In June I attended a Backstage @ the Border concert with klezmer band Millie & the Mentshn at Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Blaine, and I thoroughly enjoyed the small venue and the relaxed atmosphere of the concert.
There was much milling about before the concert, during intermission, and after the performance, and because the ensemble plays many dance tunes, we even danced in the church!
I was happy to meet Susan Thomson, the organizer of the series, because she and I had corresponded for years via email about the series, which is run by what's primarily a volunteer group.
Every second Saturday of the month, there's a gathering that features acoustic musicians and appreciative audiences from both sides of the border. Proceeds from the donations benefit residents in Blaine and Birch Bay who need assistance with food, utilities, lodging and other needs.
The Community Assistance Program is housed at the church. A collaborative effort by volunteers, civic organizations and churches in north Whatcom County, it's administered by Jerry Williams. The church manages the utility assistance vouchers, gas vouchers, short-term housing and Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, supplying furnishings to those who need it.
St. Martin's Clothing Bank provides clothing, and Birch Bay Food Pantry and Blaine Food Bank are also part of the service network.
Some of the musicians who've played at the church include Rattletrap Ruckus, Matt Rehfeldt, Jean Mann and Amber Darland.
The next concert is at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 13, with the Original Song Doctors.
I asked Susan how the series began, and here's what she wrote.
"When my partner, April Eaton, and I moved to Washington and joined Christ Episcopal Church in July 2010, we wanted to start a concert series patterned off the one we helped with in Santa Barbara.
We formed a committee at the church with volunteers for each part of Backstage @ the Border: the door, the raffle, baked goods and coffee, the booking, setup and cleanup, etc.
Because CAP uses our church space for administration of its programs, we see first-hand what the (growing) needs are in the Blaine/Birch Bay area and we have so far only given the money to CAP. CAP has an established system to help meet the needs of the community. If we were to give it to some other organization, it would be a group decision.
On a personal note, April and I moved here to retire. We found a great house in the woods and it's like a dream come true for me. Fortunately, we both love the rain and seasons.
I worked for the City of Santa Barbara for 30 years and retired as water treatment superintendent. April worked for the German-based company BEGA lighting for 20 years. We were in a five-person band in Santa Barbara area, Last Call, for the 15 years before we moved. We played country/country rock for many different venues in the central California coastal area.
I actually miss it a lot ... but not enough to start a band here. Backstage takes that space now. April and I will celebrate 20 years together with 10 years officially married (in Canada) in October."
DRIVE-IN, WALK-IN, BIKE-IN MOVIES COMING TO BIRCHWOOD
Doug Borneman of Bellingham's Epic Events, which presents the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema Series each summer on Saturdays at the Village Green, tells me that for two nights this summer moviegoers can relive an experience not seen in Bellingham since the closing of the Samish Twin in 2004.
On Friday, July 12, and July 19, Bellingham's Birchwood Neighborhood will host drive-in movies in the Park Manor parking lot in front of Big Lots and Albertsons near the corner of Birchwood and Northwest avenues.
The first year of the Friday night drive-ins will feature "Grease," and "Wreck it Ralph" on July 19.
Events are free of charge and open to the public. Movies will be projected onto a 40-foot inflatable screen, and audio will be transmitted by FM signal so you can listen in your car. There will also be outdoor speakers for people who walk or bike to the show.
The Birchwood Drive-In Movies are sponsored by Park Manor and Birchwood Neighborhood Association, at birchwoodneighborhood.org. Equipment is being provided by Epic Events.
Details: 360-733-2682, epicevents.us.