Posts by Ben Stewart

Contagious Smiles

It’s no secret that building a career as artists is nothing short of exhausting work that takes full dedication, as with any entrepreneurship one wants to succeed at. Making  the arts a full time job often means that you must live without many of todays luxuries. Combine this career with the personal need to make a difference in peoples lives that rivals that of some of the worlds philanthropists and making a living is five times the work.

This however doesn’t stop two Shuswap based musicians, Aimie Laws and Shelby B, as they are continuously donating performances, and often all the proceeds from these performances, to charities. Even after making the plunge to full time musicianship, basically deleting the safe haven of a day job from their means of living, the two are hitting the road with the goal of once again raising funds for charity.

Smile campaign-4

The charity of choice this time around seems to be a no brainer for those that have seen the “million dollar” smiles of these two young professional musicians. Operation Smile, after all, changes lives in children on an international level, simply by providing reconstructive surgery on many of those born with cleft lips, something that, in many cultures, results in a lonely life lived in shunning, and often ridicule. Something that both girls say “breaks our hearts to hear, so it’s only natural for us to do something about it, and this is the only way we know how to help”.

So what does any of this have to do with the Okanagan?  Laws and “B” have chosen Kelowna to be the city that they kick start this tour in. Minstrel Café has graciously provided the venue for August 6th, as the kick off party begins, with live performances by both Laws and “B”, including plenty of new songs on the set from both, the show runs from 8-10:30 PM.

Parkinson Superwalk

The Parkinson Society of Canada funds much of the Canadian research on this, the second largest neurodegenerative disease. $1.3 million dollars was invested last year by the society, as well as another $15 million secured from other sources, into research, funding a whopping 24 projects.

Parkinsons, for those of us that don’t know is a result of low dopamine production in the brain causing degeneration to those areas. Michael J. Fox is perhaps the most common person to come to mind in Canadian’s when they hear the name of this disease, but for those of us that watch it slowly take away a loved one we know the true outreach of its infection.

The Parkinson Superwalk is the largest fundraiser for the society in Canada, and two of these walks are set to take place in the Okanagan. Participants get sponsors, and do a walk, walking being something that parkinsons eventually takes away from it’s victims, along a specific route. This years online sponsorship to walkers and teams is already over 750 000 dollars which could lead to one of the most successful years to date.

The Okanagan walks include; Kelowna on Saturday Sept 10th at 9 AM in the Waterfront Park (at the concession Plaza), and Salmon Arm on Saturday Sept 17th at the McGuire lake Park at 9:00 AM. There is still time to sign up and raise funds, or to pledge a walker. To find out more about the Super walk check out the website.

Sturgis North – Much More Than Just a Biker Party

Sturgis North, an all make motorcycle festival held in Salmon Arm this past week, has wound down and the community is going back to its usual day to day life, with only the odd straggling motorcycle still rumbling its way through town. The festival pre-planning went through a lot of scrutiny before finally being allowed, by the Salmon Arm community, to proceed. Members of  the community feared their personal, preconceived, images of out of control outlaw motorcycle gangs, the streets being littered with trash while the otherwise quiet community was being torn apart in a noisy uproar of drunken bikers.

The festival organizers worked hard to prove their worth, and ensure the community that both the event and themselves would be both safe and profitable.Judging from what I have personally witnessed it did just that.

With two festival grounds, connected by shuttle buses ensuring safe passage to and from the venues, the organizers presented all aspects of the motorcycle culture for those that undertook the events. From high profile musical artists such as Dr. Hook, The Headpins, and many more, to a motorcycle build off showcasing some of the top custom bike builders in North America, nothing was left out.  Plenty of riders took part in poker runs and charity rides as lines of bikes would cruise through the Okanagan and Shuswap areas raising money for their selected charities from breast cancer to childrens charities. Even the threat of rain didn’t lighten the mood, some would huddle under overhangs waiting for it to pass while others would shrug it off as nothing more than refreshing water and continue with their activities.

For those that couldn’t afford the $100+ a day or, slightly cheaper, week long passes into the festival itself there was plenty of opportunities for families to get around the community and partake in the biker customs. Show and shines offered a glimpse into the passion and art involved in the bike world, from crazy customizations to elaberate paint jobs and restorations, true craftsmanship was abundant throughout the week. Canadian motorcross performer Kris Garwasiuk displayed his high jumping acts, both on the festival grounds and on the closed off streets, where hundreds of attendees of all ages where wow’d by his death defying tricks. Music wasn’t just for the paying attendees as it was offered throughout the day on the community stage, often filling empty spots by showcasing the natural musicianship that is abundant in the Salmon Arm area. Vancouvers West Coast Freestyle offered a glimpse into the world of professional stunt riding as they showed off their perfected skills in controlling their bikes while doing off the wall tricks, often with only one wheel on the pavement.  The announcer making sure to inform those watching that these took years of practice and should never be attempted in the streets.

As I wandered through the events on a day to day basis, trying to figure out just what events to cover in this story, I watched as crowds of people would gather taking in something they may have never witnessed before.  Many children, from all walks of life, gleaming with smiles, perhaps day dreaming of one day owning and riding a motorcycle themselves, parents/grandparents, guardians, aunts and uncles sharing with them in those dreams. I observed friends, neighbours, complete strangers conversing, laughing, and just plain enjoying the happenings around them. I chuckled as an aging, burly looking biker joined my one year old nephew in some puddle jumping, as his 30 something year old son proudly piped out “That’s my dad”.

