Our Dad thought this would just be a story to pass on – but the following spring – who showed up on the chimney (not Santa) but Wilbur and this year he even brought a mate to share in the feast – how special now there was two.
Every Christmas tree in the Dundarave Festival's has a story to tell. The Edmonson's Family Tree tells the true story of an uncommon friendship.
By Debby Fjoftoft
The first part of our story is “Grannie’s Bear”. Teddy Bears held significant meaning for our Mom Betty. In 1987 Betty was hospitalized for 50 days and made a “miraculous” recovery. While in the hospital, we hung a poster full of bears. All of her surgeons, doctors and nurses came to visit her, with tears of joy and amazement, of her recovery. They all signed the poster when they visited her hospital room and thus the love of bears began. When our Mom left the hospital – our Dad gave her a gold teddy bear pendant that she wore from that day on – it symbolized strength, life and love. The shape of the ornament is a replica of her special pendant.
The second part of our story is about “Wilbur” the Great Blue Heron.
Our Dad Al loved animals. He and his Wife Betty fed numerous birds, ducks and squirrels in and around the pond at their home in North Vancouver. They named each of the “regulars” – especially Sam the Squirrel - who used to come into their house if the door was left open just looking for the food. One day a Great Blue Heron arrived in the pond and Al was intrigued. So he went out to the pet store and started to purchase goldfish to put in the pond. Well, it worked and the heron came back every day to feed. And so it became a regular trip to Dundarave for the Seawall walk in the morning and onward to the pet store to buy goldfish to bring home for the heron. The goldfish became expensive and the pet shop owner began to become curious as to what Al was doing with all these goldfish daily. Also I guess Al was feeling a bit guilty – being an animal lover and sacrificing all the goldfish and the heron had quite an appetite. So Al knew that he had to change his plan because now the heron came everyday and depended on our Dad for food. And of course, like all the others, Al knew that he needed a name – so “Wilbur” he became.
Al began to purchase frozen bait herring for Wilbur to eat but he did not seem to like it at first “Well Betty - maybe it doesn’t seem real being frozen - we need to do something” said Al. So he started thawing it in the microwave and Wilbur seemed to like this. So continued the relationship between Al and Wilbur and every morning upon Al rising from bed he would lean out the window and call “Wilbur – Wilbur – Wilbur” and here would come this large bird flying over and would land on the carport in front of our parents’ condo. Everyone was amazed at the attraction between the man and the bird – even our Mom whose microwave now smelled constantly of fish! The first year was fun and when the bad weather came – Wilbur left for warmer temperatures. Our Dad thought this would just be a story to pass on – but the following spring – who showed up on the chimney (not Santa) but Wilbur and this year he even brought a mate to share in the feast – how special now there was two. The relationship with Wilbur strengthened as Al’s health deteriorated. They met ritually for more than 5 years – amazing all around them.
Al became quite ill and ended up in hospital and daily our Mom Betty would attempt to continue the relationship with the bird. Wilbur would come every day but would not respond to Betty and did not touch the herring she so lovingly thawed for him. Soon Al returned and all went back to normal with Wilbur and the unlikely friendship continued. Al became weaker and could not get down the stairs as frequently as he wanted and Wilbur stopped coming to visit. We were all saddened by this – especially Al. But the Great Blue Heron became a symbol in our lives. Well, Wilbur did return, the day our Dad read his Will and Testament to us, Dad’s heron made a cursory “fly-by” the condo but did not stop for long. He just came to say goodbye and to show respect for the man that looked after him for many years.
Soon Al passed away and his Wife Betty continued to go to Dundarave for daily walks and every time she saw a “Wilbur” at the beach she would feel the presence of her husband and smile for the story she had inside. We had a bench installed under their favourite tree at Dundarave.
15 years later my mom Betty passed as well and the bench was renewed and her name was added to the plaque. My parents love of family and friends was so strong and always included so many individuals who maybe did not have a place to go on Christmas (much like the animals for so many years) my parents cared for everyone. The plaque reads “This a bench for friends to rest cause it’s the place we love best – Al & Betty Edmondson & Family”.
So in their honour – we have donated to the Dundarave Festival and its charity “Lookout Emergency Aid Society”. Mary one of the festival coordinators was so inspired by our story that she assigned us the tree closest to our parent’s bench so that we can celebrate the two together. My sister and I lovingly designed, cut and painted each ornament on the tree. Please come down and see the trees they are a beautiful sight to behold and so many have their own special story to tell.
By Gwendoline Allison
It was a glorious day on Saturday, and what better way to enjoy the bright sun than to head to the beach at Dundarave for the second day of free concerts, the Dundarave Nativity and Paddle Song, presented as part of the Dundarave Festival of Lights.
