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Bands, free barbecue lined up to celebrate Hope’s resiliency during natural disasters

Organizers hoping those stranded in Hope last November will come back to enjoy more hospitality
The Vancouver Traveling Band poses with other participants in the Hope Brigade Days parade in 2018. The band is back in Hope on May 14 for a community celebration. (Photo courtesy

When Hope faced its biggest disaster last November, the community didn’t buckle under the pressure.

Residents opened their homes, their kitchens and their hearts to those who were stranded by the mudslides, and to those who were in need.

And now the time has come to celebrate that community resilience together. Everyone is being invited to take part in a free community event on May 14 in Hope Memorial Park.

It’s being called We Are Hope, and is a day of events and entertainment to thank the community, and to celebrate it.

Lori Isbister, president of Hope Brigade Days, says the idea came about when they heard from the Vancouver Traveling Band following the multiple disasters in Hope last fall.

They called and told her they would like to put on a free show for the town, after hearing in the news all about what Hope had been through.

The Vancouver Traveling Band has been in the Brigade Days parade in the past, including the most recent one, and they wanted to do something for the town that has always hosted them.

“Then we (the board) brainstormed to put together an event,” Isbister says. Pretty soon, it was all taking shape. The Hope Lions will be there with a free community barbecue, sponsored by Save On Foods.

The entertainment and barbecue will all start at 12:30 p.m., with a kick off from the Vancouver Traveling Band on the bandstand.

The Harrison Highlanders will perform, as will the high school band and other groups. The night will end with a performance by Appaloosa, and the headliner for this year’s Brigade Days will be announced on stage, too.

There will be some surprises through the day, too. And for those who want a little more than barbecue, there will be a few food trucks on hand, too.

A vendor’s market is also in the works, and there is no cost to vendors for a table.

Isbister says people can bring down their lawn chairs and blankets for the grass, or walk through the park and take in the atmosphere.

“We just wanted to make sure it was free for everyone,” Isbister said. “The whole concept was to make it free, for us and for everyone coming.”

They are hoping that people who live in neighbouring communities will take it as a welcome to come back and visit under better circumstances. But it’s also going to be a day to remember that when it seemed like everything was going wrong, the people of Hope came together to help each other.

With everything going on, including empty store shelves, people were still smiling and saying hello to each other, she said. Businesses were giving away free food, even walking pizzas around to people stranded in their cars. People opened their homes, and jumped up to volunteer at the emergency shelter.

It’s that community spirit that makes Hope a great place to visit and perform, says Harry Peterson of the Vancouver Traveling Band. He said they are all eager to get back together and play, but adds that the group is also a long time group of friends who enjoy playing together.

“We actually pull in from about 65 musicians,” he explains, and most gigs will see about 20 to 25 of them attend. That means every member plays more than one instrument, and they are all adept at switching it up depending on everyone’s availability.

It helps that their catalogue is filled with crowd-pleasing standards, he said.

“Most of our band members have not played since 2019, so we are all trying to get our chops back,” he laughs. And since the ‘traveling’ band pulls from all over the province, they don’t even rehearse together. Most of the members have other bands they perform and rehearse with.

For the Vancouver Traveling Band, doing a gig beyond Hope is a weekend affair. They’ll stay overnight, spend time together over pizza and Chinese food, drop into a Legion or seniors hall along with the gig, and then all head home again.

“It’s a weekend away with good friends,” Peterson says. And since they play for free, they put any money that is given to them into a kitty for the band to help with instrument repair or buying music.

He said watching musicians coming back to life after the loss of so much entertainment during the pandemic has been heartwarming for him.

“The faces of the musicians just lit up,” he says of one gathering. “And my smile was literally ear to ear.”

He also is personally moved to want to bring that joy back to Hope.

“On a personal aside, my family was flooded out of Hedley in 1948,” he says. “I still have the first aid medical box, given to my father. It is inscribed “Canadian Red Cross” B.C Flood Aid 1948.

“I have enormous empathy with the tribulations of the towns of Hope, Princeton, Merritt etc. My band is eager to follow up on our parade participation in Hope, and offer a bit of normality.”

READ MORE: Free pizza brings smiles to people stranded in Hope


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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