One of Maple Ridge’s premier festivals is having a special welcome for seniors.
The Maple Ridge Caribbean Festival is set for Aug. 1 and 2, and this year will add a Sunday afternoon program aimed at some of the city’s more seasoned music audience.
“We’re trying to attract everybody – every segment of the population,” said organizer Deddy Geese.
He will be sending special invitations to seniors homes, to let them know about a Sunday afternoon gospel music performance that should be of particular interest to seniors.
Tropical Heat steel drums will kick it off at 1 p.m. for an hour-long show.
King Fish Limbo will be next on the seniors program at 2 p.m., with a half-hour limbo performance, featuring a Jamaican fire limbo dancer.
Next up will be the Vancouver-based VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir – a 130-member choir whose six-part harmony gets an audience on its feet. They do classics like “Let the Sun Shine In” and “Bridge over Troubled Water.”
People of all ages take joy from soulful music, said Geese.
“When you see a whole park standing and clapping, it’s truly moving.”
The show’s promoter had the VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir booked for 60 minutes in the past, but has expanded their show to 90 in 2015 – he’s completely impressed with them.
The last part of the seniors entertainment schedule will be a steel drum performance by the Vancouver-based band Phase III.
Geese said the steel drums will take seniors festival-goers back to their days of cruising through the Caribbean.
Geese added that the festival’s move from downtown’s Memorial Peace Park to the Albion fairgrounds this year should be a benefit to seniors. Most seniors homes have a bus for group outings, and the seniors’ buses will be able to easily access the new Albion location for convenient drop-off and pick-up.
“They’re always looking for outings, and this is a perfect opportunity,” said Geese.
Special parking lanes have been reserved for all retirement and senior homes.
Also, TransLink is operating busses from Haney Place Mall to the Albion fairgrounds every two hours on Saturday and Sunday.
The festival’s special invitation to seniors comes in a year when Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are participating in a provincial initiative known as Seniors Engaged, Energized and Collaborative. It is one of 28 communities which have been supported by the Ministry of Health in promoting an Age Friendly British Columbia.
The program is designed to support strategies to help seniors stay mobile, physically active, socially connected and healthy.
Geese wants to send that message to seniors with his festival.
“We haven’t forgotten them, we appreciate them, and we’re doing things for them.”
Geese is one of the founders of the Caribbean Festival, and has watched it grow from 500 people in its first year an estimated 18,000 last year. It has outgrown the downtown core, and the parking at Albion will be help.