Bellingham Whatcom County Getaway

September 8th, 2011 @ 3:30pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

School is back in session but the summer sun continues to shine on the Pacific Northwest. With a strong Canadian dollar and plenty of places to spend it across the border, more and more locals are checking out our neighbours to the south in Whatcom County.

Hotel Bellwether, Bellingham, WA

Whatcom County consists of Point Roberts, Bellingham, Blaine, Chuckanut Drive, Lummi Island, Birch Bay and more. There’s much more to it than Target and Trader Joe’s. You can go on a wine tour, check out the local farmers market, do a bike tour, visit a cultural food festival… and that’s all just in September.

I recently contacted their tourism organization to come up with a unique giveaway for my readers so that they can explore more in Whatcom County.

Bellingham Prize Pack

John and I had the opportunity to spend at night at the Hotel Bellwether on our way down to Seattle and we wished we could have stayed longer.

Hotel Bellwether, Bellingham, WA

The rooms are comfortable and luxurious, there’s a great seaside pub and restaurant downstairs, the sea wall is perfect for a stroll or jog, and you won’t want to miss the sunset over the water.

Hotel Bellwether Harborside Bistro

Hotel Bellwether, Bellingham, WA

Here’s how you can enter to win:

  • Leave a comment on this post about why you would like to explore Bellingham (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
I entered to win a Bellingham prize pack from @Whatcom4Locals & @Miss604

I will draw one winner at 10:00am on Tuesday, September 20, 2011.

Fine print: Hotel prize is subject to availability and the say can be booked between October 2011 and October 2012. You must be a resident of BC and a Canadian citizen to enter and win this contest. You must be eligible to enter the United States and return to Canada legally.

Update The winner is Sylvia!

We Day Vancouver 2011

September 8th, 2011 @ 11:20am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

We Day returns to Vancouver this year as tens of thousands of young people get the opportunity to learn about how they can make a difference in the world.

We Day 2010

I have covered We Day over the last few years and it’s one of my favourite events. There’s dancing, singing, music, cheers, positivity and motivation.

We Day

To inspire the bright young minds that attend from elementary schools around BC each year, there’s always a star-studded line-up of speakers.

Vancouver October 13, 2011

  • Mikhail Gorbachev, Former Soviet President and Nobel Peace Laureate
  • Award winning actress and activist, Mia Farrow
  • NBA All-Star, Shaquille O’Neal
  • Multi-platinum, JUNO and MMVA Award winning recording artists, Hedley
  • JUNO Award nominated, MMVA winning Canadian band, Down With Webster
  • Liz Murray, inspirational speaker best known as having been homeless in her youth and graduating from Harvard
  • Platinum selling, JUNO Award winning Canadian pop icon and producer, Shawn Desman
  • FRESHH, the 2011 Canadian National Hip Hop Champions & Hip Hop International Grand Finalists
  • Television personality Jessi Cruickshank and MuchMusic’s Jesse Giddings
  • … and more special guests to be announced…

The celebrity guests are also joined by internationally acclaimed children rights activists and co-founders of Free the Children, Craig and Marc Kielburger, along with other motivational speakers we’ve seen in past years like Spencer West and Michel Chikwanine.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Mia Farrow Dr Jane Goodall

A presentation of Free the Children, We Day inspires all to donate their time (or something as simply as a Facebook “Like”) to support causes locally, and globally. We Day is a free event and schools can apply to send a group (class, leadership group, team, etc.)

We Day 2010

We Day happens in Toronto (September 27) and Vancouver (October 13) and will be touring Waterloo (November 16), Winnipeg (November 23, 2011) and Montreal (February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012) as well. Each city has their own roster of speakers and special guests.

Update Can’t make it to We Day? There will be a live stream available online. Tune it between 9:00am and 1:00pm to see what the children at Rogers Arena get to experience and hear the inspiring words from the speakers. Both the Toronto and Vancouver events are being taped and will air on Much Music Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 7:00pm.

We Day 2011

Update October 13, 2011: It’s We Day in Vancouver so this post has been promoted to the top of After introductions from Mayor Gregor Robertson and Premier Christy Clark, Craig and Marc Kielburger – founders of Free the Children – took to the stage to welcome everyone to We Day. Last year they had the children chanting “Freedom!” but the theme this year had them shouting “We Are!”

We Day 2011

The crowd learns the moves to the “We Day Dance” led by Shawn Desman.

The first guest is Mikhail Gorbachev, Former Soviet President and Nobel Peace Laureate. Through a translator, he is telling the audience about his history, the world he knew when he was younger and when he was in office, and the change they can be in the world today. Quoting Pope John Paul II, he says it’s time for more change. “Together we can achieve a great deal. You can change the world for the better, I believe that, and I wish you success.”

