When the Rotary Community Stage was completed in 2016, many people commented that it was too bad the magnificent lakefront facility wasn’t used more than once a week.
One person did more than talk. That summer, Mary Alderson, a Grand Bend-based communications consultant and theatre reviewer, organized a Wednesday night concert with a local band. “We made no promise of payment until we could see what we collected in our donation buckets!”
The following summer, Alderson organized four concerts, using grants to fund the first one, and then depending on donations to cover the cost of the remaining three. “If we’d been rained out, I’d have had a major loss to cover,” she says. The weather gods cooperated, and appreciative audiences continued to grow. The West Coast Lions Club asked Alderson if they could sell popcorn at the concerts as a fundraiser and also helped out passing the donation buckets. Alderson joined the organization and in 2018, headed up a team of Lions to manage the concerts. Wednesdays’ Familiar Favorites, as the series is dubbed, attracted 1000 to 1500 people to each concert.
What is the secret of this success? The allure of good music from the 50s, 60s and 70s, served up with a generous helping of white sand, blue water, and blazing sunsets. Alderson uses acts with a local connection as much as possible, and never hires a band she hasn’t heard. Over the years, one of the highlights has been a concert of musical theatre pieces organized by her son, Thomas Alderson, an actor and director. Thomas has brought outstanding young performers to Grand Bend, including Robert Markus, currently starring in Dear Evan Hansen in Toronto, and Tess Benger, who played Sally in the production of Cabaret at the Grand Theatre in London.
The 2019 season will include an exciting act, The McCartney Years, featuring Paul McCartney look and sound-alike Yuri Pool. Pool tours the world with his renowned show, but it turns out he owns a condo on the beach and has often taken in the beachfront concerts from his balcony.
The Grand Bend Community Foundation was a partner in the creation of the Rotary Community Stage and is delighted to support Wednesday Familiar Favorites. “There’s nothing better than sitting by the water listening to wonderful music,” says Chair Penny Nelligan. “We salute Mary Alderson for creating this wonderful opportunity for residents and visitors.”