A stalwart of Canadian rock and pop will renew a long-standing tradition when he plays Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre for three straight nights Nov. 16 to 18 to help raise funds for Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank.
Barney Bentall and the Cariboo Express arrive in Sidney during a period of economic uncertainty and with it a growing demand for the services of the food bank. “We are dealing with inflation, we are dealing with higher interest rates, all these things,” he said. “People are living pretty close to the margins as it is.”
By his own account, Bentall’s performance on behalf of the foodbank is his 14th, a relationship that has raised more than $300,000 over the years.
This figure alone points to the significance of the coming fundraising shows for the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank. “They are very important,” said Bev Elder, executive director. “This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and last year, we raised $67,000 over three nights. Right now, the ticket sales are going very well. Our Friday is sold out and Thursday and Wednesday are looking very good for ticket sales. But the big deal for us is getting songs-sponsorship.”
On the surface, it means that the band will mention the sponsor of a song before playing it. “But they usually do it with a comic twist,” said Elder. “They make it a lot of fun. So they will say things like, ‘Oh, if you are travelling down the Malahat and you have had a heck drive, the kids are crying, stop at the Best Western and have a good night’s rest,’” she said. “They try to tie it all together.”
The fundraising shows (which also include a silent auction, 50-50 draw and meat draw each night) could not be more necessary.
“We definitely see a rise in people asking for assistance for Christmas,” she said. Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank handed out just over 300 Christmas hampers last year. “And we are expecting 400 this year,” she added.
The history of Bentall’s involvement with the food bank dates back to his involvement with Leslie Gentile of Brentwood Bay’s Music in the Park. “They promoted the first one and then we just looked for a charity. We knew the foodbank there in Sidney needed lots of help as they do to this day and it just went from there. Bev (Elder), who runs the food bank in Sidney, is just so great in helping to promote the show,” Bentall said.
It features not only Bentall, but also a long list of other musicians with deep connections to the Canadian music scene and Bentall himself, including his son Dustin Bentall and his band The Blue Wranglers, as well daughter Jess Niedermayer and her band Wild Honey. “So it is lovely to have them there,” said Bentall. “I also have a few grandchildren in tow.”
Other performers include Ridley Bent, Matt Masters and Wendy Bird. The presence of Geoff Kelly also means that audiences will hear some Spirit of the West material. “So we try to change certain things up, but there is also some comfort (in the familiar), ” he said.
Bentall’s involvement with Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank is not the only one of its kind. He has also helped raise funds for Classroom Champions connecting Olympians and Paralympians to school children and the Potluck Cafe Society helping people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Bentall is currently touring through western Canada and his coming residency in Sidney for three nights represents a rare luxury. So where does he find his local zen?
“I always like having a breakfast or two at the Third Street Cafe, ” he said. “I always bring my bicycle and go riding. We are kind of used to doing a show, packing up and then moving to the next town.”
For more information, see splfoodbank.com/barney-bentall-the-cariboo-express.
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