As I sat on a beautiful late evening in August at the Ramada’s 3-Eh Stage last Saturday I couldn’t help but think back to what a wonderful summer this has been for those of us who enjoy live music. On stage as the opening act was the wonderful Velle Huscroft Weitman who, along with her great band, blew me (and the good-sized crowd) away with her musicianship and fantastic choice of tunes. Copper Moon was never so apt, and Velle’s version was simply wonderful. I think our musical summer might be described as having started with the opening night festivities on Blossom Festival weekend. Daniel Huscroft, joined by his fiancé, Lindi Ortega and friend, JJ Shiplett (along with his other band members), put on a tremendous concert that demonstrated their considerable talents.
At times we have had an embarrassment of riches, with at least one evening that saw three different performances competing to draw an audience. On that particular and perfect evening (and haven’t we had the best summer for evening’s this year, despite the smoke?) we sat enthralled by the performances of Victoria Tilling and Mark Koenig, with ample backup musicians to fill out the sound. Original music was the order of the evening, with these fine songwriters thrilling the soldout crowd at Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery.
Baillie-Grohman has become a favourite go-to spot for live local entertainment, and the venue could not be more welcoming. With a variety of food offered at each WineDown Friday and the obviously great selection of fine wine, the Erickson winery has become a popular gathering place for social groups in July and August each year. The final Friday of the summer featured music by the Creston Brass Band and food prepared by members of the Creston Valley Public Art Connection, which served as a very successful fundraiser to help this very effective organization carry on with its efforts.
Millennium Park completes a triumvirate of outdoor music venues, and the addition of seating by the Creston Rotary Club last spring has made it even more comfortable and inviting. On another fine August evening an audience of more than 200 was treated to the bluegrass stylings of East Vancouver’s Lonesome Town Painters, a foursome that combined very good musicianship with a terrific stage presence. With Jessica and Ron Piccinin staffing The Peppered Pig food truck over to the side of the stage, people taking in the show could sit back and relax to enjoy great traditional music and eat to their hearts’ content.
It really does feel like the Creston Valley is coming of age, with all kinds of cultural, business and agricultural activity leading the way, and our many hundreds of tireless volunteers continuing to work so hard to make this an even better community. Those three aspects come together each Saturday at the Creston Valley Farmer’s Market in a very satisfying way. With a record-setting number of vendors now setting up for the four-hour market, thousands of customers stream through the market for the chance to get fresh produce and locally made items, and to simply enjoy the sense of community that farmers’ markets help build. It’s another wonderfully social aspect and friends chatting with friends amid the bustle is a sure sign of the market’s importance in the Creston Valley. On Saturday I enjoyed my bratwurst dog with (incredibly tasty) jerky jam from The Peppered Pig while I sat and watched young fiddler Megan Bibby play for tips. Megan’s music could not be better suited for the market atmosphere and she clearly enjoys sharing her talent with the market’s customers.
This year as been an unusual one, weatherwise, with a long, cold winter followed by a pretty miserable wet spring. Then, once the heat started in July, it has stayed steadily hot and all too often smoky. But the music scene has helped ease the stress of the heat—and smoke—and given us even more reason to enjoy spending summers right here at home. Heck, after my visit to the market I wandered over to the Kunze Gallery and there was artist James McDowell back in one corner, playing his guitar for the sheer joy of it. His music paired perfectly with the surrounding art.
I don’t get many arguments when I talk about the vibrancy and vitality of the Creston Valley these days, and much of the credit has to go the visual and performing arts community. And a big shout-out goes to the organizers of events that allow us to enjoy music outside, and to add to our social interaction in a very important way.