Campbell River, it’s Not So Bad, and Elevate Arts Festival



An Ideal Lunch Spot is the Ideal Cafe

I have had to go to Campbell River quite often due to my temporary full time job and it turns out it’s not a bad little town after all. It’s maligned because of it’s economic condition (the mills closed), but it is sweet-by-the-sea and it has a pretty decent strip mall Thai restaurant called Imagine Thai (the Tord Mun Moo is to die for). The Comox Valley doesn’t have a single good Thai restaurant and as a Thai food lover that is hard on me. Campbell River also has an vintage diner called Ideal Cafe that serves milkshakes, and it’s authentically retro—like, it’s been there and that way forever, a relic from another time.


The Market Seen from Discovery Pier

I also went to Campbell River with Kevin Flesher, Comox Valley Poet Laureate, and his business partner Mark, because  I was helping them make some promotional material for their new Legendary Tour company (I ended up not getting great pictures for their rack cards and they rejected the logo I made for them, so in the end I wasn’t much help after all. Onward.) But first Kevin’s alter-ego, Captain Thunderpants, had to do a show at the Campbell River Farmers’ Market, which I had been meaning to check out. It turns out it’s more of a craft market than a food type deal, at least at this time of year, but I did buy a giant bag of spinach from the culty farm-to-table restaurant people for a mere $3. I went on and on about how reasonable that was and later when I walked by their booth again I saw they had changed the price of giant bags of spinach to $4. Haha! I have eaten at their restaurant in Chilliwack a few times and once in Nelson but whenever I try to go to the one in Courtenay it is closed.

Captain Thunderpants

Captain Thunderpants being Slightly Blurry (I was having focus issues that day)

The Campbell River Farmers’ Market is at the foot of Discovery Pier which is T shaped and you can rent fishing poles and fish off the dock. It also has a tiny little aquarium you can have a tour of.


Giant Copper Stills at Shelter Point Distillery

Captain Thunderpants is a good entertainer but maybe not the best at time management so the tour stops on the way home were rushed. We spent a little time at the Shelter Point Distillery which is an incredibly beautiful facility, with indoor water features and giant copper vats. The spirits were tasty, too! We also stopped at Coastal Black Estate Winery, but it was pretty much like every other vineyard  I’ve been to, so while it was nice not a lot stood out about it. You can sit in their courtyard and look at birds in a big cage if you have more time than we did.

Elevate Rockets

Setting Up Rockets at the Entrance to Elevate

Elevate Marching Band

I’m Starting to Suspect the Golden Honey Second String Marching Band is Following Me Around

When I got home I took the little girls swimming at the lake and after I dropped them off I went to Puntledge river to join some Elevators decompressing after the Elevate the Arts summer festival. Step was heavily involved with Elevate as a board member and volunteer but due to my job all I did was some karaoke in the alley. Despite having the worst technical difficulties ever it went okay. It was the usual karaoke phenomenon where it was hard to get people to start and then hard to get them to stop. The rest of the festival was really enjoyable. There are vendors and entertainers on the street and there are inside venues as well. Everything is free admission because the mandate of the festival is to be accessible. I listened to Jon play his accordion while I made a collage at the collaging station (collage is really popular around these parts). To me it felt like the day when Cumberland came to Courtenay and hung out. The volunteer meals had a DJ and Projectionists, and there was Pop-Up art gallery show of Ed Varney‘s collection titled “The 80’s Called, They Want Their Art Back” which featured a lot of A Walk Is…artists like I. Braineater and ManWoman. (I had a solo show at A Walk Is…pretty much annually but there was none of my stuff, or Marta Pan’s, or Teresa Henri’s,  but there was one Jan Wade piece so the show really had that genuine ’80’s feel to it). I enjoyed seeing art and artists I had maybe forgotten about like Mandad‘s crazy silicone animals and David Ostrem‘s whimsical comicesque paintings. The space felt like an ’80’s style gallery space too.

