Barney Bentall is returning to the Charlie White Theatre to raise money for the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank. (Hugo Wong/News Staff file)

Sidney Lions Food Bank fundraiser returns Nov. 15 to 17

Longtime concert series helps Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank

Ticket sales for Barney Bentall and the Cariboo Express are full steam ahead this year, according to organizer Leslie Gentile. The annual food bank fundraiser set a box office record for first-day sales. Gentile, said the Saturday, Nov. 18 is almost sold out, with Friday close behind and seats available for Thursday.

Barney Bentall’s Cariboo Express will be at the Charlie White Nov. 15, 16 and 17, with proceeds to help the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank.

Gentile said the event raised $26,000 last year, and this year she’s eyeing a $30,000 fundraising goal.

RELATED: Summer shortage leaves Sidney food bank in a bind

This is the 12th year Bentall and the gang have come to the Mary Winspear Centre. Leslie Alexander used to tour with Bentall, and she called Gentile one day to see how he could take it to Vancouver Island. He had been fundraising for the Potluck Café Society in Vancouver and found that the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank (then the Sidney Lions Food Bank) was a good cause.

Gentile said they were interested, “and then we got a call from Barney’s manager and as they say, the rest is history.”

Musicians have become friends with the organizers, and “it’s a bit of a reunion every time they come to town,” with stories of marriages and new babies.

“It’s become more than just presenting a show, it’s become an institution for these musicians, they’re so committed,” said Gentile.

Tickets are $50 each and available at the Mary Winspear Centre box office.

The vast majority of the money comes from song sponsorships, said Gentile, where businesses sponsor a song ($500 and up) and get an ad customized by Bentall and Matt Masters. Bentall introduces a song with a short comedy routine that features the business, and Gentile said “I know that people talk about the show all year and tell me their favourite ad.”

“For that business, the money goes a long way.”

In the meantime, the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank is still looking for kids school snacks, cereal and personal hygiene items, according to executive director Bev Elder. Donations will be accepted throughout the year.

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