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Thursday, 12 September 2013 05:51

Siksika helped by two international stars ... and one in the making

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Nineteen-year-old Kelsey Solway is finding a unique way to give back to her community.

She is helping to put on a concert at the Bassano Arena Sept. 15 where the proceeds will go directly back to help rebuild her devastated community.
Solway was one of the many Siksika residents who watched in horror as flood waters completely devastated the community in late June. She was effected as she couldn’t get to her job.
 “It was the beginning of summer and I was going to go back that Monday after the flood and I couldn’t get back to work,”  explained Solway.  “No one could get back in.”
Solway, a resident of the Siksika Nation but who took her preliminary education in Bassano, is now in her second year of the journalism program at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
She had just happened to arrange to interview international country singing sensation Corb Lund for a story she was doing.This was just days after the June flooding. Lund has always been a favourite of Solway and she was disappointed she was unable to interview him because of having to deal with the flooding. The two sides were able to reschedule and from that interview, the Bassano-based concert started to take shape.
That’s when the born-and-raised Taber singer offered  to help. Solway had told him the devastation her home had suffered.
 “During the interview, he’s asking about the reserve and I was telling him about people camping in the bald-headed prairie,”  explained Solway.
The interview ended, but the discussions between the two were just beginning. Lund was concerned about the reserve and he got updates on the situation. In August, Lund made an offer which would change Solway’s summer.
 “He sent me emails afterwards and then one day he asked, ‘is there something I can do?’” explained Solway. “So I said to him, ‘well, do you want to come hand out food or something?’ And he said, ‘how about playing a show?’”
Lund was also part of Alberta Flood Aid, a concert at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium in mid-August which featured the likes of Nickleback, Jann Arden, The Sheepdogs and Tom Cochrane. It raised $1.5 million for relief efforts.
Solway was astonished at the offer and Lund told her to co-ordinate the show. Solway wasn’t sure if the reserve would be able to host such an event. There was no real venue and with the area still devastated and residents out of their homes, Solway knew Siksika wasn’t a viable option. She phoned Bassano’s mayor to ask if there was anything the nearby town to the east could do as far as helping provide a suitable concert venue.
 “I’m sitting there going ‘what am I going to do?’ Then I thought of Bassano. I took my K to 12 there and I have a lot of friends from there. It is like my second home,”  explained Solway.  “I’m thinking and I know Tom Rose, the mayor there. I’m good friends with his (children). I tell Tom my story and I say ‘I have no where to put him. Can you help?’”
 “Thirty minutes after I talked to him, Tom is like, ‘let’s do this.’”
Rose was amazed at what was occurring and did what he could in a short period of time to make sure the concert became a reality.
 “I gave it to the Bassano Vision Committee and they all jumped all over it,”  explained Rose.  “Initially, they looked at one of the local halls, but they didn’t feel they could earn enough money. Then right away we were able to get the arena and it just took off from there.”
 “It was one interview working at the newspaper and I thought it’d be cool to interview someone big,”  explained Solway. “I’m a summer student at one of the major newspapers in Calgary. Do a phone interview, I love Corb Lund ... and now he’s contacting me to play on my reserve. I didn’t believe it.”
Plans seem to be falling into place. They’ve worked hard to get the venue, find merchandise to auction off, secure additional entertainment, get the necessary fire and liquor permits, and organize the security and police presence.
 Both Rose and Solway also knew they had a technical expert in their corner. Bassano School principal Leonard Sproule was able to offer his technical expertise.
 Sproule is the drummer of a local band and was able to lend some support as far as ensuring the best sound possible will be emanating from the speakers in the arena.
 “He’s going to be able to add professional support and advice,”  explained Rose who added the Bassano Arts Council does put on concerts by well-known artists during the course of the season.
“He starts talking about the technical side of setting up for music and it’s like he’s talking a different language ... he knows what he’s talking about.”
Solway is totally overwhelmed, in a good way, by how the concert is taking shape.
Add Ian Tyson to the event, courtesy Lund, plus local performers and the result is a major fundraising initiative.
The $30 concert tickets were sold out in a mere two hours once the initial tickets went on sale. One hundred tickets are going to those Siksika nation residents who survived the flood.
 “There has been so much support from surrounding communities, it’s been amazing,  said Solway.
Tickets were sold in not only Bassano businesses, but also  Brooks, Tilley and Duchess.
Besides the entertainment and auction items, there will be a 50-50 draw and there will also be a 10-minute video shown about the devastation. It was shot and produced by Kelsey’s cousin Trevor Solway and it has been receiving a lot of hits on YouTube.
Kelsey is proud of the event and especially how everything has come together. She’s also glad she can help her people.
 “We just want to be able to restore what they lost,” explained Solway.
Doors open at 4 p.m. Sept. 15 at the arena with the entertainment starting at about 5 p.m.

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Ryan Dahlman

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