The 80s called

An ’80’s Art Gallery Experience

Even though I wasn’t really a driving force for Elevate this year I went with Step to the debriefing meeting. I was planning on being the BBQer but there was a lot of food left from Miners’ Memorial Weekend and BBQ wasn’t needed, so I just hung out on the beautiful beach with the beautiful people and felt beautiful. Elevate yo’self!


Post Elevate Beauty

Bonus Picture:

Elevate Collage

Collage I Made While Listening to Jon

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Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees


The Queen and Her Drones. Photo by Cindy Foley.

I’m am still smoking busy with my temporary job but I really wanted to help with Elevate, which is a local, accessible arts festival that Meaghan and the rest of the Elevate the Arts Society spearhead every year in Courtenay. I thought sign painting would be a good fit for me so I spent one afternoon doing that in Meaghan’s back yard. There were a lot of kids around who wanted to “help” so it was sort of half making signs and half craft camp for kids but the idea of Elevate is to be inclusive so having the kids paint signs really fits in with their mandate, and really, how important is it that the hand painted sign isn’t too messy?


Melissa Makes Signage

Also a part of the Elevate festival is May Long Weekend Market Day in Cumberland, which is a lot like car-free day in Vancouver but without the Roller Derbies. I was in the mood to shop so I bought a “Republic of Cumberland” t-shirt from the museum and also a knit scarf and a crocheted necklace, which I totally love, even though it looks kind of fancy for me. I wore for it to the Flesher’s first annual after Market Day BBQ. (Now that we have been here for a year we are finally getting invited to a party here and there. I don’t know what it is about the Village, maybe it’s an opposite-of-the-city kind of thing, but we hardly get invited to any parties, even though we do a lot of socialising). The BBQ was fun. The Golden Honey Second String band did some marching around and around the house. I was really tired from my job so I went home early and missed the drunken singing around the fire.


The Village is Crowded for Market Day


Cathy has a Market Day Open House

Parade Day! The Village, for some unfathomable reason, changed the perhaps offensively colonial name of “Empire Days” to the equally perhaps offensively colonial but less colloquial name “Victoria Days” (Step and I suggest we could just change the name to “Parade Day” but the idea got no traction). Anyway, the Parade is a really Big Deal in Cumberland and people from all over Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast come to see it.



A Water Spirit and some Forest Fairies Prepare for the Parade.

The parade is preceded by a fundraiser for the Cumberland Community Schools Society, Thunderballs, or, as I like to call it, THUNDERBALLS. This is an event where a long track is placed between first and second street, and then a big drum at one end releases thousands of golf balls and the first ten golf balls to make it to the end of the track win. You can “buy” a ball for $5, or get 5 balls for $20. Last year the second prize was an impact wrench, but this year most of the prizes were cash. Sean Sullivan, esteemed Village Councillor, hosts Thunderballs and he warned people if they touched the balls they would be disqualified and kicked out of the Village. Then the balls were released (and 3 came out early); watch the video I took. I laughed at least $20 worth.

All the mayors of the towns ride in the Parade in fancy vintage cars, and there are Shriners in little tiny cars, and a mechanical camel. The Mayor of Cumberland, Leslie Baird, decided to go on a bike instead of a car this year, which is really progressive.

Lisa Wilson Robin Parade

I am Like a Bird. Specifically a North American Red Breasted Thrush. Photo by Lisa Wilson, I think.

I didn’t see the parade this year because I was in it. The Cumberland Community Forest Society usually has a gaggle of people dressed as animals that just walk down the street, but they decided to make a more cohesive presentation this year, which they called “Swarm take the Empire”. This was a bunch of mini “Forest Fairies” which were the little kids, followed by a flock of birds that were, well, flocking, and after that the crown of the parade display which were shirtless men dressed as bee drones carrying a golden litter with a very pregnant Queen Bee on it. It was a real show stopper. I was in the flock of birds and I could hear the parade watchers delight in a wave behind us as people caught site of the Queen Bee. That was followed by the Golden Honey Second String Marching Band, who I think just needed someone to attach to in order to be in the parade, although Dan did wear a bird mask.


