The Vancouver Island Tribute Festival is coming back to Parksville May 25-27, and organizers have some surprises in store to celebrate five years of music and fundraising.
“When we started off year one, we didn’t know if we’d get through year one, so to reach our fifth anniversary, yes, it’s awesome,” said Sharon Schienbein, one of the four founding members of the festival, and a main organizer.
The event began after Schienbein and three other ladies attended a tribute fest on the mainland, enjoyed it and thought the Island needed its own tribute festival.
Taking on the task, the four women realized they are all cancer survivors, and decided the festival could be a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society.
In its first three years, the festival raised more than $17,000 for the society, before choosing to support the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation last year to pay for one of Nanaimo hospital’s new CT scanners.
In total, the festival has raised more than $27,000, and will continue to raise money for the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation this year, said Schienbein, who added she hopes to raise $10,000 with the event. The money would go toward purchasing medical equipment, including some for Oceanside Health Centre, she said.
Festival organizers have focused on bringing in big headliners, and in general having shows a bit shorter than in previous years, said Schienbein, focusing on quality over quantity.
Nonetheless, there will be many tribute artists performing over the course of the three days.
Those include several Elvis tribute artists, including Aaron Wong and Ben Klein, who will finish out the Saturday evening performance with a production number of Elvis in Hollywood. Tyler Cody is new to the festival, and is also taking on the role of the King, but as young Elvis in the Friday evening show.
“He performs the 19- to 21-year-old Elvis… that’s about what age he is, and he has the energy. He’s going to really get the Elvis fans in the crowd moving,” Schienbein said.
Another stand-out addition to the show this year is Curtis LaBelle performing as Liberace “with his white Baby Grand piano and his costumes and all the bling and everything you could expect from Liberace.”
Headlining the Friday evening show is The Beatles Experience from Argentina. They’ve performed at the Vancouver Island Tribute Festival before.
“They were a huge hit,” said Schienbein. “In fact they were voted fan favourites of the whole weekend.”
“They are awesome, excellent entertainers… For any Beatles fans, they really should make a point of trying to get to see these young men.”
All those performing at the festival have their expenses paid, but are performing for free, said Schienbein.
“These tribute artists, underneath the glitz and glamour, they are all fans of the tributes they’re performing. They’re really big fans with really big hearts, and they perform these tributes for a fundraiser like this for the hospital free of charge.”
“That just blows me away,” said Schienbein.
“I think they are fabulous people to get involved this way.”
In addition to Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening, there is a Gospel show by Ben Klein on Sunday morning at 11 a.m., as well as the Parade of Stars (a mini tour with convertibles and the tribute artists) at 11 a.m. from the Quality Resort Bayside to Coombs and back through Parksville.
There’s also a raffle, with first prize a trip for two anywhere WestJet flies, and another prize of a local helicopter ride for three people.
Raffle tickets are $10 and can be purchased from festival organizers, or at the festival.
Tickets to the festival itself range in price from $20 for the Sunday gospel show to $114 for a weekend pass. They can be purchased at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre, at Cranky Dog Music or by calling Forest Coach Tours at 250-248-4525.
The festival takes place at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre (132 Jensen Ave. East) from Friday, May 25 to Sunday, May 27.