention is such a highlight for ventriloquists around the world and Jeff being there and gracious with his time makes it that much more exciting. The Vent Haven IS a wonderful place and the board and staff do a knock out job taking care of the legacy of W.S. Berger. I love the t-shirts for the babies, those are adorable! You all look great!

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Shannon

Ok if those two are comin with you next year, you’ll definitely see me there!
Not a good ventriloquist but I’ll manage somehow…

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Audrey Dunham

Ha! Well, let’s hope they’re decent little travelers by then. But until we figure that out, it is definitely on my calendar!

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Dottie

Great article Audrey 🙂
the pictures of Jeff as a youngest are gorgeous. With your looks and his, those baby boys will be absolutely adorable. I watch one of Jeff’s documentaries on the making of his ventriloquial figures and it is amazing the work and effort that goes into the characters, even before they become fan favorites.. Keep up the good work and enjoy these moments before you have “little ones” in the house.. 🙂

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Audrey Dunham

Thank you very much for this, Dottie!!

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Tammy burkholder

Wish I could find out how to post the pic that I had taken of you and Jeff & myself at the vent convention this year. Thanks again.

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Mark Merchant

Always a pleasure to see you at VentHaven or on the road! As I told Jeff when I saw him this year, he continues to lift up the ART of ventriloquism. Proud to have known him for a longggg time and happy you two are growing your family! Congratulations Audrey! Now I need to go eat healthy and avoid GERD!

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