A Real Show-Stopper!

Cathy made most of the CCFS costumes, but I took a risk and made myself a Robin costume. (The last two times I made animal costumes they burned in two separate fires. I only ever wore that fat bear costume once, drrrr…). Robins are very drab birds and I would have liked to make my costume better but as I have so little time I just did what I could. It turns out I enjoy dressing as a Robin and being part of the bird flock, but my arms do get tired from all that flying.


So the Swarm Did Take the Empire. Photo by Bobby Herron.

Yesterday I found out The Cumberland Community Forest Society won best overall paraders! I didn’t even know there was a contest. Go, CCFS!


Post Parade, Vig and Melissa Relax in the Park.

Also in the parade is a disproportionate number of pipe bands. Like, I’m talking at least 4 pipe bands and probably more. The parade ends at the big park where bleachers are set up for the mayors and the pipe bands march back and forth in front of them, then there’s a kind of creepy crowning where a teenage girl is made May Queen or something, and then kids dance around may poles (I really like that part). There were food trucks and I bought a piece of chorizo sausage with bacon wrapped around it for $2. There are a bunch of rides and sno-cones for kids and they can roll around in a a giant ball if they want to. We hung out and watched a juggler and then we watched Kevin Flesher, Comox Valley poet Laureate, do a Captain Thunderpants show, which is a show for little kids but I laughed because I have a fundamental sense of humour.


Children of the Maypole. Photo by Kevin Flesher.

Most people do not watch the kids’ shows but instead follow the pipe bands and they go from drink hole to drink hole and play pipes. We popped by Cumberland Brewing Company and had a pipey drink and then one at the Cumberland Hotel. Check out this amazing young piper I videoed at CBC! I don’t know his name but he was good:

And now to end this post I will share with you this picture of a picture that was taken, I think, about 10 years ago on Denman Island, which I believe was a “family photo”, and that I noticed on Cathy’s shelf during Empire Day. I am wearing the Queen Bee hat in it!

Denman Island Family Photo

Denman Island “Family Photo”


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Some Art and Beans


Andy Smith in front of his Phoenix wall scuptlure.

This morning I had a little spare time and I thought “I should update my blog”. Usually I go through pictures I took to remember all the things that have happened, but today there were very few. I have been working a lot of hours and that gets in the way of participating in village life.


Cumberlanders Enjoy Art

I still managed to do a few short things. There’s a collective of wood based artists here called Wood Vibe Tribe who had a show called “Knot Again” where I did a bit of volunteer bartending. I asked for the early shift so that I could just hang out and enjoy the event after, but I was so tired I left kind of early. The gallery, Studio B, always does their opening right, with very good snacks and a fire in the back yard space. It was nice to see some people and it was just really getting busy by the time I went home.


Angelo Discovers We Both Like Video Games.

I like all of the art from the tribe but the works of Andy Smith are my favourite. A lot of his works are geometric forms reminiscent of Celtic Crosses or mandalas. Sometimes he makes more representational shapes like hands and trees. Yes, he makes wood sculpture of trees. For this show he made the most elaborate piece I have seen from him, a phoenix rising from the fire. I can’t afford his work but luckily you see a lot of it around the village so no one is deprived of Wood Vibe Tribe.


Man and Husky Stand in front of a Custom Andy Smith Wood Sculpture at Cumberland Brewing Company.

Step joined a marching band and they played at a local benefit we went to and also in the May 1st “parade” for International Workers’ Day. It was more like a mock protest than a parade, with some speeches by labour activists in the Village Square and then a march down “Main Street”. The only thing kind of paradey was the marching band and Kerry was dressed in an all pink outfit and pranced around the band. The village had blocked the street to traffic, but being Cumberland people just drove around the pylons and used the street anyway, so the paraders had to watch out for renegade cars.


