Mistletoe Misfits bring joy in inaugural season to Illinois Valley

Dozen women dress like elves, tell jokes on visits to senior living facilities

The Mistletoe Misfits performed Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Allure of Peru.

Clad in red and green attire with sparkles and pointy ears, a team of elves aiming to brighten the holidays through singing and dancing took to nursing homes this month.

A nursing home resident’s comment of appreciation earlier this year helped spur the creation of the performing elves group.

Tracy Carriere of Princeton was performing with another group in the fall at Liberty Village in Princeton when, after a performance, a resident took her hand.

“She said, ‘I just so appreciate you gals coming out here, because we get so isolated and we never get to go out to see things like this.’ It was heartwarming that she was so excited that we were there, but it broke my heart at the same time. I couldn’t get it out of my head,” Carriere said.

She went to a spin class and told a friend about the woman’s comment and she wanted to start a group that dances, sings Christmas tunes and dresses as elves.

“I said, ‘You know, we’ll just go from there’ and she said, ‘Well, that sounds amazing. Let’s do this.”

They asked around and found many women willing to donate their time. The Mistletoe Misfits quickly grew to 12 members, which is almost as many as the group can accommodate, given their restricted spaces indoors.

The format and songs were decided as a group and Carriere planned the choreography for the dances and suggested they tell corny elf jokes, such as: What kind of car does an elf drive? A Toy-ota.

“I’m doing this for the residents and the kids and their smiles.”

—  Mary Glenn, of Magnolia, a Mistletoe Misfit

In their first season, they did 12 performances. They began practicing in mid-November.

“Our shows get better every time we perform. Not so much because we’re worried about being a professional dancer. We are far from it. The Mistletoe Misfits is called that for a reason,” Carriere said. “We expect ourselves to make some mistakes here and there, but the joke-telling and the ad libbing and the interaction with the crowd, I think, has gotten better and better every show.”

The Mistletoe Misfits have brought joy this Christmas season to senior living facilities throughout the Illinois Valley.

Each elf picked their own name and most curated a costume from the name. For example, Carriere is Twinkles, so she added a lot of twinkle lights and stars to her costume. Another is Cookie, so she wears an apron and incorporated gingerbread cookies and other sweets.

Adrienne McCaslin, of Newark, is Prickly, so in addition to her elf ears and outfit, she wore leggings emblazoned with Christmas-themed cactuses and a cactus on her candy cane. Each elf has a decorated candy cane they dance with.

“It’s just so much fun,” McCaslin said about participating. “Even just walking down the street together you see a group of people and they wave at you and smile. It just makes it all worthwhile.”

Mary Glenn, of Magnolia, was Sparkle this year, but has plans to change to Merry and Bright to go with her name.

“I’m doing this for the residents and the kids and their smiles,” she said,

The group participated in Princeton’s inaugural lighted Christmas parade where they received an award in the individuals/families category. Otherwise, their performances mostly were at nursing homes. They’d like to branch out to perform for children next year.

“We have been out in costume having lunch and kids will come up and ask, ‘Are you a real elf?’ and we’ll just take pictures with them,” Carriere said.

For the first season, though, they were happy to visit as many nursing homes as they did.

“They have been just so excited to have us come in, first of all, and then secondly afterwards just the delight. I get messages from them all the time just thanking us because the seniors had such a good time. We asked them to sing along and we tell the jokes to them and we engage, go out in the crowd. The reaction has been exceptionally positive.”

Carriere said the elves are done performing this year, but will be back next Christmas.

The Mistletoe Misfits performed Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Allure of Peru.