Lighting up the stage for St. Paddy's Bash

SYDNEY, NS - With the immensely popular St. Paddy’s Day Bash little more than a week away, Blair Brown began making his way south across 300 kilometers of Arctic tundra to Yellowknife and the first flight that would take him home to Sydney, Cape Breton.

Blair had been involved in the previous ten events and wasn’t going to miss this year’s, even though the former Lingan Generating Station employee currently works at a new diamond mine in the Northwest Territories.

Blair sings and plays ‘60s and ‘70s dance music on his acoustic rhythm guitar with the nine piece band “Rock-It.” They’ve been on stage at the St. Paddy’s Bash since it started in 2005 when Blair was also on the organizing committee.

The evening of entertainment and laughs is organized and staged by current and former Nova Scotia Power employees. It has raised more than $140,000 for Cape Breton’s Atlantic Burn Camp for children and Almost Home, a Sydney-based facility that provides shelter and support for women in transition.

When he was asked to help organize the line-up for that first St. Paddy’s Bash, Blair admits he was a little wary. “Is this going to be a gong show?” he thought to himself.

But the moment the sound check started, he knew the event would be a tremendous success. “The talent of the performers just blew away the organizers,” and Blair said he couldn’t have asked for a harder working group than the organizing committee.

“With the amount of talent within NSP this task turned out to be a pretty easy one,” said Blair, who worked at Lingan for 30 years before retiring in 2012 and now works as a consultant.

He still gets a thrill when he steps on the stage. “You can’t ask for anything that could be more enjoyable than watching people dance to and enjoy the music you are playing,” he said.

Barb Hynes, an administrative assistant with NSP’s Sydney depot, has been involved since the beginning as well.

She thinks the organizers of the annual St. Paddy’s Bash in Membertou must have the luck of the Irish.

Not once in its ten year history has the event been postponed due to bad weather – when many of the volunteers and performers would have to head in to work.

It’s a lot of work for the 24 volunteers to pull the Bash together and three back-to-back winter storms put organizers a little behind this year. But seeing the gratitude in the eyes of the recipients when she hands over the cheque is all Barb needs to spur her on to organize the following year’s event.

Last year, volunteers were preparing a meal for more than 100 people who had run out of grocery money when Barb dropped by. The shelter’s director wept when she handed her the cheque.

“I think, ‘Do I have another one in me?’ then I go and see that and I know I’ll be doing it again the next year,” she said.

Last year, along with a corporate donation, the Bash raised $10,000 each for the burn camp and the shelter.

The event is March 18 at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the centre’s box office, from Nova Scotia Power employees working in Sydney or by calling 902-539-2300.