The Golden Honey Second Line Marching Band in the International Workers’ Day Parade

The parade ended at the Old Age Pensioners’ Hall for the annual “Bean Supper”, which commemorates the coal miners’ strike of 1912. The striking miners were made to leave their company houses and they all then squatted at “Striker’s Beach” for the winter. I guess the government was worried they would starve or riot so they gave the hungry strikers a boxcar of beans, nicknamed “Big Strike Beans”.


Cumberland Gathers for a Bean Supper.

The Beans were pretty tasty but Meaghan lamented the lack of pork in them. This was the first year the beans were all vegetarian rather than having also a meat option. The strikers probably had no pork so the beans were more historically accurate, in a way. Also featured was some musical entertainment with songs about labour history and a reading of “The Ballad of Ginger Goodwin”. There’s a lot I don’t know but I’m not convinced the play was entirely accurate. It also ended rather abruptly with “and the 8 hour work day was born”. I think it must be kind of hard to write anything about Ginger Goodwin because so little is known about him.

funeral of Ginger Goodwin

The Funeral Procession for Ginger Goodwin, about Whom Very Little is Known.

As a person interested in labour history, I enjoyed the Bean Supper very much. It was Cumberland Old School Cool.

So that’s pretty much all I have been up to besides work. I did go to Gold River which is beautiful but I was really busy that day and got no pictures. Guess I’ll have to go back.


Gratuitous Picture of Pink Flamingos at Cumberland Peace Park.

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The Village is Alive with the Sound of Music


Lisa took this selfie picture but I love it so much I have appropriated it. Look at Cathy rubbing her hands with glee!

Actually, a lot has happened since the last time I blogged. It’s not that nothing happens here, it’s just that I got a temporary full time job as a desk jockey and, while it’s kind of fun so far, it’s kicking my ass, and I haven’t had a lot of discretionary time to to post.

Singplosion 2016 Outlines

Singing in the Name of Art!

Lucky Village Enterprises (that’s us) helped the Cumberland Culture and Arts Society raise some public art money by co-hosting a karaoke night with them: Singsplosion! Which was half a regular karaoke night and half a karaoke contest. Kevin Flesher, Comox Valley Poet Laureate, had the idea to class up the stage in the Masonic Hall by using a little money from the CCAS fund (they have not been very active the last few years but have a fairly healthy bank account). First we took the fridge and compressor off the stage, which was a great start, and then Aelia directed the transforming of the stage into a classic black box. Later that week, she sewed curtains and a valance. The plan was to build a thrust stage but the same week the City of Courtenay bought The Bridge nightclub (alas, poor The Bridge, I knew you not) and they had a fixture sale so Kevin just bought a thrust stage off of them. It wasn’t the height we envisioned but it was cheaper and less work so that made it perfect. Jon painted it black to go with the stage.


Danilelle, our “Karaoke Waitress” looking Lovely on a Lovely Stage.

The Masons let us use the hall in exchange for giving them the bar, which was a total win/win for us, because even though we lost potential profits, running the bar is a bit of a PITA. (It turned out the Masons had a really good time and invited us to do it again sometime). The karaoke was a multi generational affair. Some of the older people off the Village arrived even before we were open and they wasted no time getting the karaoke going, and by karaoke contest hour there were all sorts of people there and I believe we may even have been at capacity. The contest was judged by me, Kevin , and Sean Sullivan, our esteemed Village Counsellor. We had a lot of judging criteria, but none of them had anything to do with singing ability. Everyone who entered got a prize, and the top three got Fabulous Crocheted Mics by Aelia. I hope to win one of those someday!


A Bushel of Kate Bushes.

The next day I wore all red and participated in a Kate Bush flash mob dance in the Village Square. It was Cathy’s birthday and her dream and she made it happen. I am very much a klutz and I only had time to attend one rehearsal, so I danced in the back. I think by the last repetition I got the chorus moves down. Many people participated and even Ahmad danced, so it was pretty special. It could happen again someday. We all enjoyed it, people who couldn’t attend lamented, and it turns out it’s a global thing. There’s video around and Step plans to edit one so when that’s done you will see it here.


Snackin’ after the Dancin’.

