Monday, July 02, 2007

Not Bad For An Old Gal, Eh?

Just before April Wine took the stage, Dianne Watts looked out over the sea of some 60,000 faces and yelled, "Hey! Surrey! Do we know how to throw a party, or what?!" And the crowd went nuts.

One hundred and forty years old yesterday. That was Mama Canada. So, one of her daughters...Surrey, (at a mere 128 years old) threw her one helluva birthday party! And it went on for thirteen hours or more.

I gotta say right off the top that I'm one of the biggest cynics you'll ever meet/read. If government does it, I expect to see them screw it up every time. But lemme tell ya, if your city intends to do any kind of community celebration in the future, and you want it to run smoothly and hassle-free, tell them to get hold of Surrey City Council and get the blueprint for this one. Higher praise I cannot offer.

I hit the edge of the park around 9:30 ayem and kicked off my shoes. I stayed barefoot (and safely so, despite the horror stories about "needles" and "doogy-poo" with which mothers around me were scaring their children who wanted to do the same) for the next twelve hours. My feet got royally filthy, and it was when I was scrubbing them in the shower after I got home that I found out they got royally sunburned, as well! Red and white (well, pale, anyhow) are the colors of the day? Right wit' ya, guv!

I turned one of my staves into a flag pole, and carried the dual flag around with me all day. Got quite a mixed bag of reactions to it. Lots of people couldn't figure out what it was, and some of them asked. A very few people -- mostly young turks -- challenged my "right" to bring anything American to the celebration. And one guy, at the end of the night, told me flatly that what I "did" to the flag was an insult and disrespectful to the flag and should not be tolerated. Some of my fellow babies are not very nice people. On the whole, though, the reaction was a smile and a nod. I gotta give full attaboo, though, to the guy who carried around a Canadian flag with a hockey stick for a flag pole, and wearing Team Canada's hockey jersey in all that heat!

One of the biggest little open secrets (in other words, it wasn't advertised anyplace that I could find) was the Seniors' Strawberry Tea. I don't go much for group-by-age thingies, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to be waited upon by a politician. All the Surrey representatives on three levels and from all political parties carried trays of strawberry shortcake and pitchers of tea and coffee. All you had to do was find a seat and snap your fingers -- instant service! The strawberries were fresh. The shortcake was fresh (and it was all supplied by one of the sponsors), and the cream was whipped. And real. Coffee and tea were served from carafes, rather than from big industrial urns. And the service was at your table, with a smile and a willingness that belied the reputation of the profession. Entertainment was provided by a choir whose members were mostly propped up with walkers and determination, singing songs from WWI. Everybody wore red and white. Except for the RCMP Honor Guard, who wore red and navy. Even they seemed to be enjoying themselves!

There were lots of food and beverage vendors. Still, with some 60,000 (that was the projection, coulda been more) people wanting to eat and drink, there were lineups. At least there were lots of privvies, too. One of the sponsors gave away free watermelon, others gave away cloth bags, energy bars, canned drinks, lottery chances, do-it-yourself potted plants for balcony gardens (everything in the bag except the soil). And with a plethora of garbage cans and recycling cans around the grounds, the park was still a mess by the end of the night. Some of my fellow babies are not only messy, they're downright pigs.

Entertainment started for the adult main stage around noon. I didn't pay much attention to the kids' entertainment area, except when I wandered over to catch Kutapira again. These kids were not just alright -- they were amazing! And throughout the day, all events were mostly on time!

I love drums. I love dance. Put them together for me, and I'm happy. The SFU Elite Bhangra Team makes it look soooooo easy.

Danny Sveinson is some kinda prodigy in a youth suit. Only fourteen years old at the time of his appearance here. And he's a local boy, too. We grow talent in Surrey.

Damian Marshall rode in from Calgary to grace the stage. Somebody wanna introduce him to YouTube? Until then, you'll have to take my word for it that he's good. Even if you're not a country music fan.

Karen Lee Batten got the voice that Celine Dion wishes she had. And this video doesn't really do her justice, either. It shows her on an indoor stage. Put her on an outdoor stage, like the one she was on yesterday, and let her strut her stuff. She'll make a believer out of anyone who thinks "Canadian talent" is lukewarm.

Ian Tyson got an entusiastic welcome from the crowd. The first couple of songs seemed to be a little subdued, even for a laid-back country style like his. Then he apologised for having laryngitis, and hoped we weren't too disappointed with his performance. Laryngitis. And he showed up anyway. That's professional for ya!

I'm not a real big fan of jazz or blues, so I really had never heard of Wide Mouth Mason. But they got a roaring reception from the crowd. And somebody on vocals can hit the high ranges purely enough that at first I though it was sustained feedback from one of the guitars!

The Kim Mitchell went for a soda. And the gusto. He brought back some really old tunes, thanks in part to something he called the Trailer Park Boys. Shades of Max Webster ("...are there really people here over forty years old?")!

And then the headliners (who took up more time than anyone else in getting their soundchecks done and their stage set...and they still started almost on time). April Wine. You'd think that after performing for nearly forty years, a group would get tired, get stale, get boring. Or something. Nope. And because they were playing a little longer than any other perfomers, they built in a little break for themselves. All the band members except Jerry Mercer left the stage, and the drum guru treated the audience to a session of drum therapy. What you see on that video link is pretty much exactly what we got. And afterwards, the entire audience was soaked with sweat, panting, and out of breath. Whew!

I'm not much into fireworks, so I didn't stay for them. I needed to find a way through the anticipated crush of traffic (cops had already re-routed all the streets surrounding the park) and find a bus that was not only still running, but going in my direction. I wasn't exactly an original thinker, either. The buses (special runs contracted by the city of Surrey!) turned themselves into huge sardine cans, packed us in, and we passengers got real friendly with one another all the way home...

And the price of admission for this supremely organized and executed birthday bash?

Absolutely free.

Hey, Canada! Does Surrey know how to throw a party, or what?

Oh yeah.


Blogger JeanC said...

Sounds like a fun day :)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

If your Fourth is half as good -- not to mention energetic -- it'll be a day you'll remember the rest of your life...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger JeanC said...

Not around here. It's gotten to where I am seriously nostalgic about the 4th's of my youth. When there were parades and all day fun and then serious fireworks to end the day.

Here in Moscow they had something downtown that involved politicians talking and patting themselves on the back, people saying the pledge and not much else. No parade, the whole event not taking too long, tho I think they were going to have ice cream. No fireworks here either, tho Pullman had some.

Stayed home and played Runebound with a friend and tried to burn down the porch with the little gas grill and burgers :D

Thursday, July 05, 2007 9:17:00 AM  

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