Barney Bentall and The Cariboo Express return to Saanichton Nov. 20

Cariboo Express has raised $94,000-plus over eight years.

Barney Bentall performs with The Cariboo Express during the Comox Valley Music Festival this summer.

In the tenth year of the tour and ninth annual show in Saanichton, Barney Bentall and The Cariboo Express are back this month to put on a show geared towards the whole family, kicking off the holiday season. The show is also a fundraiser for The Sidney Lions Food Bank and Mustard Seed Food Bank in Victoria.

Concert co-ordinator, Leslie Gentile said that back in 2007, organizers in Brentwood Bay said they knew some of the musicians who were on the bill, however it was Bentall himself who asked to bring the show to the Island.

She said Bentall’s manager her seven weeks before that initial show was to go on.

Bentall had also asked them to make it a fundraiser for a local charity.

“It needs to be a fundraiser for a charity, that’s his mandate for this tour…” she said.

Since the first show they did was right around Christmas time, Gentile said she and others thought it would be appropriate to split the proceeds between the Mustard Seed and Sidney Lions food banks.

There are 12 musicians on the bill under the Cariboo Express — also known as the Gold Rush All Stars, which is the house band of four to five people in the group. That core of lead musicians all get up to do a solo or duet during every show.

Each member of the group has their own music career, but they all come together every November to raise money for worthy charities.

“They kind of come together and it’s a reunion for them all,” said Gentile.

The primary way they raise funds, she said, is selling song sponsorships. Individuals or businesses  choose a bronze, silver, gold or even platinum buckle level. The $250-plus sponsorship (bronze), for example, gets the business one night of mention, which advertises the company while introducing the next song.

“So if you choose the Friday night show, you get two tickets to the show and your cheque goes directly to the food bank that you choose,” she said.

Bentall, along with the Master of Ceremonies, Matt Masters, will then write an introduction to a song, mentioning the business. Gentile said some of the intro monologues are long and involved and others short and sweet and to the point — but they are always hysterically funny.

“One of my favourites is ‘here’s Kendel Carson to sing a song called Baby Lay Down brought to you by Brentwood Massage and Physio,’” she said with a laugh.

With around 24 businesses a night that get mentioned, the sponsorship money goes directly to the food banks.

The first show will be Nov. 20 at the Friendship Community Church in Saanichton and the other on the 21st at Centennial United Church in Victoria. Both shows will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will go to around 10 or 10:30 p.m.

“We have people who come every year and they say, ‘this kicks off our Christmas season. It’s become a tradition for all of our friends to get together and go to the Express,’” Gentile said.

There will be two full sets with a 20 minute break. Gentile said the event will also have a silent auction and a meat draw as well.

“Barney started the whole meat draw thing.” she said.

Gentile explained that she was sitting with her sister-in-law one year and said to her ‘you think you’ve got it all organized and then something unexpected comes along’ — and it did.

“Literally my cell phone rang and it was Barney. And he said, ‘I forgot to tell ya, I’ll be late to the sound check because I’m going to the ferry to pick him up (his son in law), he’s coming down from the ranch and he’s got a whole bunch of frozen meat and we’re going to have a meat draw and you’re going to have to figure out how to sell tickets,’ and he’s laughing at the end of the phone call and I’m thinking, ‘is this a joke?’”

But it was no joke and they had to frantically get tickets together. The draw ended up raising $1,000.

They also do a silent auction as well.

Over the last eight years, the Express has raised more than $250,000 for various charities in western Canada — $94,000 was raised for The Sidney Lions Food Bank and Mustard Seed Food Bank. Gentile said last year alone they raised $29,000.

Breadstuff’s Bakery has sold all of their tickets for the Saanichton show, but tickets are still available onlinebrentwoodbay.info or at Lyle’s Place and Larsen Music. People can also contact Gentile at 250-661-4156 or by emailing her at lesliegentile@telus.net for ticket information.