You can tell it’s spring here in Cumberland. There is a tiny lake a few blocks from where we live, in Kendall Adventure Trails, and the sound of the frogs at night is deafening. Also, we have seen fawns in our yard. No crickets yet, but our cat Whitey anticipates them. Last year her nightly routine was to catch one and let it go inside the house, where she would hunt it to death. Cats, we think they’re cute.


Kate found this Frog or Toad in our Yard

You know what else you see a lot of around here? Children without their parents hovering over them. Yes, free range children, it’s so refreshing! It’s not that it’s particularly safer here, but as Yaya explained it, you can always just ask around and find out where your child is. It seems so sane.


Can You Tell They are Besties?

Even though we are far too busy to entrepreneur right now, we went On Deck at another #WeAreYQQ business development workshop because it was pre-scheduled. The other business on deck was Ivan’s Truffles, so we teamed up with our “give” by making chocolate martinis with some of Ivan’s amazing chocolate sauce. I garnished them with lady fingers. I bought both packages of lady fingers at the same time at the same store, and the second package was stale, which I didn’t notice until I cleared them up later. To me, that’s a disaster! I think maybe only 5 or 6 drinks got sent out that way, but it’s a lesson on quality control. If you serve stuff you have to taste it constantly. No wonder chefs never have meals, they are too full of quality checks.


Drinks for Ideas.

Kerry turned forty, and wisely used that as an opportunity to get people to travel all the way to her beach front house in Comox. It was a toga party! Well, she called it Aphrodite’s Temple. Kerry sure throws a good party. The highlight for me was the burning of her Hope Chest in the yard, but first she got us to fill it with things we wanted to let go of. I can’t remember what I wrote so I guess it’s truly gone! There were also good snacks and her Greek meatballs were better than mine by a long chalk. To avoid drinking and driving Step and I slept in our van and in the morning we had coffee on the beach and received a free air show as the snowbirds were in town and practicing at the nearby Comox airport.

High Priestess Kerry

The High Priestess Birthday Girl

When I was a little kid my family lived in Comox and we owned land on that beach and the idea was to build a house and live there, so having that morning on the beautiful beach was bittersweet with the melancholy of what might have been and the magic of the lovely moment happening all at once. Then Kerry made a delicious breakfast of Eggs Florentine and happiness, and more people showed up and it was good.


A Comox Valley Moment.

As I am working so much I am trying to not do as many community gigs but they’re so hard to resist and I would be sad to not do them at all. This weekend I ran the bar at the Cumberland Community Forest Society Trivia Night and we had planned to have a bar team, because I love trivia!, but we were way too slammed to do that even a little bit, which was salved by my thought that we made quite a bit of money at “drinking for the forest” night. Now the CCFS can buy Space Nugget!


(I don’t know who took this picture of) Villagers Answering Trivia Questions for the Forest!

And bonus Cumberland News:


We Have an Arcade Now!








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Ye Olde Heritage Week


Old Timey Cumberland Firetruck

Chinatown Diarama

What Historic Cumberland Chinatown May Have Looked Like

It was Heritage Week in the Village which means there was a Heritage Faire at the CRI, that had some interesting stuff such as old telephone books you might find family in (I did) and this great diorama of Cumberland Chinatown. I think I mentioned before Cumberland used to have the second largest Chinatown in North America, and recently, finally!, the Government of British Columbia recognized it as a Provincial Historic Site, but far too late, I’m afraid, as none of the buildings are left except for Jumbo’s Cabin, and all the artifacts have long been scavenged and plundered. You can walk around the site and there are plaques saying what used to be there, and Cumberland Museum has a large archive of photos from that time. If I haven’t mentioned it before I’ve been meaning to, and I will mention it more as the blog rolls on. Anyhoo, these people made the diorama all of stones from the area and there are real coal chunks which kids keep stealing from the diorama so they have to replace them all the time. Those kids are going to get another lump of coal in their Christmas Stocking!


Ye Olde Geese of Cumberland

Also seen was a model of the Number 6 mine, which was right in the centre of the village and is the #6 Mine Park now.