If there was one phrase to describe the day it was “a community in action”:
1. performers, artists, volunteers and service providers, all people from our community, joining together and sharing their skills, talents and histories for the enjoyment of others;
2. performers offering support, encouragement and gratitude to one another; and
3. a whole community raising money to end homelessness in our community.
I arrived as the preparations were beginning. Doug from Wild Coast Productions was there, setting up our longhouse and the sound system for our performers. Tim Lack built a lattice shelter in the gazebo for the Dundarave Nativity, to house that astonishing piece of art while we enjoy its presence on our beach.
Michael, Mary, Sofia, Brad, Tim, Aaron, Bill and Jean, and the Sheppards all arrived to set up the Nativity. The Dundarave Nativity is an extraordinary West Vancouver tradition. Several years ago, master carver Bill Seminoff took on the project of restoring the Nativity. Bill took the original pieces (Mary and the baby Jesus, Joseph, an angel, a shepherd, a king and a sheep), stripped off the lead paint which covered them and refinished them with a paint that will allow our children to touch the pieces.
TimberWest Forest Products, through the generous intervention of Tony Petrina and Paul McElligott, donated two raw logs to Bill to carve new pieces. With Nick Sheppard, they hauled the two tons of soaking wet cedar up from the beach and stored them in Nick’s workshop at Cedar Coast Fence Ltd. As the logs dried out, Bill set about carving three new pieces, a donkey and two kings; and the new pieces are magnificent.
We had the great privilege at the Festival’s second Saturday of free concerts on Dundarave Beach of unveiling the last of the new pieces: a king, Caspar, who has taken his place in the Nativity. Please take the time to come down to the beach and enjoy Bill’s creations.
The Dundarave Nativity and Paddle Song Saturday kicked off with Elder Wendy Charbonneau of the Squamish Nation. Elder Wendy is a direct descendant of Chief George Capilano, who welcomed Captain Vancouver and Captain Cook to our shores. As has become the festival tradition, Elder Wendy welcomed the festival and gave it her blessing. On behalf of the festival, she offered her profound gratitude to Bill Seminoff for his work, and she spoke of her childhood memories of her granny and great granny seeking out nativities to visit with her.
Elder Wendy bade us all “eyes”, which means “peace” in Squamish. She sang three songs, including her world-famous Paddle song, sung with Sister Denise, Elder Wendy’s companion in the canoe. Elder Wendy ended by leading a procession from the gazebo through our forest of trees and into the longhouse where our first band, the West Vancouver Adult Pops Band, was in place and ready to start.
The West Vancouver Adult Pops Band was founded in 1931. Its members were parents of children who played in the West Vancouver Youth Band. The parents decided that they wanted to play music too, so formed their own band. Under their conductor, Tak Maeda, they meet once a week at the West Vancouver Community Centre to play music and enjoy other’s company. The band played a set of well-known Christmas tunes to get us in the mood.
As the band played, other performers came in to watch and support their fellow performers. That continued throughout the day. Michael and Mary Markwick were everywhere, ensuring that the day went smoothly. Sofia and Brad Kennedy worked non-stop, decorating trees and ensuring the lights would come on again, with their trusty volunteer Tyron of the Maker's Body Boot Camp. Staff from Whole Foods served hot soup (Broccoli Cheddar this week – can’t wait to see what’s on offer next week) and hot cider. Staff from the Lookout Shelter lead by the shelter's manager Linda Fox came to support the festival and share their experiences and insight into the problem of homelessness in our community. We are all grateful for the commitment of all our volunteers.
Our next performers were the Lawn Dogs, a bluegrass band from Bowen Island. The Lawn Dogs comprise four friends who gather in their local pub and play music. From their impromptu jam sessions, the Lawn Dogs emerged. They are a fixture on the local music scene and can often be found in the Red Lion on a Tuesday night. For me, bluegrass is an art form that bears witness to lives lived in harsh conditions. It was entirely appropriate therefore to hear such beautiful harmonies while contemplating the harshness of homelessness. It also served as a call to action.
The Lawn Dogs were cheered enthusiastically by our next performers, Dogwood and Dahlia, returning to the Dundarave Festival this year. Dogwood and Dahlia are an indie folk band of three young performers, who play beautiful music (harmonised vocals, guitar, banjo and double bass). They hail from North Vancouver and Langley, and are now based in White Rock. I expect we will hear great things from them in the future. I know I will be hearing a lot from them since my twelve year old daughter bought their CD.
Dogwood and Dahlia sang a set of their own material, and then were joined by local music legend David Newberry. David joined them in playing their music, then Dogwood and Dahlia returned the compliment by joining David in playing some of his songs: a collaboration borne from mutual respect. The four performers sang a gorgeous, soft version of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. I hope to see that recorded in the future.
David, of course, does double duty at the festival. In addition to being a star attraction as an award-winning performer, David also works at the Lookout Shelter as a community liaison.
