Feature Story                                                                                                                   Tuesday July 12, 2011


And There's Something We Loved About That

Party in the Park perfect  summer fare for the community 



Legendary Bill Henderson performs at the first of eight Party in the Park music festivals at Central Community Park Friday nights through July and August. Below Eddie Gardiner performs his Eagle Vision song to open the event.


rganizers promised a bigger and better Coast Capital Savings Party in the Park this year and on opening night Friday they delivered.


        Eddie Gardiner, who recently retired as a Stó:lō Cultural Director, was the first person on the stage this year. He spoke briefly to the Voice prior to the ceremony saying that he was there to "express Stó:lō appreciation and happiness for a alcohol and drug-free event" and it was his wish that everyone just enjoy the feeling of community fun.

"It's for families, for children, parents, aunties, uncles," said Gardiner of the community It's a fun time, it's a good time for everyone," said Gardiner. "It's an honour that they asked me to bless the gathering."

Gardiner sang the "Eagle Vision Song" telling the crowd before hand that "the eagle is the bird of the east and that's the direction of new beginnings, a direction of hope and optimism and the eagle carries our prayers to the good Creator. So we're going to ask Creator to bless this gathering here today and we're going to say a prayer in Halkomelem, that's the language of our Stó:lō people , welcome to Stó:lō territory."

Kathy Funk took the stage and thanked volunteers telling the audience that it takes a "whole lot of people to put this event together and we have wonderful volunteers that spend hours and hours to put this together, you'll see them in the orange shirts, make sure that you thank them."

Last year, Funk said that Night Market manager, Mandy Watts, had money left over to deal and so the extra funds were donated to Ruth and Naomi's this year to assist with the construction costs of the Mission's new building on Fletcher St.

The mission feeds and houses homeless in Chilliwack and supplies the manpower to help with set-up and take-down of the Night Market weekly.

Funk introduced Ruth and Naomi's manager, Ted Stoker who explained that their organization is a faith-based ministry, operating in Chilliwack for the past 9-years by providing meals and shelter to homeless and low-income people in the community.

"We not only physically feed them, but we spiritually feed them as well, which is a huge blessing for all of us," explained Stoker. "Also, we have the Night Shelter for those who have no place to sleep at night."

"This is our fifth year that we're involved with Party In The Park," continued Stoker. "These are not all volunteers from Ruth and Naomi's. A lot of them are the guests and this is an opportunity for them to give back to the community, so, on behalf of everyone at Ruth and Naomi's we'd like to thank everyone for supporting this very worthwhile ministry."

Ken Popove, Business Improvement Association president, told the crowd that it was his last year at the helm and was thankful for all the efforts of his staff, saying that it was only through team effort they were able to put the event together and showed his appreciation with flowers for his female associates.

Funk introduced their major sponsor, Coast Capital Chilliwack branch manager, John MacLeod, who said it was "fantastic" to see so many at the park for the festivities.

"I see lots of people who seem to be greeting new neighbours, greeting friends, hugging, laughing, giggling," said MacLeod. "This is what Coast Capital loves to do so on behalf of Coast Capital Savings, 1800 staff members, 450,000 members and our 50 branches, we are proud, and I can't say that enough, we are proud to be the major sponsor of this Party in the Park."

Popove also thanked MacLeod saying that "without corporate sponsorship this event wouldn't be possible."

Popular local musician and Party in the Park emcee and one of the event's organizers, Trevor Macdonald, had no problem getting the crowd pumped for the party with "Sports Night" as the theme-of-the-week.

Mayor Gaetz said the Sports Night was about "Team Chilliwack" and thanked the people who helped make it happen.

"I want to take just a minute on behalf of the City of Chilliwack to send this thank you out to all the volunteers who worked so hard to make this happen, to all of the vendors who are out there working so hard."

"I want to encourage each and every one of you, after you're finished here, to take a little walk down Mill St. and Wellington, walk downtown," said Gaetz. "Go spend some money at the shops and tell those people you just love what they're doing here."

There are loads of things to do with the kids at Party in the Park. The Safeway Family Fun Zone had face painting, bounce castles and mini golf. Prospera Credit Union sponsored and hosted "Little Gardeners" where kids learn about potting plants and flowers.

If there was anything event organizers could improve upon are the lineups of parents and kids who have to inch through long meandering lines to get a face painted or a bounce or two in one of the castles. Anything organizers can do to reduce queues would be a welcome addition. They may want to explore the idea of putting the kids stuff behind the safe confines of the fences at the Central School, which has more room for the long lineups that crisscross the park during the event. Sa la vie.

The crowd was entertained by the colourful Acapella Dance troupe, Matt Cheverie a young ukelele star, Chilliwack Symphony, Players Guild, Todd Richard, Hurling Benny's and the Blendurz.

Chilliwack ex-mayor Clint Hames introduced Bill Henderson to the Star 98.3 stage describing the first time he met Henderson about 25-years ago when they were fundraising and looking to local talent to perform.

"Bill said 'absolutely, I'll come out and do that' and he then said 'why don't I donate something so you can auction it off', which he did," explained Hames.

"Then he came out and said a few words, and also I'm not sure if any of you were there, but Leon Bibb was also at that event and they looked at each other and said 'hey we should sing a song', and for those of us that were at that event, having Bill Henderson and Leon Bibb do an impromptu song a capella, brought the house down."

"It was just amazing and I want to personally thank Bill for everything he's done to promote the name Chilliwack and also to promote arts and culture in our community," said Hames.

By the time the legendary musician took the stage about 5000 people had packed the park in anticipation of seeing and hearing one of Canada's national treasures perform.

As the 67-year-old Henderson ran through his repertoire, there were times when he attacked his axe with the ferocious verve and panache of a impresario leading symphony musicians. Other softer, more introverted songs brought the audience up close and personal.

His fingers may not have been as fleet as in his youth but Henderson proved his vocals are still sweet and mellifluous with "Baby Blue" and just as powerful in "Fly At Night" which had the enthusiastic crowd roaring it's approval afterward. It didn't matter that Henderson was a solo act — his voice filled the park as if he had a contingent of backup singers and 4-piece band in tow.

That big, fat, polished sound that's illusive for so many bands, comes easily to Henderson. It's something that can only be honed by decades of performing.

Henderson sang about growing up for a time in Ft. St. John in one ballad and about the genetically modified seed controversy from the Monsanto Corporation in another called "Patent On The Wind" about a famer who was taken to court and forced to pay Monsanto for their GMO seed that had blown onto his property.

Surprisingly, Henderson even covered a Glen Miller song saying he learned it in the library one day to impress someone in his life.

Party in the Park takes place every Friday night throughout summer from 5 P.M. to 9 P.M in downtown Chilliwack at Central Community Park which is located at the corner of Victoria Ave. and Young Rd.

Waste diversion stations will be positioned throughout the park for each event to educate and encourage recycling. Volunteers will be on hand to help people divert the organic materials from the trash.

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