Canada’s Songbird Leisa Way Back at Grand Bend Beach

Leisa brings Opry Gold to the Familiar Favourites
Concert Series on July 17  

“Opry Gold is a toe-tappin’, roof-raisin’ salute to the greatest songs in the history of Country Music!” says Leisa Way about the concert she is bringing to the Rotary Stage on Grand Bend’s main beach July 17th. Her enthusiasm is evident as she goes on to describe the evening of entertainment, promising to showcase a mix of country classics and the contemporary chart-toppers who have followed in their footsteps.

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.

Canadian songbird Leisa Way and her phenomenally talented Wayward Wind Band have brought Canada many great shows, including last year’s beach favourite, Across the Pond (The British Invasion). This band has toured Canada with other shows including Sweet Dreams (Patsy Cline), Rhinestone Cowgirl (Dolly Parton) and their acclaimed Canada 150 show that appeared on Grand Bend’s beach in 2017 and went on to  tour  44 cities across the country.

Way will also have her usual trademark that makes her shows so popular: she tells the stories behind the songs. Opry Gold takes the audience on a journey back through time when Nashville’s radio station WSM became the first all-country music station, featuring stars like Uncle Jimmy Thompson and Grandpa Jones, through the rise of stars like Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, to today’s great country stars like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, and Zac Brown Band.

Opry Gold clearly is a labour of love for show creator Leisa Way, who grew up in northern Ontario, and whose family now resides in and near Grand Bend. As a child, Leisa remembers tuning in to shows like Tommy Hunter and Ronnie Prophet, shows that her musical arranger and pianist, Bruce Ley, happened to be the piano player on! Her multi-talented band includes Ley, Fred Smith on guitars/banjo (who has shared stages with Vince Gill, The Supremes and Chuck Berry), Broadway performer &bassist, Bobby Prochaska (The Buddy Holly Story), North Bay’s own fiddling sensation Nathan Smith (The Barrel Boys), and Toronto big band player John Collin on drums. “When these fellas vocalize, the audience is treated to world-class harmonies and solos,” Way says. 

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 3, concert goers enjoyed the sounds of Michael Vanhevel and Theresa Wallis with the Jimmy Stahl Big Band. Then on July 31, Yuri Pool will bring The McCartney Years, billed as the world’s number one Paul McCartney tribute experience.

Parking is free on the beach after 7:00 p.m., and after 5:00 p.m. on Main Street on weekdays.

 

 

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