Tucked away on a property just north of Jackman Wetlands, hundreds in Aldergrove gathered dressed in retro styles and bopped along to live music – all for a good cause.
Aldergrove Music Festival’s fourth year was unlike any other before it.
The fundraiser, which for the past three years packed into local restaurants, was held on private acreage among rolling hills on Saturday.
Families camped in motorhomes, tent trailers and vans amongst the property at no cost.
“It was a natural amphitheatre,” event founder and Aldergrove resident Joel Brown said of the valley where he and fellow musician David Rust, built the stage.
“We also built 1,500 feet of fence for the festival,” Brown explained. The grass was notably 7 feet tall before they and others got to work.
Once finished, festival areas were decorated with woven wind catchers and tie-dye tapestries by “the wives of the band members,” Brown added.
In total, the festival raised $10,000 for the BC Children’s Hospital, whose mission has a special place in Brown’s heart.
Brown was born with aortic stenosis.
“It’s what they call a leaky heart valve,” and required open heart surgery days after he was born at the Children’s Hospital of Toronto, where he and his family lived until he was 5 years old.
After relocating to Aldergrove, the Brown family made trips to BC Children’s Hospital for what he described as “10 hour days” that included examinations to ensure his heart was in good shape.
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Now, 31, and a folk musician, Brown entertained the crowd which grew in numbers as more and more locals poured in – 260 being the final count.
“We feel great about the turnout, everything went perfectly,” Brown said.
Two other Aldergrove residents helped organize the event – Wes Brightman, 29, and Landon Gillies, 28 – who had their own reasons for supporting the cause.
Gillies was born with “a hole in his heart,” which required trips to BC Children’s Hospital.
Others who purchased tickets and donated Saturday have felt the brunt of life-threatening medical conditions to their young loved ones.
Local resident Shelly Bligh and her husband Jeff were accompanied by their two daughters on stage. They retold their journey as parents of a sick child at BC Children’s Hospital.
“April 18, 2011 our son was born unexpectedly. I was 26 weeks pregnant. We spent 30 days at the women’s hospital (a part of BC Children’s) where our son Bentley stayed,” before passing away due to lung complications.
“The people, nurses and doctors there were amazing,” Bligh said.
Bentley, who would have been eight years old, now lives on “as an angel” through the fundraising efforts of the family.
In the years since, the family has garnered over $15,000 in donations for the hospital.
“You don’t really know the impact the hospital has had until you’re involved with it and meet others impacted,” Bligh finished.
“Tons of people have been impacted by BC Children’s in Aldergrove,” Brown corroborated.
Many of them came of the woodwork when they heard the reason for the festival, he said.
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Over the last four years, the concert series has raised over $20,000 to help children battling serious health struggles at the B.C. hospital.
“It has been a huge group effort, with tons of volunteers who worked so hard to make this happen,” Brown added.
Brown’s mother Amanda, and father Ron, manned the raffle ticket booth. His brother Scott emceed the event, introducing the various bands and speakers before they rocked the stage.
The music lineup included Brown himself, Aldergrove resident Justin Koshman, as well as Nik Jacobs who came back to town from Vancouver Island where he currently lives.
Six-piece rock band Tracy Bosch headlined the festival along with the Brass Camel, a psychedelic, funk and rock ‘n’ roll band led by guitarist Daniel James.
Other performances included bands Ambrosia Smoke and Whiskey Raven – a mish-mash group Brown throws together every year for the festival with four other musicians.
“We’re doing this again next year and we’ll continue to make it bigger,” Brown assured.
Those interested in volunteering or making a donation can contact Brown at JoelBrown998@gmail.com.