The #6 Mine when it was a mine.

There was some Brazilian cross stitching, some Medieval Cosplayers, and dancing by Simorgh, Persian Dance Collective. We could only stay a short while, so we missed a bunch of stuff.


Simorgh, Persian Dance Collective

Later, I had to go do some fancy cocktail catering, so I missed the Cumberland Lantern Parade, but Step went and took some fuzzy pictures. The video by Fox and Bee Media captures it well, though.

Lantern Fest

People Headed to the Park to Free Some Lanterns

Video by Fox and Bee Media.

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A Cumberland Valentine

Someone heart bombed the Village for Valentine’s Day, I know not who (although people have their suspicions, plus, somebody told me who it was but I don’t know the person and I’m bad at remembering names. And even if I did know, I would not tell. Heart bomber, your secret is safe with me). This is an annual tradition and some of the hearts have been used many times. When we walked through the Village later that night, the hearts were all gone.


Start, in the Name of Love.


Frelone Feels the Love


Follow Your Hearts.


Free Love on on the Free Love Highway, Just Ask David Brent


It wasn’t Meaghan. She didn’t do it.


Frogs Write the Sweetest Things


Love’s Bewitching Odour.

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Robin 5-Oh


Thanks, Gas ‘n’ Go, I’m famous now!

I turned 50 and while I kind of wanted to ignore that, it occurred to me I would turn 50 no matter what so I was okay with Step organizing an extravaganza “Amaze Day” for me. I didn’t think so many people would travel from Vancouver to help me celebrate but my friends are super-troopers and quite a few made the trip. Accommodation options aren’t plenty here, but we do have a very nice Riding Fool Hostel so when our house got full some people stayed there and others used their local “connects” to find places to stay.

Amaze Day

Amaze Day!

Ahmad cooked a stew of chicken and plums and we had a long table dinner at the Abbey on Friday, mostly for visiting friends and a few close locals. Shout out to the Masonic Lodge for filling in some of the gaps of our needs, such as more chairs and cutlery, and the Waverly for a cooler of ice and the CRI for being willing to supply ice but they couldn’t because their ice machine was being maintained and therefore empty. You know how I feel about bag ice (negative). After a lovely dinner we went by the Cumberland Hotel and did some karaoke. Pierre kept saying “I love this place!”, meaning, I think, the bar, and Stan and Matt did an exceptional duet to “Under Pressure”.

Matt and Stan Under Pressure

Matt and Stan show grace Under Pressure

On Saturday most people visited Mount Washington for a nice sunny snow day and the rest helped clean and set up for round two, the Amaze Day party. There was a Variety Show and Esther hosted by having me for a Fireside Chat between acts. It turns out Cumberland Has Talent. There was Poetry! Stunt Knitting! Singing and Guitar Playing! Voodoo Dancing! Sloth Comedy! Accordian! Even Koko showed up and fried me a banana, which was super flattering as you never know when Koko will appear or how she feels about anything in general. After the talent show we had a Dance Dance Party Party with flashing lights and a fog machine and Step DJed songs from my coming-of-age. That lasted ’til about 4am.

Koko Cooks Banana

Koko Cooks a Banana

Acordian John

The World Accordian to John


People made nice food for my birthday, too, and Stella made me lemon bars.

We had to get up pretty early on Sunday to clean up the Abbey, and I may have been still drunk, or just high on life + tired, but it was a pretty chill day all in all. Most folks headed back to Vancouver and we hit the White Whale for the culmination of their Poutine week. I had poutine and seafood chowder (healthy! That is sarcasm, if you can’t pick it up). It was delicious as always.

Dance Dance Party Party

Dance Dance Party Party with Flashing Lights and a Fog Machine

So yeah, I made it! I made it! And I felt loved, and I love my friends, old and new. Now I will always miss one place, because when I am here I will miss my Vancouver Peops, and when I am in Vancouver I will miss my Cumberland Peops. But like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. says, “so it goes”.

Peops on Mount Washington

Vancouver Friends visit Mount Washington

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