A staunch supporter of Canadian rock and pop will renew a long-standing tradition by playing three nights at Sydney’s Mary Winspear Center from November 16-18 to help raise funds for the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank.
Barney Bentall and the Cariboo Express arrive in Sydney at a time of economic uncertainty and with it comes a growing demand for food bank services. “We’re dealing with inflation, we’re dealing with higher interest rates, all those things,” he said. “People are living very close to the edge.”
According to Bentall himself, his performance on behalf of the food bank was his 14th, a relationship that has raised more than $300,000 over the years.
This figure alone shows the importance of the upcoming Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank fundraiser. “They’re very important,” says executive director Bev Elder. “This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, last year, we raised $67,000 over three nights. Ticket sales are going really well right now. Our Fridays are sold out and Thursday and Wednesday are looking very good. Good. But the most important thing for us is getting a song sponsorship.”
Ostensibly, this means that the band mentions its sponsors before playing the song. “But they usually do it in a comedic way,” Elder said. “They made it fun. So they’d say, ‘Oh, if you’re traveling down Maratha and you’ve driven a car and the kids are crying, stop at the Best Western and get some rest. late,'” she said. “They’re trying to tie it all together.”
Fundraising shows (which also include silent auctions, 50-50 per night raffles and raffles) are no longer necessary.
“We do see more and more people asking for help at Christmas,” she said. The Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank distributed over 300 Christmas hampers last year. “We’re expecting 400 this year,” she added.
Bentall’s involvement with food banks dates back to his involvement with Leslie Gentile at Brentwood Bay’s Music in the Park. “They promoted the first one and then we were just looking for a charity. We knew food banks in Sydney needed a lot of help, as they do today, and it just started there. Bev, who runs a food bank in Sydney ( Elder was fantastic in helping promote the show,” Bentall said.
It includes not only Bentall, but a long list of other musicians with deep ties to the Canadian music scene and Bentall himself, including his son Dustin Bentall and his band The Blue Wranglers, and daughter Jess Niedermayer and her band Wild Honey. “So it’s nice to have them there,” Bentall said. “I have several grandchildren.”
Other performers include Ridley Bent, Matt Masters and Wendy Bird. The presence of Jeff Kelly also means viewers will hear some western spiritual material. “So we’re trying to change some things, but also have some comfort (with familiarity),” he said.
Bentall’s partnership with the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank is not the only such initiative. He also helped raise funds for Classroom Champions, which connects Olympians and Paralympians with schoolchildren, and the Potluck Café Association, which helps people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Bentall is currently touring Western Canada and his upcoming three-night stay in Sydney is a rare luxury. So where did he find his local Zen?
“I always enjoy a breakfast or two at the Third Street Cafe,” he said. “I always take my bike and go for a ride. We kind of get used to the show, pack up and move on to the next town.”
For more information, visit splfoodbank.com/barney-bentall-the-cariboo-express.
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