Perhaps, with the success and the excitement that was abundant throughout the town, Sturgis North may have re-painted, for some, those pre-drawn images of what the biker world was about and opened the eyes, for many, on the community lifestyle and comradeship that is involved in motorcycle culture.  Maybe now the few bad apples, that are found in every culture won’t be the image that is associated with the word “Biker”. For the rest of us the week was a true success, it had its small hic-ups here and there but a success none the less, and I lift my hat to the organizers, the volunteers, and those who policed the event, on a job well done in your offering of just a glimpse at the true spirit of the motorcycle world.

Check out Sturgis Norths Facebook page, or the website linked at the top of this article for more images and information.

Turn of the century hideaway turns murderous


Salmon Arm’s R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum always offers visitors a throwback to the turn of the century.  On a 40 acre chunk of property on the outskirts of Salmon Arm, located at 751 Hwy 97B, a street has been re-created lined with many of the heritage buildings from Salmon Arm’s past, with from blacksmith shops to the original radio station, an old gas station and a firehouse. This by donation destination (with the exception of special events) is ran by a society of volunteers eager to keep these pieces of  history alive.

One of the popular events that the village holds every summer is a series of dinner theatre  on an open air stage amongst the trees, just across from a hundred year old church. This years Villains and Vittles Dinner Theatre production has been written and directed by Salmon Arm Resident Peter Blacklock, the play being set in  1885, at a time when the railroad was still being pushed through our province.  The city had not yet been established, and few buildings made up what is now Salmon Arm including Dutch Charlie’s Gambling House and Brewery it is here that the story takes place with a unique flair of music and drama, that is sure to entertain the entire family as they watch the events of the story “The Mystery of Dutch Charlie” unfold.

Admission to the Theatre includes home cooked dinner true to the pioneer era including all the fixings. With showings Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings until August 26th.

Reservations are a MUST and tickets are on sale for; Adults $24 Seniors $21 and Children under 13 are $14. You can make reservations by calling the museum at 25-832-5243 or visiting the website here .

Keep up to date with other events at the museum on their facebook page, whether its the upcoming Music in the Village (July 23), or antique car show (August 14) or anything in between, the village offers something for everyone.

Shannon Beth Ireland

Penticton’s Shannon Beth Ireland holds many roles including (but not limited to) a mother, a grandmother, and a musician, the later of which being the purpose of this post.

I first became aware of Shannon just over a year ago when her daughter, all of Shannon’s children are talented musicians in their own, suggested her mother play an all ages event I was working on. This wasn’t the first time I had had a request to give someones parent a show, but was a little intrigued, so I did some digging and found that she had recently released a piano instrumental album “88 keys”. I have been told that when her children where growing up, when the power would go out, Shannon would have her kids pick an instrument and they would play the night away by candle light.

The first show I did for her was a small one providing entertainment for the local dragon boating society, this was the first time I had heard her sing, and was a little taken back, I found her voice to be reminiscent of the late, great, Janis Joplin. As Shannon plucked away at her 12 string blending both original and cover tunes I found her stage presence to be captivating, and found her to provide something for each audience member regardless of age, I watched as some of the aging dragon boaters took a few moments to dance, ’20 somethings joined them in the grass ahead of the stage. She would proceed to call her daughter and her son to the stage, joining in on a song, or two. making her set a family affair.

Recently, while on tour, I had the opportunity to once again to have Shannon grace the stage at Penticton’s Voodoo’s, this time in a darkened room herself lit up with stage lights, I watched as she again blessed the crowd with her acoustic performance, sharing short and personal stories of how each song came to be, or why she chose particular songs to cover, again she would call a friend from the audience to join her on stage sharing the limelight. Speaking after her performance I found out that Shannon has been busy with work to fund yet another album. With only one more session left in the recording studio, the new album, will not be instrumental,  this time Shannon will share with us her commanding voice, as she plays her  guitar, accompanied through various songs by, yep you guessed it, her talented children. I, for one, am going to keep an eye out for this album to be released through Salmon Arm based record label West Ave.

Catch more videos of Shannon here.

Grim Hymn and the Horrors

I have had the opportunity to both work with and attend events with this Vernon based band on numerous occasions throughout the past year. This three piece rock-a-billy band mixes some solid ‘50’s undertones with modern punk rock giving them a sound that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Their stage presence leaves people talking about them for weeks afterwards, from guitarist Brett Horrors obvious love of what he is doing to choreographed moments such as guitar solos standing on top of Bassist/singer Julian’s Bass. Lyrics fit the name with songs like “The house on haunted hill” and their rendition of The Temptations “My Girl”, cleverly changed to “My Ghoul” they keep things in a theme of old time zombie/horror flicks. Catch them August 27th at the Haney Heritage Village Antique car show in Salmon Arm.

Find More on Grim Hymn and the Horrors

Grim Hymn and the Horrors in Salmon Arm

Grim Hymn and the Horrors at The Cliffs Cafe Enderby