A trio of concerts featuring Canadian rock icon Barney Bentall and the Cariboo Express is not just an opportunity to get an early Christmas present, but also help make Christmas come true for those who are less fortunate.
“The big thing for us about this whole show is that it kicks off our Christmas season,” said Beverley Elder, executive director of Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank. It is one of the co-organizers of the fundraiser featuring three nights of Bentall and the Cariboo Express playing the Mary Winspear Centre.
“Right now, Friday [Nov. 15] and Saturday [Nov. 16] have been sold out, since Wednesday or Thursday last week, and we have tickets for the Thursday show [Nov. 14] left,” said Elder. “But there are limited. They are down about 30 tickets for that night.”
In other words, tickets are rare, and the money helps make a major difference for the food bank, with the money going towards the purchase of food.
The organization’s relationship with Bentalldates back about 12 years, when Brentwood’s Music in Bay recommended the charity to Bentall.
“They used to put on a concert in a little church [in Central Saanich], and the proceeds would come to a local charity. We were the charity out here. It was just one night back then.”
Logistics led Bentall to book the Mary Winspear Centre for three nights rather than play one night here, then the next night somewhere. “And then they asked us to get more and more involved about six, seven years ago, ” she said. “He Bentall asked us to be more involved, so that we could raise more money.”
The outcome of this change — which sees the food bank handle things like sponsorship and organizing prizes for the silent auction— was substantial. “We were raising in between $5,000 and $6,000 maybe, on a night,” she said. “And last year, we raised $36,500 dollars in three nights.”
Elder said this amount makes a “substantial” difference to the operations of the food bank.
The shows coincide with the start of the food bank’s Christmas Hamper program, which costs about $40,000 to $45,000 a year. “So this concert covers a good chunk of that,” she said.
Would-be-interested parties can also participate in other ways. They can help cover costs, and donate prizes for raffling. Elder said the most important thing for her organization is to secure sponsorship, because 100 per cent flows back to the food bank.
The music and entertainment is also high.
“It’s an amazing night,” said Elder. Ticket holders do not just pay for one act, she said. “You are paying to see 12 to 13 amazing artists up on stage. You are paying for a Juno-award artist plus 12 other amazing artists. It is so much fun.”
One aspect of the fun is learning the surprise guest. “Last year, we had Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo. We have had over the years Colin James, Alan Doyle [from Great Big Sea] and John Mann [from Spirit of the West].”
Even Elder looks forward to the identity of this year’s mystery guest as well and she is an organizer. She does not even get a hint.
“I don’t get to find out until the last minute. It’s a surprise for me too.”
The shows run Nov. 14-16 with each show starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Charlie White Theatre of the Mary Winspear Centre. For more info, head over to www.marywinspear.ca/event/barney-bentall-cariboo-express.
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