The Osoyoos community’s unofficial purveyor or troubadours expects to put his adopted hometown in his rearview mirror later this week, riding off into the sunrise after bringing music to the community for more than eight years.
Alan Bleiken and wife Fern plan to drive up Hwy. 97 next weekend, starting what they expect will be a 14-day adventure to Canada’s Atlantic coast.
“We haven’t been on a holiday for eight years, my wife and I,” said Alan taking a few moments away from a patio event at the Wildfire Grill last week. “We’re going to take it easy, take it slow. We’re looking at eight days of driving and two weeks to get there.”
“There” is New Brunswick, where the Bleikens are planning the next chapter of their life, one to follow a 13-year stint in Osoyoos — what Alan calls the “best community ever.”
“What makes it good is partly what we put into it,” he said. “Music is a conduit to community, Getting small groups of people together and becoming friends as a result — if I’ve done anything and music has been the avenue, that’s great.”
It was a full house earlier this month at a farewell party held for the Bleikens at JoJo’s Cafe — the cornerstone of Alan’s gift of music to the community.
Over the last four years, Alan built a monthly package of shows that consisted of two or three evenings with name acts and an open-mic night for local artists.
Often those nights featured an art component as well.
With the JoJo venue running well, Alan ventured a little further, setting up gigs at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Anarchist Mountain’s Almighty Summit Centre and the Wildfire Grill, where a piano was installed in the “Lizard Lounge.”
“There’s no money it,” he said. “It’s cost me money to do it. But I’d rather do this than be at home wasting my time on the computer.”
Alan also took an early look at the OSS Theatre, but quickly learned small venues were his forte.
“What would have been a total sell-out at Jojo’s was a total crash up there,” he said, recalling a show he produced in his early days in the community. “It was a very expensive mistake.”
Alan found more success as one of the original Three Amigos — the other two being Janis St. Louis and Rusty Copeland — and the summer-themed Music in the Park. The Friday-evening performances at Gyro Park each July and August have grown into a popular event attracting upwards of 600 viewers.
He stepped away from that responsibility last year. The Amigos now include Ms. St. Louis, Roland Berg and Debbie Dundass.
“The Three Amigos — Roland, Debbie and I — wish Alan and Fern all the best in their new chapter,” said Ms. St. Louis. “It will be quite an adventure and we’re certain there will be live music wherever they go.”
Alan’s success might not have put coin in his pocket did it did give many musical acts new opportunity.
“When I started, I had to go looking for acts,” he recalled. “But once the venue was out, people found us. We got three, four, five requests a week.
“Some of the bands did good — enough that they would come back.”
It’s a lot to leave behind and Alan expects it will be tough to leave town later this week.
“I think I won’t be thinking; I’ll just be bawling,” he said. “I know I will be.”