Dundarave Festival's Bonfire Night Rallies 250 Performers to End Homelessness

700 Hour Labour of Love Brings a New King to Old Growth Cedar Nativity Carvings

WEST VANCOUVER, Dec. 15 /CNW/ - www.dundaravefestival.com - On Saturday December 18th, 2 pm to 9 pm, families, Morris dancers, firefighters and realtors, community choirs and youth orchestras, and Master Carver Bill Seminoff will gather at West Vancouver's spectacular Dundarave Beach to answer homelessness at the Dundarave Festival of Lights.  Their aim is to see a forest of Christmas trees lit with 50,000 lights and a 10 metre high bonfire raise $25,000 for the Lookout Emergency Aid Society's North Shore Shelter.

"The work of the Dundarave Festival of Lights is to gather the resources and talent of our community to end homelessness beautifully," said Festival spokesperson Michael Markwick.  "We are seeing a depth of commitment that we've never seen before, from every part of our community, to make sure no one is left out in the cold."

Over the past two Christmases, the Dundarave Festival of Lights has raised $50,000 in charitable donations to the Lookout Emergency Aid Society.

The Lookout Society has used funds raised by the Festival to build the North Shore Culinary Training Program under Chef Don Guthro.  The program gives employable skills to its trainees, allowing people who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless the power to find and keep dignified employment.

Now in its nineteenth year, and one of the oldest coastal Christmas festivals in Metro Vancouver, the Dundarave Festival of Lights crowns four Saturdays of free concerts with its Christmas Wassail and Bonfire Night.  The Festival's Society, through the generous support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, is streaming over $30,000 in new funding to support school and community performing arts programs.

The Festival's Christmas Wassail and Bonfire Night this Saturday will feature headline artists including Laurell, fresh from winning best new album at the 2010 Western Canadian Music Awards, Blackthorn, and the 100 voice strong choir Burstin With Broadway.  The Beach House Restaurant, winner of Wine Spectator Magazine's "Award of Excellence", will be serving up soul warming mulled wine on its ocean front terrace, with all proceeds to the Lookout Shelter.

The Dundarave Nativity, life-sized carvings in old growth red cedar, remains at the heart of Dundarave Beach where it has been every Christmas for at least two generations as a witness to the reality of homelessness in our community.  Carved by an unknown artist, the figures have been restored since 2005 by Master Carver Bill Seminoff.  This year, Seminoff spent 700 hours carving a new king for the nativity as a labour of love, because he could not make peace with the presence of only one king in this setting.  Seminoff is at work now carving a third king for next Christmas.  He is using 2 tons of salvaged old growth red cedar, a gift from Timberwest Forest Products.

Demand on the Lookout Emergency Aid Society's North Shore Shelter is only one thousand bednights behind its counterpart across the harbour in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.  Homelessness is growing on the North Shore.

Seniors are now being hit hard by the economic downturn.  Lookout reports eighty-year-old North Shore residents have started turning to the shelter for help this year, a first in the shelter's history.

"The Dundarave Festival of Lights is helping all of the members of the community to be a part of the local solution to homelessness," said the Lookout Society's Executive Director Karen O'Shannacery.  "Together we are giving homeless women and men what they need to become healthier, have a warm bed, regular meals and the support of trained staff.  Lookout provides a pathway off the streets and into homes, including employment and life skills training necessary for a permanent exit from homelessness."

The Festival attracts an estimated 65,000 people each year to its Christmas trees on Dundarave Beach.  Elders of the Squamish Nation blessed the Festival's Longhouse and Nativity Pavilion.

At 5:00 pm Morris Dancers will lead an eclectic recreation of a 2010 Games Torch Relay to light the bonfire.  The bonfire is provided through the generous support of the District of West Vancouver.

Carol ships sail past Dundarave Beach at 7:10 pm Saturday night.

SOURCE Dundarave Festival of Lights

For further information:

Michael Markwick, 778-847-1426 markwick@sfu.ca
Twitter #dundaravefest, Facebook: Dundarave Festival of Lights

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