Country musician Brett Kissel raises his hat to the camera-carrying crowd as he sings ‘O Canada’ during the annual Surrey Canada Day celebration held at Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre in Cloverdale. (submitted photo: City of Surrey)

YEAR IN REVIEW: Events that entertained Surrey in 2018

A month-by-month look back at the city’s arts and entertainment scene

JANUARY

With Cascades Casino’s move to end live-music shows at Summit Theatre in Langley, operators of Elements Casino in Cloverdale said they were looking to pick up the live-entertainment ball, so to speak. In January, Michael Worth, who was then just two months into his job as GM at Elements, said the casino’s 300-seat Dragon Lounge could become busier in the coming months. In Langley, operators of Cascades Casino closed the 420-seat Summit Theatre in February to make way for a new bingo hall, as part of the casino’s 23,000-square-foot expansion.

Under new management, the Flamingo hotel property began rocking Surrey again with a Jan. 12 show featuring the bands Slevyn, Sly Detrick, Caustic Sodapop and Landmark 20. The launch gig was among several announced by those who run the venue, which operated in the heart of Whalley for decades before going dormant in the spring of 2017, at 10768 King George Blvd.

Surrey’s two biggest annual events – Fusion Festival and the Canada Day event – were winners at the inaugural Canadian Regional Event Awards Competition, put on by Canadian Special Events Magazine. Surrey’s Canada Day gathering was named British Columbia’s “Most Outstanding Public Event Over $200,000” in 2017, while Fusion Festival was named “Best Public Event/Fair/Festival.”

Fusion Fest 2018 from Blue Pencil Productions on Vimeo.

FEBRUARY

A roster of Surrey-area musicians rocked for one of their own at Delta Lion Pub, where a multi-band benefit concert called “Music For Marion” raised funds for an Abbotsford couple hit by cancer. Marion Hampson was diagnosed with the disease in the summer of 2017, just days after her 61st birthday. Her spouse, longtime drummer Ron Vaughan, 60, has struggled with health issues of his own, after he fell from a truck and injured his back. Sadly, Hampson died the previous week, leaving Vaughan to attend the benefit concert without her.

With military precision, close to 120 students of Steel School of Irish Dance thundered onto the stage at Bell Performing Arts Centre for the Cloverdale-based company’s annual winter show. Megan Largy, an instructor, and studio director Jacquelyn Hardychuk are both former students of the school, founded in 1981 by Hardychuk’s mom, Carol Del Bianco. The school moved into its current home, a fancy, mirror-walled space near Pacific Highway and 64th Avenue, four years ago.

MARCH

Blues guitar player Jason Buie, a former White Rock resident and popular figure on the local music scene, died in Esquimalt. Buie had performed throughout Canada, Europe and the U.S., and shared the stage with a number of rock and blues legends, including Buddy Guy, Jeff Healey, Robert Cray and Taj Mahal.

Surrey Arts Centre’s 50th anniversary was celebrated at a golden gala event that featured music by BC World Music Collective, a large, high-energy “supergroup” that features Vancouver-area musicians originally from Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Africa and London. Surrey Centennial Arts Centre, as it was then known, officially opened its doors on Feb. 29, 1968, with a production of Brigadoon. The facility evolved over the years to include a black-box Studio Theatre and the creation of Surrey Art Gallery in the facility’s north wing.

Debra DiGiovanni, a four-time Canadian Comedy Award winner who’s been called the “best comedian to see after a messy break up,” headlined this year’s “I Am Woman! Hear Me Laff!” event at Surrey Arts Centre, in celebration of International Women’s Day. Also featured were Nic Enright Morin, Alison Ogilvie and emcee Jan Bannister.

The eccentric side of a hockey legend was explored in a show staged by Surrey’s Naked Stage theatre company at Newton Cultural Centre, where Paul McLaughlin’s Jacques Plante and the Parkdale Knitting League was done as an entertaining “reader’s theatre” production. Hockey fans will know the title character as the Montreal Canadiens goaltender who in 1959 revolutionized the game by wearing a mask for protection on a regular basis; he was also an avid knitter.

