Wasn't That a Party?

By Vernice Shostal

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Dozens of participants within 12 entertainment acts, exhibitors and around 2,000 visitors congregated at the Senior Living 50+ Active Living Celebration at Pearkes Arena on Friday, March 13 to sing, dance, visit over 140 exhibits, meet people they hadn't seen in a while and generally be entertained.

"Courageous and Outrageous" columnist Pat Nichol, who invited people to tell her about their courageous and outrageous stories, once again emceed the daylong celebration.

Visitors from all over the Island attended the event. Barbara Risto, co-publisher of Senior Living magazine and event host, said the festival had attracted visitors from as far away as Ontario.

The 50+ Active Living Celebration was the premier event of Embrace Aging Month, joining 25 health-focused free workshops available for seniors sponsored by the Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation. "Incorporating art, fitness, education, family, community and wellness into our daily lives leads to a more positive way of life," said Lori McLeod, Executive Director of the Eldercare Foundation.

Admission to the festival was by donation and visitors who contributed $5 or more received a free copy of Senior Living columnist Gipp Forster's popular book, Refl ections, Rejections and Other Breakfast Foods. Senior Living "Bygone Treasures" columnist also on hand to provide free valuations on small, unique antiques brought in by visitors.

To kick off the entertainment, the City of Gardens Chorus and their Sweet Adeline four-part harmony were back for the fourth year in a row. They were followed by Celtic piano accordionist, instructor and adjudicator and fi rst-time performer at the festival, Mary Ross, who played renditions of Scottish, Irish and German music while the audience stomped and clapped to the rhythm.

The all-male voice Grandview Quartet performed for the second year and took the opportunity to extend an invitation to any men, especially tenors, who felt the urge to sing, to join their group, the Arion Male Voice Choir(www.arionchoir.com).

Pleasing to the eye and the ear, the Swinging Strings Ukulele Band, in black pants, white shirts, Union Jack red and blue stockings and red-white-and-blue ribboned turn-of-thecentury white boater hats were followed by the Evergreen Choristers, a singing seniors group from Comox. Having just come from a performance at Government House, the Evergreen Choristers, in their green hats and green outfi ts, added to the number of colourful singing groups at the festival.

Norman Archer, author of "Victoria's Past Revisited" column, was on hand to launch his new book, More Tales of Old Victoria, and to entertain the audience with a story about Captain Walter Grant. The captain was a Scotsman who brought a handful of beautiful broom seeds to Victoria and inadvertently proliferated the Island and part of the Canadian and American Mainland with the obnoxious yellow blossoms. As the tale grew, people gravitated from the exhibits to the chairs in front of the stage to hear more.

Elegantly dressed women in period costumes strolled through the crowds and displays and, fi nally, gathered on stage in the early afternoon for the Heritage Fashion show, where they modelled women's fashions from 1850 to 1960. Each fashion brought with it a commentary and reference to a signifi cant world event in that particular era.

Demonstrations of lively footwork came from dancing groups: the Juan de Fuca Cloggers, Victoria Ballroom Dance Society and VI Western Square & Round Dance Association. Before the program ended, the audience was invited to join the ballroom dancers for a lesson, although some people, enthused and excited about the music and performances, didn't wait for the lesson. Occasionally, couples danced around the chairs or wherever they found space, when the music inspired them.

The M'Toni Malaika Marimba Band, the final item on the program, played vibrant traditional South African music, which visitors loved enough to get on stage to imitate the African dances.

Throughout the day, the Aquaterra Café provided food at reasonable prices. Tables and seating permitted a full view of the performances. Exhibits at the festival included every kind of interest from financial and tax assistance to holiday tours, health and wellness, charity, education, entertainment and fitness activities. At the Book Nook, several authors, some profiled in Senior Living magazine were on hand to offer their books at special festival prices.

According to the greeters, people coming in and out of the building couldn't say enough about how much they enjoyed the day.

"The highlight of the festival is the spirit that comes with it," said Barbara Risto. "When you walk around and see people having a good time, greeting people they haven't met in a while, we feel good about it. That whole attitude makes us feel great that we are able to contribute."

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