Dogwood and Dahlia ceded the longhouse to one of the festival’s traditional draws: the Bowen Island Black Sheep Morris Dancers. The Black Sheep are committed performers and supporters of the festival. They have been with us for years, and often perform on multiple days. Once again, the Black Sheep brought their raucous enthusiasm and talent, and showed us just what the Old English got up to during the long, cold, dark winters. They will join us again on December 22.
The concert closed out with Wednesday at Ernie’s, a large band of local performers. Like our opening performers the West Vancouver Adult Pops Band, Wednesday at Ernie’s is a collection of parents of past and present West Vancouver Youth Band members. The parents rightfully thought their children should not get all the fun, so they formed their own band. About 28 of them had us all dancing at the beach as the Christmas tree lights came on at dusk.
All in all, our day was one of our community gathering to appreciate our talents and to support one another. Our day was made better by our funding from Heritage Canada. That funding is vital to our ability to provide a shelter for our performers and audiences in the Dundarave Festival Longhouse and Dundarave Nativity Pavillion, our amazing sound system and a small honorarium for our performers.
Most importantly, throughout the day, we continued to raise funds for the Lookout Shelter. The shelter staff were busy taking donations from performers and spectators, and as the festival wound up for the day, we were inundated by people asking how they can donate. The answer is online, at this website, and on the next two Saturdays at the festival itself.
I know what I will be doing next Saturday. I invite you to join me at the beach at Dundarave for another day of free concerts.
Without a Festival like this, we couldn't have a 'society'.
By Michael Markwick
It was a bold goal, to commit the West Vancouver Centennial season of the Dundarave Festival of Lights to "end homelessness joyfully."
I first noticed him as we set about the final preparations for the kick off of the Dundarave Christmas Fair, a monumental task made effortless by the Festival's stalwart friends at Wildcoast Productions. He was soaked through to the skin and huddled away from the rain under what coverage the concession building at Dundarave Beach allowed. The sight of him stopped me in my tracks.
There were joyful teams of people just down the slope from us decorating a record 100 Christmas trees, everyone of them playing a role in the work of ending homlessness. Families, community groups, a strong contingent from Capilano University's School of Communication, businesses all busily at work despite the rain, some with golf canopies and ample supplies of hot chocolate.
And this man, having slept on the beach the entire night, was a world away.
A seventy-five year old woman had been sleeping through the autumn on Ambelside Beach. Our friends in the West Van Fire Department advise us there are people sleeping in the remote reaches of Lighthouse Park, deep in Cypress Mountain. The Lookout Society's North Shore Shelter reports more and more of our elderly friends and neighbours, the people who built our community, and increasing numbers of young adults, the people who are the future of our community, are turning to the Shelter for help. We do not have accurate data about housing insecurity of families on the North Shore, but there is evidence to suggest women and children are particularly vulnerable in the event of violence and abuse.
If the trees were not being decorated that day, and Dundarave Beach had been left desolate for the rains to claim it, this man might not have survived another night of exposure. But as he doodled on a newspaper and the trees were decorated below him, four staff from the North Shore Shelter arrived to put their best foot forward in the Festival Longhouse. They went up to the concession stand to talk to our friend. He had no idea the Shelter existed. Within half an hour he accepted their offer of a bed in the Shelter and a drive to it.
Later on in the day, and I had not told him about this turn of events, Mayor Mike Smith spoke in the Festival Longhouse. "Homelessness is a problem in our community," he said "and we are committed to working together to end it."
The trees in this season's Dundarave Festival are spectacular in their own right. But what makes this Festival unlike any other is the depth of humanity, the courage and joy they represent. The Christmas trees in this season of the Dundarave Festival, unlike any other in its twenty-one year history, individually and in a centennial forest shine with the glowing heart of West Vancouver at 100.
We'd never pick favourites, but special mention has to be made here of the colossal heart of that colossal community choir, Burstin' With Broadway. Their online cyber tree is shining with over $1400 (and counting) in charitable donations to the North Shore Shelter.
Their donations add to the over $125,000 the Dundarave Festival has raised over five seasons for the North Shore Shelter. This funding has allowed the Shelter to double its transition support staff, tackling an area for which there is no funding from the federal or provincial governments. Because of the generosity of communities like BWB, and all of the Festival's tree sponsors, the homeless in our community now receive more intensive, foscussed and successful support than they have ever received before. When you consider the fact that it costs taxpayers between $55,000 and $135,000 a year to keep someone on the street, using the Dundarave Festival's Christmas trees to help people find secure housing and healthy lives is the right, just and beautiful thing to do in so many ways.
To borrow the words of one BWB member, we could not have a society without festivals like the Dundarave Festival of Lights. Click the "SHOW YOUR LOVE" button to visit our secure online donation page. Share the love; you will receive immediately a charitable tax receipt by email, your donation will go straight to work in ending homelessness joyfully.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.