APRIL

We caught up with Kristal Yee, a Fleetwood resident who has made a career of crafting some award-winning balloon art, in cities around North America, Asia and Europe. She’s a founding member of Canada’s Twisted Team, which earned awards at the World Balloon Convention in San Diego for a “Sorcerer’s Serenade” display featuring likenesses of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Yee is especially skilled at twisting balloons into dresses and other fashion items.

Former NHL tough guy Gary Nylund, a Surrey-born hockey player drafted third-overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1982, learned some new guitar chords at his Cloverdale-area home for the second annual Canuck Country Rocks concert, an April event at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre that also featured performances by Odds, Aaron Pritchett, Shawn Austin, Meghan Patrick and others.

Canadian musician Sam Roberts went acoustic when he headlined Surrey’s 2018 Earth Day event, dubbed Party for the Planet, at Surrey Civic Plaza. The five-time Juno Award winner performed an afternoon set at the day-long festival, presented by TD in partnership with the City of Surrey.

In the world of culinary arts, the menu of Surrey’s newest restaurant focused on “New Canadian” cuisine, at Dominion Bar + Kitchen, located in the lobby of Surrey’s tall new Civic Hotel. The food puts a spin on ingredients and influences from the many different cultures that make up Surrey, according to Darren Pierce, general manager of the restaurant/bar.

Author Michelle Kim aimed to write a book about how wonderful it was to grow up in Surrey, and the result was Running Through Sprinklers, a coming-of-age story published by Antheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of the long-established Simon & Schuster company of New York. While not autobiographical, the book is loosely based on Kim’s childhood adventures in North Surrey. “None of the events actually happened in my life, but it is based on a 12-year-old girl who is half-Korean and grew up in Surrey,” she said.

Bingo players said goodbye to Newton Community Gaming Centre, ending nearly a quarter-century of bingo games there. The facility was owned by Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, the company that will open a new casino in Ladner in mid-2020.

MAY

Performers with Royal Canadian Family Circus returned to Surrey with the company’s 2,700-seat big-top tent, set up in a parking lot at Guildford Town Centre for 11 “SPECTAC!” shows featuring high-wire acts, jugglers, acrobats, stunts, aerialists and more. “Our entourage of circus families from 12 countries have travelled the world sharing their talents with circus audiences on four continents,” ringmaster Joseph Bauer boasted.

Spirit, a local musician, went on a mission to set a record for longest continuous guitar playing – and he did exactly that, in a 116-hour marathon session at Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort, in a bid to raise $10,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. When performing, Spirit is a one-man band armed with a modified acoustic guitar, vocal mics and an array of foot pedals.

Canadian rocker Lee Aaron made the most of a Sunday at Newton’s Music Makers rehearsal studio, where the South Surrey-based musician filmed two videos – “American High” and the Koko Taylor anthem “I’m a Woman” – for a new album called Diamond Baby Blues.

JUNE

A five-course meal prepped by chef Rajeev Arora was served to close to 200 guests during the 2018 Long, Long Table event at Surrey Civic Plaza. The fourth annual community dinner, hosted by Downtown Surrey BIA in partnership with Civic Hotel, offered Cuban flank steak and other dishes.

Surrey’s Royal Heights Elementary played host to Bramwell Tovey’s very last school visit as music director of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, after his 18 years with the VSO. Tovey played piano during a morning concert, a VSO Connects event that brings symphonic music to schools. The maestro was set to retire from the orchestra following its 2017-18 season of concerts – but it’s more of a “re-wirement,” as Tovey called it, than retirement.

At Surrey Arts Centre’s Studio Theatre, kids were in the spotlight during a lively production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, brought there by Surrey-based Young People’s Opera Society of BC. “We wanted to do something that really said we are real, and we are here in Surrey. We are also affordable, and we are good,” artistic director Doloros Scott raved during a show rehearsal at Bethany-Newton United Church.

