Grand Benders love their own Michael Vanhevel and Theresa Wallis
Back on the beach, kicking off the 2019 “Wednesdays’ Familiar Favourites” Concert Series is Grand Bend’s favourite son, Michael Vanhevel, who will be on the Rotary Stage July 3. Joining him will be popular local vocalist Theresa Wallis-Kneale.
Born and raised in Grand Bend, Vanhevel now lives in Petrolia with his wife, Keely and their son Clark. Vanhevel started singing the old crooner hits as a teenager, enjoying the music of previous generations. He sings the favourite classic tunes of stars such as Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darren, or Bing Crosby, following the path of that other famous young Canadian crooner Michael Bublé. Vanhevel has performed across Canada with various orchestras, and has appeared in musicals in area theatres. “But it doesn’t matter where I go, I always get the best response from the audiences in Grand Bend,” Vanhevel says.
Wallis, a hairstylist at Hairbend’rs in Grand Bend, often sings with jazz bands or ensembles throughout southwestern Ontario. “It was so much fun singing on the beach last year. I am excited to be back,” says Wallis. Vanhevel and Wallis will be backed by the Jimmy Stahl Big Band, a 17-piece orchestra. “We do the incredible music from the big band era, with fresh arrangements of big brassy blues and classic jazz standards,” Stahl explains.
The concert is part of the “Wednesdays’ Familiar Favourites” concert series, organized and presented by the West Coast Lions Club of Grand Bend. “We put bands on the stage playing music everyone knows and loves,” says organizer Mary Alderson. The concerts are held every other Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in July and August.
“Michael and Theresa were big hits last summer, so we wanted to bring them back this year. They are popular across generations; we are expecting about 1200 in the audience July 3rd,” adds Alderson.
The West Coast Lions bring their popcorn cart to the concerts, selling bags of delicious, aromatic, fresh-popped corn, with profits going to local community service or the Dog Guides Foundation.
The Lions have several reasons for organizing the concerts: They are a great outing for Grand Bend’s residents, as well as cottagers and campers who spend their summers here. The concerts also offer an opportunity for area seniors to get out and socialize. Plus they serve as an economic development tool, attracting tourists to Grand Bend mid-week which benefits the village’s restaurants, bars and pubs.
Alderson reminds concert-goers to bring their own lawn chairs, as well as their wallets. “These are ‘Pay What You Can’ concerts, so we hope everyone will contribute.” Lions Club members will be circulating before and after the concerts and during intermission, seeking donations in their colourful beach buckets.
While the ‘Pay What You Can’ buckets are necessary to bring in top quality entertainment, the Lions Club is also grateful to their other sources of funding. Grants were received from the Cordelia Power Vibrancy Fund, the Municipality of Lambton Shores, Lambton Creative County Grant Program, and the Grand Bend Community Foundation.
In addition, there are Golden Sunset Sponsors – Grand Bend Legion Branch 498, Geo-Teck Heating & Cooling, Physiotherapy Alliance, and Tourism Sarnia-Lambton. The Silver Sparkling Lake Sponsor is Bluewater Windows and Doors, and the Bronze Sandy Shore Sponsors are Robert Q Travel, Denny’s Drive-In, Hoffman Funeral Home, UBU Fashions, Prosper’s Garage, Hair Bend’rs, Paddingtons Eatery & Ale House, The Iron Barn, and the Gallery on Main Street.
On July 17, musical theatre performer Leisa Way and her Wayward Wind Band will bring “Opry Gold” to the beach, featuring Grand Ole Opry classics and today’s rockin’ country hits.
Parking is free on the beach after 7:00 p.m., and after 5:00 p.m. on Main Street on weekdays.