When John Cain started with what was then called the Northern Indiana Arts Association in October 1993, he was already thinking about some creative holiday possibilities.
A year later, he was ready to share some of his favorite famed yuletide stories, while at the same time, devising an imaginative and inventive way to raise money for the arts organization.
Nearly two decades later, Cain's annual holiday reading and luncheon is still the toast of the town, with a number of the same guests from the first year launch still faithful followers who wouldn't want to begin the holiday season any other way.
South Shore Arts Executive Director Cain is ready for his 19th Annual Holiday Reading, which is Tuesday, Nov. 13 at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster, with this year's theme "Home for the Hols."
"When I think back, this is a tradition really began so much earlier than these annual luncheons," Cain said.
"I started doing the readings while still in middle school for ladies groups, like my mother's DAR group. As a kid, I was doing readings of Truman Capote's 'A Christmas Memory.' "
When Cain hosted his first reading as an arts fund raiser in 1994, he shared that same Capote prose and found it to be a holiday hit with the gathered group of guests.
Today, more than 300 guests, both men and women, seek seats, knowing with Cain's wit and flare, they can always expect the unexpected the guarrantee of entertainment and smiles.
Cain said this year's selections pay tribute to travel humor using a double bill of works highlighting Tina Fey holiday passages from her 2011 autobiography "Bossypants," which he describes as clever and acerbic.
"I'm also including a piece from Patrick Dennis, the author of 'Auntie Mame,' which offers a nice balance since it's his telling of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' but with being in a train station with all of these strangers you meet."
As is the tradition, Cain's event begins in the Centers Art Gallery at 11 a.m. prior to the noon lunch, with his reading from 1 to 2 p.m.
And by the end of the afternoon, as much as $15,000 is raised.
Last year, Cain used the theme "Gnome for the Holidays," and included swarms of lawn ornament garden gnomes scattered about the luncheon landscape.
Throughout the years, some of his favorite readings have included other renditions of other of Capote's legendary stories, like "A Thanksgiving Visitor" and "One Christmas," as well as selections from David Sedaris' "SantaLand Diaries" and "Running with Scissors" author Augusten Burroughs' "You Better Not Cry."
The only year Cain said his reading was more coal than candy for audience's comic stockings, was the year 2002 when he offered "Jeeves and the Yule-tide Spirit" by P.G. Wodehouse.
"It might have been because it was British humor, but it just didn't seem to connect as well as the others," Cain said.
One of his more personal holiday reading shared experiences was John's own written account, a true story called "Christmas with Larry Flynt."
"Back in 1977, after I was out of college, I went to Columbus, Ohio to work for Larry Flynt when his 'Hustler' magazine was based there and starting out," Cain said.
"It was only for about nine months, which included through Christmas, and it made for an interesting holiday reading, to share that experience once again."