For a 27th year, Surrey’s 10-day Greek Food Festival filled the area near 96th Avenue and 132nd Street with the aromas of souvlaki, barbecued lamb, calamari and loukoumades, for close to 10,000 people. “We can seat anywhere from 500 to 600 people at any given time here, that’s our capacity,” said Antonios (Tony) Ziskos, president of the fest-organizing group, Greek Community of Surrey and Fraser Valley.

One final skate at the Surrey rink formerly known as Stardust was held on a Saturday night in June. Operators of Central City Arena vacated the building, which they’d leased since 2010. Later in 2018, the building was used as headquarters for a civic election campaign and, more recently, the toy depot operated by Surrey Christmas Bureau.

JULY

Surrey’s big Canada Day event, held in Cloverdale, this year featured co-headliners Serena Ryder and Brett Kissel, along with all-Canadian cover band Toque, Warren Dean Flandez, DJ Flipout, Krystle Dos Santos and others.

Also at Cloverdale’s at Bill Reid Millennium Park, Gord Bamford and The Washboard Union headlined the 2018 Gone Country benefit concert. The annual “Here for the Cure” party aimed to raise a whopping $580,000 for the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice located in Abbotsford.

Surrey’s largest annual ticketed concert filled Holland Park with more than 45,000 music fans during FVDED in the Park, a two-day party headlined by American rapper Future and Norwegian DJ Kygo.

In mid-July, one of the most high-profile movies ever filmed in Surrey opened in theatres across North America. Scenes for the action flick Skyscraper, starring Dwayne Johnson, were filmed at Surrey City Hall Plaza in the fall of 2017.

Headliners Walk Off The Earth stole the show at this year’s Fusion Festival at Holland Park, where 14 new cultural pavilions were set up during the two-day event, billed as “the largest multicultural celebration in B.C.”

AUGUST

A new-to-Cloverdale event called Clover Valley Beer Fest set up for an afternoon of cold beverages and live entertainment at Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre. The event, which will return in 2019, is staged by the Whistler-based Gibbons Group, a company that has produced similar festivals in Whistler and Kelowna.

For local All-Star Wrestling shows, electrician Parm Singh Athwal talked about why he dons a turban and traditional Indian garb as “The Thunder from Jalandhar,” a character he debuted three years ago. “The money I get, I donate to, you know, homeless people,” said the Cedar Hills-area resident, who runs Athwal Bros. Electric.

As part of an art contest, Caesar Hu had his winning work grace a bottle of wine. His painting, of a hat-adorned woman holding a glass of wine and standing in a vineyard, took first-place honours in a “Three Seasons” visual art competition sponsored by Surrey-based Vinoscenti Vineyards and the Arts Council of Surrey. The summer-long contest involved 15 artists.

SEPTEMBER

A new Surrey-based theatre company brought in a boxing ring for its debut production at Vancouver Fringe Festival. Training of the Shrew, a quirky adaptation of a William Shakespeare comedy, was staged outdoors on Granville Island by 1001 Steps Theatre Society, founded this year by Kwantlen Polytechnic University instructor Fred Ribkoff and KPU alumnus John Rowell. “It’s a blast, outrageous and kind of farcical at points,” Ribkoff explained. “It’s a lot of laughs, which has been the goal.”

The “Liquid Landscapes” of Surrey’s parks, beaches and rivers are featured in the latest showcase at the city’s UrbanScreen, on the west wall of Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Whalley. Nicolas Sassoon’s digital artwork aims to capture “the essence of local geography through pixel animations,” inspired by photographs of Redwood Park, Nicomekl River and Serpentine Fen.

Fabric was the focus at Surrey Art Gallery, where four textile-themed exhibits opened in a fall showcase that included “Connecting Threads,” which highlighted a map of Canada in the form of a quilt, needlepoint portraits of French philosophers and a deconstructed men’s suit made to look like a spider.

