Wednesday, 16 July 2014 14:53

Quonset Days an outstanding family effort

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It was just supposed to be a little get together with some friends and whoever wanted to come and act as a tribute fundraiser to raise some money for the ALS Society of Alberta, but now southeastern Alberta’s Quonset Days has grown into something huge — the self-professed but very arguable “Greatest Outdoor Party on Dirt.”


The 2014 edition kicks off tonight (July 18) and then really gets going July 19.
With those four years, Janet Biemans’ farm, which is just south of Seven Persons, has hosted a two-day concert, silent auction event in their yard attracting hundreds of people and has had the likes of Adam Gregory, Jay Bowcott, Phoenix, and Bad Hatters.
This year, it will feature Canadian country music heavy hitters Aaron Pritchett and Julian Austin.
Quonset Days is a fundraiser where after expenses, 100 per cent of the money raised goes to the ALS Society of Alberta which supports those families who are affected by Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. For Biemans, it’s been an amazing journey.
“It is crazy that we are able to get these amazing artists to play on our stage.  The promoter that we have been working with has helped us a lot,” explains Biemans. “Once these singers find out why we hold Quonset Days and that every penny is donated after expenses they are happy to help us out. We were actually contacted by a promoter in Ontario this year asking if any of their artists would interest us. Not sure how they heard about Quonset Days that far away.”
As always, it’s an impressive line-up. Quonset vets Phoenix kick things off Friday night starting at 7 p.m., followed by Men Without Shame at 10:30 p.m.
July 19, the Battle of the Bands goes from 1-4 p.m. with the Elderly Boys beginning at 7 p.m. Julian Austin then hits the stage at 9 p.m. and the ever-famous live auction goes at 10:30 p.m. Aaron Pritchett then performs at 11:30 p.m.
For a map to find how to get to the Biemans’ farm go to: http://www. quonsetdays.com/map-directions.
Biemans expects an even bigger crowd this year.
“It sounds like we will have an amazing turnout this year again. All the feedback we have been getting is very positive.  One of the big questions we get is wondering how we get such great talent,” says Biemans. “When the Chevelles had to cancel,we were disappointed but we hope to get them again in 2015. Luckily, we were able to get an amazing band out of Saskatoon called Men Without Shame. From everything we’ve heard about them, it should be quite the show.
“Our permit is good for 700 people per day so we’re hoping we won’t have to turn anyone away at the gate, but that is looking like it might be a strong possibility. We’ve been contacted by people from all over Alberta, Saskatchewan and even Manitoba that are interested in coming. Some of our attendees have been coming since the first Quonset Days in 2010 ... We couldn’t have imagined how Quonset Days could have grown this much so quickly. We think this is probably as big as we will be able to grow unless we can figure out how to have more parking. The first Quonset Days took us a month to plan. Now it takes a year. We start booking bands at least a year in advance. While it can get a bit overwhelming at times, we just take a deep breath and keep moving forward. There are some things that happen that we can’t control (in 2011 we had a wind storm come up half hour before gates opened and took our tents), but we’ve learned to adapt and move on. When it comes right down to it, everyone is there for a good cause and we’ve learn to relax and enjoy all our hard work once the gate opens.”
There are a lot of items up for the auction.This year, they will be accepting credit cards (no debit though) — something they’ve never done before.  Biemans acknowledges being a strictly cash event can be difficult sometimes without an ATM so she thought taking credit cards might help.
For a look at the auction items check out: http://www. quonsetdays.com/auction-items.
There is a lot work done by the Biemans family including of course Peter’s wife, Janet and their children. But what makes Quonset Days work is the fact the entire Seven Persons community and the area are behind the effort.
“After doing this for a few years now, we shouldn’t be surprised at how many people contact us wanting to help out. That being said, the people in our community are amazing. It seems like all we have to do is mention we need help doing something and the next thing we know there is a crew helping out. This year, we have the Seven Persons 4-H looking after the parking for us, Western Tractor and the Seven Persons Fire Department will help tend bar, as well as about 20 extra volunteers helping with security and selling tickets. From set up to tear down, we have 40 to 50 people that help us out. Anyone wanting to help out is welcome. If they want to work, we will find a job for them.”
Peter Biemans started “Quonset Days” as a prank he played on his urban co-workers when he worked in the city prior to his contracting ALS and his demise.
As explained by Janet on the website: “Peter and a co-worker convinced them that once a year the farmers would take their quonsets, flip them upside down and race them down the canal then have a big party after. The ‘city’ people thought that sounded like fun so made the drive from Lethbridge to see the races. Not wanting to disappoint them, Peter hosted the original Quonset Days party. He made sure to point out to the ‘city’ people the size of the quonset and size of the canal. Because of that first Quonset Days, we felt as a family we would pay tribute to the man that started it all...”
Janet had added the fundraising portion because the ALS Walk in Medicine Hat had shrunk and disappeared. They decided they wanted to do something on behalf of Peter and southern Alberta. The first one they planned within a month and raised $8,000 in 2010. In 2011, they had 250 people and raised $12,000. In 2012, 350 people came and raised $22,000. In 2013, it was about 500 people and $34,000.
She is proud of their fundraising efforts, the event’s popularity but by far, the most important thing is paying homage to Peter, who was dearly loved by everyone.
“This is definitely a tribute to Peter. Anyone who knew him knew that he was often the life of the party and Quonset Days is how we keep his memory alive.  A lot of the volunteers and donors were friends of Peter’s. There really isn’t anything specific we do as a family during Quonset Days to pay tribute to Peter — there really isn’t time, but he is always in our thoughts,” explains Janet.
“I think it really sinks in how much people care while we are having the live auction. Seeing someone successfully bid on an item and then donate it back to be sold again or pay more than triple what an item is worth  is unbelievable. There are a lot of our attendees that come with a certain amount of money to give to our cause and they make sure that their pockets are empty when they go home.”

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Ryan Dahlman

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