Feature Story                                                                                          Thursday December 22, 2011


Singing For Someone Else's Supper

Valdy and the CP Holiday Train raise $3000 and a ton of comestibles for the Agassiz Food Bank

Craig Hill/Voice photos


Folk music legend Valdy plays in Agassiz on board the CP Holiday Train.


he 13th annual Canadian Pacific Holiday Train rolled across Canada making merry from Montreal to Port Moody while collecting donations for local food banks.


This year, Canadian folk music legend Valdy was aboard and it was Agassiz’s turn Saturday to host the upwardly mobile minstrel and friends on the train's second last stop before the finale in PoMo later that night.


As show time grew nearer, a pilgrimage of eager fans filled Pioneer Ave. ambling toward the music Mecca parked just up the tracks across from the Ag-Rec building.


There, the silhouette of a man holding a guitar appeared between railcars. He leaned back and twisted the tuning pegs, quietly focused, disregarding the buzz around him.


“Come on over here,” he said extending a palm from the dimness. His thick, stout hand and strong grip were deceivingly more like that of a farmer, than of a guitar picker.


“It’s been fun, it’s been healthy, it’s been all the good things,” he said when asked about the trip.


Valdy reminisced about travelling the trains quite a few times as a youngster before setting out on his grand adventure alone in the world.


“When I went to school, and then I took it back and forth a couple of times on my own, but this is the most extensive time I’ve ever been on one,” he said talking about the 3-week magical mystery train tour. “Three-weeks in one bed, unbelievable.”


“If you’re a dandy in the city, and rugged if you moved back to the land, what are you on a train?” I asked.


Valdy laughed and stroked his neatly-trimmed beard for a moment, his bright blue eyes lighting up. “Say, that’s a good one.” He paused for a moment before going through the stage door. “Fluid,” declared the legend. “I’m fluid.”


Over the decades, fans may have seen him in the ‘70s at Folk Festivals in BC and in Alberta like at the Wild Rose Festival. In the ‘80s they could have seen him play at the ritzy Queen Elizabeth Theatre or the Commodore Ballroom, a venue steeped in history.


Agassiz Community Services Exec Dir. Heidi Trautmann accepts a $3000 cheque from CP for the food bank.


Perhaps they may have seen him play at the down-to-earth Soft Rock Café on 4th Ave., or they may have just run into Valdy on Robson Street, where he might’ve fed your horse apples, like the writer of this article. The free concert in Agassiz was the definitive treat for fans to see one of Canada’s greatest talents in a unique rolling venue, a first for the iconic folk singer.


By show time a couple of hundred people formed a semi-circle on the grass in front of an odd looking boxcar with a steel door-like attachment on the side.


Suddenly, the Christmas carols on the loudspeakers stopped, and then reminiscent of the Friendly Giant drawbridge coming down over the moat, the side lowered and out from the smoke and kaleidoscope of lights stepped a musical giant.


Community Employment Services director Wyles Rowan told the Voice that Agassiz Community Services director Heidi Trautmann created the Youth Inclusion pilot program 3-years ago and they had volunteers in charge of collecting the food Saturday with a table at the Ag-Rec Centre.


“Our Youth Inclusion Program is organizing this and the hot chocolate is for free and people come and donate money and food for the food bank,” said Trautmann over top of  the music. “It’s a really great event.”


Trautmann said that other communities down the road like Maple Ridge and Port Moody needed to have their shows during family hours and that’s why Valdy’s show was earlier in the afternoon .


“This was the first time at 2 o’clock, so I was a little bit worried about the turnout and we wouldn’t have the people coming.”

But she was happy the downpours stopped and there was a fair-sized crowd that made it out to the mini-concert.


Trautmann was hopeful this year that they may surpass the previous donation mark high of 2000 lbs. set during the 2010 Christmas food drive.


Newly elected District of Kent, Agassiz Mayor John Van Laerhoven who sees himself as a people’s mayor was indeed there enjoying the people and the festivities.


“It happens every year, and people come out, they bring the kids, they bring their various donations, we get a whole bunch raised for the food bank and its all part of Christmas here,” he told the Voice prior to the show.


Like many there that day, Van Laerhoven admitted to being a Valdy fan “from way back”.


“I remember putting his albums on very often and I was actually digging around in my crawl space this morning trying to find one of those albums for his autograph, but I couldn’t find it.”


One happy fan did manage to get Valdy to sign his guitar.


Later, Trautmann and Van Laerhoven took the stage to receive an oversized cheque from retired CPR employee Dave Greenaway (as Santa Claus) on behalf of the CP Holiday Train in the amount of $3000.00 made out to the Agassiz-Harrison Food Bank.


Agassiz-Kent Mayor John Van Laerhoven.


A few jigs and a couple of reels later and Valdy’s half-hour set became another memorable performance.


Accompanying him were popular Canadian country performers Tracey Brown and husband Randal Prescott from Family Brown fame. Together the trio belted out seasonal favourites including a ditty Valdy called a “Christmas Rap” song.


The crowd seemed to be waiting for the one tune that everyone knew the words to.

“Not too far from here is a place called Aldergrove” where he ran into a rowdy crowd who didn’t care for his brand of music.


"I was rejected by that audience so I went home and wrote a song about it,” he said.


On the first note of the song, dozens of arms shot up and began swaying until the entire euphonious crowd was paying homage to the legend and his music.


In return, he played for them a rock and roll song.


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