- Created on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 14:26
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By SHEILA PRITCHARD
“The communal support is amazing.”
Last Saturday, local artists and musicians came together at the Blue Star Restaurant in Welland to rock out and raise funds for the 12 people left homeless by a devastating King Street fire on Jan. 16.
Erik ‘Skelly’ Crate, an organizer of the event and guitarist for headlining Niagara Falls band X Days Left, was “amazed” by the response from the community.
“The fact that the back room is packed – we are only 15 people from max capacity, we had 115 people come in and out of here so far – it’s absolutely amazing.”
Crate’s brother Jason ‘JC’ Crate was one of the tenants affected by the fire at the former King Street Colonial Hotel building.
JC says although he is still emotional about his traumatic loss, he is overwhelmed by the show of support from his family and friends.
“This all caught me off guard and it’s still surreal. It’s so amazing how much is being done for such a good cause.”
Renee Plentai, who owns and manages the Blue Star with husband John, says it was important that the restaurant be involved with the fire benefit event.
“It’s a catastrophe in our neighbourhood. It’s our community.”
Maryanne Houser has worked at Blue Star for eight years and says the restaurant is the first to step up and help the community however possible.
“As long as I can remember the Blue Star has always been there to help people in the community out. It’s Welland, we’re part of its history so it’s a big deal for us to be involved in something that can help our community.”
In addition to X Days Left, other Welland and Niagara-area musicians and bands performed, including About Tyme, Danica Bucci, The KaC Himself, Ur Girlfriend and Battered Egos.
Eric ‘Jukebox’ Strohak, lead singer of Niagara Falls’ About Tyme, says he jumped at the chance to play the fundraiser show.
“Lots of people watch the news and they see things happen to people day in and day out.
“We’re really close with a lot of the bands here tonight, so when we got the call saying people needed help, we jumped in because, hey, we like to have a good time and while we’re having a good time, we get to help people out. It’s great.”
Kris Collver, aka The KaC Himself, says to see so many people come out was “unreal”.
“There’s a lot of love, a lot of support. The bands have rocked, everyone’s coming together. Events like this, there are no fights, just good times.
“But, not just your average bar night good time — there’s no drama, everyone’s winning awesome prizes, and everyone’s having a good time.”
The Black Lantern Experience artists donated art pieces for auctions held throughout the night, while several local businesses contributed for various raffle prizes.
Dave Bags, a visual artist from Welland who came to film the event and support his friends affected by the fire, says he thinks live fundraisers are more successful than just soliciting donations.
“When you get people together for something like this they’re more social, more likely to spend money. They’re out, they’re having a good time and they know what they’re buying and spending is all for a good cause.”
The event brought in almost $800, while hundreds of dollars more were expected from other fundraising initiatives, totalling at least $1,100.
Crate says joining with the Red Cross and Hope Centre has been crucial for helping the fire victims.
In addition to money donations, items such as furniture, clothing and food have been collected.
“Welland is a great city. When it comes to something like this, a community really pulled together.”