The creation of Surrey City Orchestra took another step forward with a concert at Surrey Arts Centre, as part of a weekend-long Arts4All festival. The Stuart Martin-conducted orchestra debuted last spring at an SFU Surrey-hosted gala, followed by a performance with Grammy winner Ricky Kej at Surrey Fusion Festival in July.

It was a hot, loud summer at one of Surrey’s newest venues for live music. The Hot Amp Room, at Centric Culinary in Clayton, is a so-called “DIY” music venue that has featured punk, metal, hip-hop and other styles of music since June. The building, at Fraser Highway and 184th Street, is known in heritage circles as Calkins House and Store, built in 1925 as one of Surrey’s earliest stores and service stations.

OCTOBER

Members of Surrey-based Westcoast Harmony Chorus prepped to sing their way to St. Louis, host of Sweet Adelines International’s 72nd annual convention. Close to 10,000 female barbershop-style singers were expected at the big event, including 60-plus members of Westcoast Harmony, which earned its trip to the international gathering after winning a regional competition in 2017.

Newton’s biggest Halloween haunt had ‘em lined up outside Potters’ “House of Horrors” for a month of screams, New York-style. This year’s attraction, first opened in 2003, featured a pair of labyrinth-like walk-throughs as part of a 15,000-square-foot layout.

Surrey-based horror film director Gigi Saul Guerrero once again turned her attention to creating and operating Fright Nights, the Halloween-month PNE attraction that has kept her busy for seven years. “I’m really plain, you know, and just a cheery person,” she said of her career choice as a blood-and-guts storyteller. “I totally understand how people are very shocked by that.”

With the rock biopic Bohemian Rhapsody set to open in theatres, Surrey-based pianists Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann offered a classical spin on Queen’s epic song during their Coffee Concerts series at Surrey Arts Centre, with Borealis String Quartet as guests. Also in October, the “official” tribute band Queen Extravaganza filled Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre in a Sunday-evening concert.

You’d never guess it by their work as adversaries in Arsenic and Old Lace, Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s entertaining production at Surrey Arts Centre, but Michael and Jacqueline Charrois really do like to play together. The 80-year-old black comedy featured the married pair in starring roles – Michael as Jonathan Brewster, the evil nephew opposite Jacqueline’s aunt Martha Brewster, one of the twisted sisters in Joseph Kesselring’s story of murder, insanity and family infighting at a Brooklyn mansion. The play opened RCTC’s 2018-19 season.

At Surrey Civic Plaza, some superheroes went to work on a TV show. Caped DC Comics characters from The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl filmed scenes there for a “crossover” show Elseworlds produced for The CW network. The action included special stunts, pyrotechnics and a large number of background performers.

NOVEMBER

At Surrey Arts Centre, the stage was set for “As Time Goes By,” the 2018 title of an annual show put on by seniors to help much younger performers get a leg up on the cost of a post-secondary education. Members of the Vaudevillians entertainment troupe have sung and danced their way through their fundraising “bursary shows” since 2004 and, over the years, have raised nearly $115,000 to financially support performing-arts students at Douglas College in New Westminster. “That’s a phenomenal amount, especially for a bunch of elderly people,” said retired nurse Judi Georgetti, 71, assistant director of the two afternoon shows.

DECEMBER

North Surrey’s Melvin Medici built an audience with music videos that aim to lampoon life in the city, including “Surrey Theme Song.” The 92-second hip-hop video plays up the “jokes and stereotypes I have experienced in Surrey,” according to Medici, who says his real name is Melvin Voon.

With some hard work and planning, Sami Ghawi said he believes Surrey could be a more vibrant “music city” destination for people to hear and play a wider variety of music. A musician by trade, he’s also a partner in a Surrey Board of Trade initiative created to raise the profile of live music in the city. The board’s headquarters, on 104th Avenue, includes space for a Surrey Music City Centre Office, as part of a co-operation agreement with Ghawi’s FUSIONpresents company.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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