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Catering to the country-loving crowd

Pemberton Barn Dance returns this summer with biggest musical lineup yet, new venue



What: Pemberton Barn Dance

When: Saturday, Aug. 8, 8 p.m.

Where: Former community centre, Meadows Road

Cost: $35

Couple quality, live music with a stunning mountain backdrop, and throw in a laidback country vibe - the perfect recipe for a successful summertime event: the annual Pemberton Barn Dance.

Paul Selina, past president of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce and a current board member, is the man in charge of the summertime tradition known simply as the Barn Dance. He explained that the event started in the upper meadows, in one of the old root houses, about 14 years ago.

"It was very, very much a community event - just a number of neighbours and friends getting together and just kicking their heels up to live music and having a good time, and we've really tried to keep it that way."

While the event has grown in size, organizers have managed to keep the event's grassroots, country feel, while attracting a large number of people from Whistler, Squamish and further abroad.

The Barn Dance is also a fundraiser for a number of local groups who help organize the event. The chamber takes the lead, while the Royal Canadian Legion supplies a lot of the volunteer bar staff, the Lions handle catering, and Rotary handles the ticket sales and finances. The local soccer association and fire hall also contribute to the evening. The proceeds are split equally between the community organizations.

In total, about 100 volunteers are involved.

"Its quite special, in Pemberton, because it's the only event, really, that brings all the major volunteer organizations together," Selina said.

"We've also gotten a great deal of help from the SLRD this year, which is great to see."

Last summer, the event was rolled into the omnipresent Pemberton Festival, with local performers taking the stage at the aptly named Barn Dance tent. Live Nation, organizers of the massive, three-day concert, matched the profits from previous years' events to the tune of $25,000, to ensure that the community still could carry on with their musical tradition. Selina explained that Live Nation organizers liked the spirit of the Barn Dance and actually offered to include it in their event.

"Believe it or not - I know they had some great musicians - but if you look at the Barn Dance tent, that was where the local people gravitated towards," he said. "Everyone who went there had a super time."

Since Live Nation has opted not to bring Pemberton Festival back for this summer, Barn Dance organizers have returned to their regular model and are hosting the event in the old community centre, which is located on Meadows Road.

"It's very much in a huge field surrounded by mountains, which is pretty much a similar backdrop to the other Barn Dance festivals that we've had."

They're offering up their biggest selection of music yet, with the Vancouver-based band, Appaloosa, headlining, and Sam Field, Pierre Eady and Gordo providing tunes alongside other local musicians to fit the evening of country-rock.

"We've selected Appaloosa because they've played at the Barn Dance before, about three years ago, and they're back by popular demand. Everybody loved them!"

With two stages and bars set up - along with plenty of washrooms - Selina said this year's Barn Dance will be a testament to local musicians' performances at Pemberton Festival.

"We seem to attract some great musicians that like to play music, and there's a natural amphitheatre here, with the mountains that we have surrounding it, and it just seems to add something to the sound when you get in these open venues and play," he said.

"Anybody who has been to the Barn Dance will confess that it's just such a great atmosphere, you can't help but have fun."

The 2007 Barn Dance drew a crowd of about 1,200 people. However, they experienced some serious issues with shuttling people away from the venue after the event, leaving some attendees stranded when there were some problems with their transportation system.

This year, organizers are working with Whistler Transit and Pemberton Taxi Company to offer a comprehensive shuttle service.

"We've had some terrific dialogue with Peter Dijon from the SLRD who has assisted us in putting together a transportation plan," Selina said. "...We've got schedules coming out on the poster, so there are going to be buses from Whistler running late, as well, and it's just normal fare."

They're hoping to attract between 1,500 and 2,000 partygoers and music lovers.

"With the success of the Pemberton Festival last year, we're hoping to keep people's taste buds alive for live music in Pemberton," Selina said.

So, dig out your finest plaid apparel, cowboy hats and boots (sans spurs, of course), and prepare to party down with the Pemberton crowd during this legendary local event! Tickets are $35 at the Pemberton Esso station, Pemberton Valley Supermarket, Royal Canadian Legion, and the offices of the Whistler Question and the Squamish Chief.

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