Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard, the Contenders, along with Blu and Kelly Hopkins, are taking their 18th annual tour of the interior. (Contributed)

Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard, the Contenders, along with Blu and Kelly Hopkins, are taking their 18th annual tour of the interior. (Contributed)

Contenders return to Okanagan-Shuswap with 18th annual tour

Much-loved musicians, Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard, along with Blu & Kelly Hopkins, tour Interior

Barb Brouwer

Contributor

The 18th annual tour of great music and joy will roll into Carlin Hall Oct. 31.

Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard, aka the Contenders, and Blu and Kelly Hopkins bring their distinct western/roots/folk music that celebrates family values and a frontier spirit.

Juno award winners, Valdy and Fjellgaard’s pride as Canadians is reflected in their music. They are Country Music Hall of Famers and recipients of The Order of Canada, and they blend their music with a unique brand of character, humour and authenticity.

Promoter Ken Smedley said the two have known each other for many years, dating back to when Valdy covered one of Fjellgaard’s songs.

“It was Martin and Me, a song about one of Gary’s guitars and Valdy likes to say he gravelled his driveway with that particular song,” Smedley said, pointing out the two got together as The Contenders in early 2001 and did a tour in Alberta. “They enjoyed it so much they said let’s make a record.”

Smedley said the title of the album was intended to remind people they were still in the game. The success of the album led to more tours.

“I met them in the early stages and invited them to tour the Okanagan, and that was 18 years ago,” adds Smedley. “People come back year after year for their stories and songs.”

A hit at this year’s Roots and Blues Festival, Valdy garnered praise and respect from audience members and other artists.

“People forget about the importance of certain artists and then they, all of a sudden, realize the contributions they have made,” said festival artistic director Peter North. “Valdy performed before a large audience in a Friday workshop with Jack De Keyzer, the Jim Cuddy Band, and Anne Lindsay.

“It reminded people that he is a force and he’s a very underrated guitar player, a guy with a lot of great songs, who’s still got great chops, and he’s incredibly gracious on stage,” North adds. “He’s the complete package.”

Read more: The Contenders Gary Fjellgaard and Valdy return to Carlin Hall

Read more: Valdy gives volunteers a hand after Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival

Read more: Salmon Arm artist shares love for painting with Roots & Blues performers

Read more: Valdy to bring his folk music magic to Roots & Blues

Read more: Valdy and Fjellgaard return with fall tour

Blu and Kelly Hopkins have been accompanying the Contenders on the B.C. Interior tour for 17 years.

The pair were initially asked to open for the Contenders. They have since been integrated into the show, playing their own tunes and sharing the stage with Valdy and Fjellgaard.

“It’s an absolute thrill to be playing with Valdy and Gary,” said Kelly. “We have had so much fun with them whether it’s on or off stage and it has been good for our music and our confidence.”

The Contenders Tour will stop at Carlin Hall at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. Tickets are available at Acorn Music in Salmon Arm. Call 250-832-8669.

The tour will begin Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Creekside Theatre in Lake Country. For tickets, call 250-862-2867 or go online to www.kelownatickets.com/events/Creekside. Other performances include Kamloops at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 in the Sagebrush Theatre. Tickets are available at 250-374-5483 or kamloopslive.ca.Then it’s on to Centre Stage Theatre in Summerland at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2. Tickets are available at Martins Flowers at 250-494-5432 and Dragon’s Den in Penticton, 250-492-3011.

The tour will conclude Nov. 3 at the Frank Venables Theatre in Oliver. Show time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available tix@venablestheatre.ca.

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Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard, the Contenders, along with Blu and Kelly Hopkins, are taking their 18th annual tour of the interior. (Contributed)

Valdy and Gary Fjellgaard, the Contenders, along with Blu and Kelly Hopkins, are taking their 18th annual tour of the interior. (Contributed)