On anniversary of Prince's death, N.W.T. fan plans Purple Paisley Ping Pong Pyjama Fundraiser

'I'm determined not to be grieving and moping on that day,' said Leslie Paulette, who's from Fort Smith, N.W.T.

'Prince... was kind of legendary for being a ping pong player,' says Fort Smith midwife

Leslie Paulette toured Prince's Paisley Park recording studios last fall. Here she poses beside Prince's piano. (Submitted by Leslie Paulette)

When legendary musician Prince died unexpectedly last April, fan Leslie Paulette said it was a "very sad day" for her.

But this year, she's making a conscious effort to overcome the sorrow on the one year anniversary of his death.

"I'm determined not to be grieving and moping on that day," said Paulette, who's from Fort Smith, N.W.T.

I hadn't played ping pong in 45 years but I thought 'Why not?'- Leslie Paulette

Instead, she'll be pulling an all-nighter playing table tennis at her community fundraiser: Dusk 'til Dawn Purple Paisley Ping Pong Pyjama Party Fundraiser.

What inspired the theme?

"The story goes back to last year," says Paulette.

Prince is shown performing during the 2007 halftime show at Super Bowl XLI in Miami. (Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)

Despite being a huge fan, Paulette was never able to go to Prince's concerts partly because he gave little advance notice, and also the distance she had to travel.

"I'm a midwife in Fort Smith and my work responsibilities to the community make it difficult for me to just up and leave on short notice," said Paulette.

The closest she ever got to attending one was in 2004 in Edmonton. "But then I couldn't. There was a baby that was due."

This was the official Prince tribute concert at Minneapolis last year. She was never able to see Prince perform live, but made it to his tribute concert. (Submitted by Leslie Paulette)

But after his death last year, there was an announcement for an official tribute concert in Minneapolis.

"I decided I had to make it," said Paulette. 

She attended the concert, a few dusk till dawn dance parties downtown, and got to visit Prince's Paisley Park recording studio.

That's where she rediscovered her love for ping pong.

"As I toured through Studio B, I discovered his ping pong table was there. And Prince... was kind of legendary for being a ping pong player."

Then the tour guide asked if anyone wanted to play. 

"I hadn't played ping pong in 45 years, but I thought 'Why not?'"

Upon coming back North, Paulette began a drop-in ping pong group at the local rec centre, which lasted throughout this winter.

Starfish and coffee

In anticipation of the one year mark of his death, Paulette said she was looking for a way to honour Prince. That led to Friday's fundraiser ping pong tournament.
Paulette in front of Prince's Paisley Park studio. (Submitted by Leslie Paulette)

"So that's how the idea was born and we haven't looked back since," said Paulette.

There will be a total of eight teams playing ping pong all night at the Fort Smith Recreation and Community Centre from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. The night will be filled with Prince tunes, table tennis, food, and a silent auction.

In the morning, while Prince's Starfish and Coffee is playing in the background, Paulette says community members will be served starfish pancakes and coffee for breakfast.

The teams will be going around and asking for pledges Friday. The team with the most pledges will win.

All funds will be donated to the N.W.T. Autism Society for autism awareness month.

With files from Loren McGinnis, Marc Winkler


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