I t’s not often adults get to perform in a talent show, but Rod Hawkins has been giving locals the opportunity to do so for 13 years.
Hawkins, the producer and director of Mettawee Mania, will work on his last show next month as he moves on to direct the Miss Vermont Scholarship Pageant.
“I enjoy seeing the community engage and have a good time,” Hawkins said. And while he expects to miss the event, he is looking forward to his new gig.
“With the new venture, it’s a whole other hill to climb and a learning curve,” he said.
Hawkins takes on all this production work as a hobby. As far as a day job he describes himself as a bovine podiatrist, which is also known as a hoof trimmer. He said there is no personal gain in his volunteer work at Mettawee.
“The sole purpose of doing it was to offer the community a chance to get on stage. If people have a good time and have the opportunity to perform, I’m tickled,” he said.
Mania started in ’91 when the town of Pawlet was looking for volunteers to promote the bicentennial. Hawkins, who brought a musical background, brainstormed with West Rupert’s Michael Krauss, who had a theatrical background, and the two came up with the original idea.
Hawkins said the event was based on the premise of the ‘Really Big Show’ in Rutland, and the men had an idea of what they wanted to do. He has since tried to jam as much talent as he can into the allotted time, which is slightly different from other talent shows.
“I can put them through 20 plus acts in two hours time, but their style doesn’t allow them to do that,” Hawkins said. “I didn’t want a lot of down time; I wanted to keep it flowing.”
At this point, Rod has earned the trust of everyone involved in Mania and they know they can turn the show to him, said his wife Deb.
Hawkins thinks everything now runs like a well-oiled machine.
“All I have to do is get it all set. I don’t have to tell everybody what to do — they just do it. The production crew has been reliable, capable and very easy for me,” he said.
Michelle Petty, who grew up in Pawlet and performed under Hawkins for years, agrees.
“He found amazing volunteers who work together so well, and he rarely showed how stressed he was really feeling,” she said.
Since the inception of the talent show, Hawkins has been recruiting current or former Miss Vermonts to emcee. He and Deb also host these ladies and enjoy a chance to “shoot the breeze” with them at their house.
It’s this personal connection that landed Hawkins the gig as Miss Vermont producer. It was three former misses and the current director, who all had Mania ties to him, who suggested that he should be a judge.
“They trusted him, and they knew what he expected of things. They were pushing for Rod to be involved on a production level,” Deb said.
Hawkins said the state pageant is part of the Miss America scholarship program, not to be confused with Miss USA, which is a beauty pageant. He likes that it gives young ladies a chance to excel in a variety of categories.
In his free time, Hawkins is part of the band Freedom Hawk, which has been performing together for about seven years. He is also actively involved in the community in various other ways along with his wife.
“With any production, it’s teamwork. That’s how we run this house, as a team,” Deb said. Her husband said she has been an “extra big” part of Mania and does a lot behind the scenes.
He hopes someone will take over and continue the production in upcoming years.
“I really hope that someone in the community will step forward to keep this show going; it’s important for the school and the community,” he said.