Hodge: The annual BBQ and its cast of characters

Kelowna writer says there’s nothing like a gathering of old friends to get you thinking

Life is often like a successful pot luck dinner. Toss in a large variety of components and a marvelous, entertaining potpourri is created.

That aptly describes last Sunday at the Hodge house.

For more than two decades I have hosted an annual September long weekend barbeque and as the years have rolled by the event has evolved and grown as well. The experience of hosting such an event has taught me a few valuable lessons about holding such gatherings:

First and foremost – keep things simple. The simpler the better.

Cover the basics and let the rest sort itself out because no matter how hard you plan or attempt to structure things, gatherings of humans take on their own energy.

If you have enough food and good music -little else matters.

On Sunday Tez and I found ourselves standing near the back of our weed infested yard quietly observing the plethora of happy folks mingling about and clearly enjoying themselves. It was a rewarding moment recognizing how many friends had made the effort to attend our annual party. We lost count at 104 people in the yard, jokingly suggesting that we had invited 100 of our closest friends.

We chuckled realizing that the only true common denominator regarding the throng before us was that everyone there knew either Tez or myself. Sitting back watching the extremely diverse collection of characters meet one another was better than any people watching opportunity elsewhere. And indeed it was a blended banquet of bodies. Amid the masses were musicians, artists, politicians, ministers, masons, hockey players, environmentalists, lawyers, doctors, dentists, teachers, street people, the list seems endless. We chuckled wishing we were flies on the wall of some of the initial meetings taking place around the yard.

As the day turned into night the gathering continued to grow and get to know one another and the frivolity continued to increase.

For some the annual barbecue marks the only time each year that certain folks see each other. Ironically it is because of that scenario that the barbecue originally started. Back in the 1980’s and 90’s I managed a number of musicians or bands, or ran light shows for them. Around 1985 I realized that a few of the bands I was working with for some unexplained reason had the Sunday of that September long weekend off and so I announced a spontaneous party at my pickers shack on Okanagan Lake. About 25 musicians from various bands showed up and a marvelous giant jam session went on all night. Many of the musicians were friends who, because of playing schedules had not seen or played music with each other for months or even years. The reunions made for marvellous music.

That bash was so much fun we did it again the next year, and, as the story goes… the rest is history.

Ironically when folks attend our event now they marvel at the musical talent that simply ‘show up’ and I jokingly inform them that actually the musicians came first and then the rest of the crowd.

Later in the evening as folks settled in to enjoy the many superb tunes being played I found a quiet corner for a moment and marvelled at the magic the day had cultivated. Then it dawned on me how my personal friendships with the crowd before me had interestingly unfolded. I realized that how I met, or what the various folks did for a living, was not so much how I had really come to know them – or how my relationships with various folks had changed.

For example I met singer/songwriter Keith Thom through the Anglican Church who wanted us to work together for a fund raiser. Keith was to help find entertainment and I was to help promote it. Eventually Keith wound up as the opening act for Valdy while I was master of ceremonies. Keith and I became instant friends because of the event and I actually began playing guitar again for fun with Keith. Keith became interested in my work as a City Councillor and was inspired to enter the political arena and today he is a member of Peachland Council.

Ryan Donn and I met through music, now we sit on City Council together. Maxine DeHart and I met as media folks with the Capital News and we now sit on council together as well.

I managed Jimmy LeGuilloux’s first gig and today he is likely Kelowna’s busiest musician. Best buddy Curtis Tulman and I met each other musically and after months of encouragement he eventually met Barry Mathers. They formed a band called Sea Cruise which eventually became known as the Cruzeros – a talented band that played for 25 years together. Watching them reunite on my tiny stage Sunday was spine tingling.

High school buddies Jim Krahn, Dan Thiessen, Deb Stone, Rob Gable… have all evolved and grown and adapted through life’s challenges and done very well in maintaining their positive attitudes towards the world while contributing in such positive ways.

Former neighbours, Josh and Lindsay eventually accepted our barbecue invite a few years back and through Josh I became a Mason. On Sunday four other Mason brothers and their families were part of the gathering.

It dawned on me then how life unfolds as it will despite our plans or attempts to organize our world.

I realized that for whatever reason folks come together, and no matter what hat they wear at the time, connections and inspirations often evolve into wonderful opportunities or scenarios that we never could have originally imagined.

One never knows what will come their way in life, however you have to allow such to unfold. One must first learn to trust opportunity and chance, learn to step out of that safe spot and live. When you say, “Hello my name is ….” you just never know what may come back your way.

On Sunday I was reminded how right John Lennon was when he said, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Indeed, friendship and life, like a barbeque, only needs to have a spark to get going. Provide a location and a reason, toss in some characters and see what happens.

A little music and some hot dogs never dampens the potential either.

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