Concert lends a hand to local food bank

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 08:23 am

Okotoks musician John Fraser is one of several performers playing at the Okotoks Acoustic Christmas Food Bank Benefit Concert in the Okotoks United Church on Dec. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m.
Okotoks musician John Fraser is one of several performers playing at the Okotoks Acoustic Christmas Food Bank Benefit Concert in the Okotoks United Church on Dec. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m.
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turning to Okotoks this month to give back to an organization that came to her rescue years ago.

Former Okotokian Renay Eng-Fisher, with the Calgary grass group The June Bugs, is one of several musicians who will perform at the sixth annual Okotoks Acoustic Christmas Food Bank Benefit Concert Dec. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m.

“Many years ago when my kids were really small and I was a single parent at the time somebody put my name in at the food bank and they delivered a wonderful basket to me,” she said. “Now I’m giving back.”

Eng-Fisher has been giving back for six years. She is one of three organizers who get numerous foothills and Calgary musicians under one roof for an acoustic Christmas concert to raise money for the Okotoks Food Bank.

Also performing are Carolyn Harley & the Davidsons, Darren Johnson, Dwight Forseth, Greg Black, Jim and Lynda McLennan, John Fraser, Lady C, Lizzie Hoyt, Lucky Sonne, Mel Wilson with the Hamiltones, Paul Rumbolt, Rob Hollis and Fred Mallett, Samm Smith, Sheep River, Steve Fisher/Cedric Blary and Tanya Ryan.

In fact, Eng-Fisher initiated the fundraiser six years ago after years of performing in a similar event in Black Diamond to raise money for the Oilfields Food Bank.

“I did the first one six years ago at the RPAC,” she said. “It was -35 degrees and I thought nobody was going to come to this and we had a full house.”

With the help of fellow musicians John Fraser and Ed Sands, along with various businesses and organizations in Okotoks, the acoustic Christmas concert grows stronger every year.

With herself and her husband Steve Fisher, host for CKUA Radio, both in musical circles across southern Alberta, it wasn’t a challenge finding musicians willing to perform in the charity concert.

“We go to different folk clubs and hear these people who are local and think, wow they are really good,” she said. “We reach out to them and tell them what we are doing. Most of them say, ‘I would love to.’”

The concert showcases a wonderful variety of musical genres from country and grass to roots and jazz. The common theme is they all perform Christmas and winter-related music, said Eng-Fisher.

“Each performer brings something very special to the night and when I get a chance to be able to listen and watch them they just really deliver their song in the spirit of Christmas and I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I’m really happy and fortunate that I get to schmooze with all of these guys.”

Each year, more people mark the concert on their calendars, she said.

“Word of mouth has reached the masses and said, ‘This is a great concert,’” she said. “The people who are performing are first rate.”

What is especially heartwarming to Eng-Fisher is how so many organizations and businesses come together to cover all costs associated with the event so all money raised from ticket and food sales goes to the Okotoks Food Bank.

“We’ve got wonderful volunteers,” she said. “It is a real wonderful community thing. We still know a lot of people there.”

Okotoks musician John Fraser, who is in charge of marketing and ticket sales and is also performing, said the concert really evolved the last six years.

“We started six years ago in RPAC and we outgrew that the first year and moved to the Anglican Church and outgrew that and moved over to the new United Church when it became available,” he said. “After six years it’s got a really good reputation. There’s a lot of Calgary people who come down to this as well as throughout the foothills region.”

Fraser attributed the success of the concert to the calibre of musicians who perform each year.

“Most of these people do this for a living so it’s pretty high quality stuff,” he said. “There’s a fair bit of original material.”

The amount of money raised each year grows. Last year was a record-setting event raising $12,000, he said.

Money raised this year won’t be going to food hampers. Fraser said it will help the Okotoks Food Bank pay down the interest-free loan provided by the Town of Okotoks to purchase a new location in the business park. A collection will also be taken during the concert for those wishing to contribute more.

Fraser said the charity event is something the food bank has come to rely on.

“It’s a fairly significant contribution in that if we were to evaporate they would have to look elsewhere to get that money,” he said. “We just feel it’s a good fit and it’s been well supported. It’s for a great cause and we all love music.”

Tickets are available in Okotoks at Royal LePage Foothills, the Okotoks United Church and Okotoks Sobeys at a cost of $20 per person and $5 for children under 12. Concert goers are also asked to bring a non-perishable food item.

Many of the performers will have CDs available for purchase during the concert on both evenings.

To learn more about the concert or the performers go to www.okotokschristmas.com


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