We Day 2011

Update October 13, 2011 @11:00am: Back in the Q&A press room, President Gorbachev was asked about the Occupy Wall Street protests. He said it’s a democratic right or the people. “As for America, when we see people protesting I think that means a great deal,” he told the media. “I’m sure that the Americans will be able to sort things out. I think that before trying to put the house in order in other countries, the Americans should make sure that everything is right in their own country and the human rights of every individual are protected.”

Former President Mikhail Gorbachev

“What we have to bear in mind is that there is a reason for such protests.”

Update October 13, 2011 @11:15am: Mia Farrow was just out talking to the kids and now she’s in the Q&A room. She said she’ll never miss a We Day as long as she’s still invited. It’s her favourite event and favourite cause to be a part of. She said the atmosphere and energy in the arena with the children is electric. “Even if a fraction of them make good on the feelings they have now then the world will be a better place.”

We Day 2011 - Mia Farrow

“With knowledge comes responsibility,” says Mia. “We are what we do, not what we say.” She talked about her participation and role in campaigns and was very humble. “I’m on Twitter now and you’re supposed to write a description, who you are what you do…” she said she just put “I’m trying”.

We Day 2011- Shaq on stage

Update October 13, 2011 @11:50am: Shaq came out on stage and got the crowd up and dancing again. Cell phones glowed as every second person in Rogers Arena started taking photos of the basketball star.

I bumped into Kris Krug briefly as he performed his ‘official photographer’ duties and followed Craig around.

Update October 13, 2011 @12:45pm: Holly Branson, daughter of Sir Richard Branson, took to the stage to talk about her experience with Free the Children. She’s the organization’s ambassador in the UK and although she was nervous (the crowd in Rogers Arena was buzzing) she delivered a great talk. At the end, Craig come out to surprise her with…. her father! He gave Holly some flowers and said a few quick words to the kids.

We Day 2011

Reminder: If you couldn’t make it to We Day, the Toronto and Vancouver events are being taped and will air on Much Music Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 7:00pm.

Update October 14, 2011: After receiving some comments below about how the children get their tickets to We Day, I asked organizers to comment. This is what they sent me by email:

Free The Children is an educational partner that works closely with educators, schools and school boards to provide curriculum, resources, and support for young people to become leaders in social change. We Day is part of Free The Children’s We Schools in Action Program. We don’t provide tickets to the general public, but rather they are offered to schools involved in this year-long program. Participating schools are then responsible for selecting the delegation of youth and educators to attend We Day, based on a variety of factors as determined by the staff and administration at each respective private or public school. All students who attend, commit to being part of one local and one global action during the year. For more information on this program, visit

Every year, Free The Children encourages as many youth to experience We Day as possible, and for those students that aren’t able to attend we offer a variety of different ways for them to still be a part of We Day, whether it is through a live webcast of select events that airs on or during the CTV/MuchMusic two hour special, which is slated to air later this month.

Related posts: We Day Vancouver 2010, We Day Vancouver 2009.

Vancouver Fringe Festival 2011

September 8th, 2011 @ 10:00am (PT) by Michelle Kim

It’s Vancouver International Fringe Festival time again, now in it’s 27th year, which runs from September 8 – 18. This year’s Fringe Festival will feature over 600 performances by more than 80 groups over the course of the 11 days, and is expected to attract over 30,000 attendees.

vancouver fringe festival
Photo credit: dooq on Flickr

This year will mark the 25th Vancouver Fringe Festival for theatre artists Jacques Lalonde with a special performance: Jacques and Awe. This “Best of 25 Years” show will have Jacques performing some of him most beloved characters including Kenny Rogers and Jean Chretien.

Some shows to check out (who have already sent all their info to are:

Mr. Boat-head’s Electrical Dream Ship
This site-specific performance about building the ship of your dreams and includes audio-recording dreams and nightmares from audience members to create an online dream archive for those with underdeveloped imaginations, in need of inspiration, or who simply never remember their dreams.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
Just what is sounds like – a theatrical tea party! Free tea is provided, but if you can, please bring your own cup.

You Are Not Dead
A site-specific piece that takes place at Granville Island Hotel and thrusts the audience into a wellness seminar. Only a very theatrical one.

ShLong Form Improv
This fusion of short and long form of improv comedy which started in Australia by Probationary Theatre Company moved to Seoul, South Korea, where is joined forces with Seoul City Improv, and performed for many years.

Suicides in Vegas
Two women are connected via the internet wanting to end it all, but not along. This dark comedy was written by Evan Placey, winner of the Tarragon Theatre RBC National Playwriting Competition.

Tickets start at $10 and a $5 membership is required. You can also get combo packs and see up to 10 shows for $90.

Download the Fringe Festival iPhone app to keep track of the shows and follow @VancouverFringe on Twitter.

A guest post by Michelle Kim

Guest contributor Michelle Kim is a local actor, producer, director, and writer. Providing write-ups about theatre, film, and the arts.

United Way Kick-Off at the Cauldron

September 6th, 2011 @ 2:28pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Tomorrow afternoon the Olympic cauldron in Jack Poole Plaza downtown will be lit as the City of Vancouver proclaims September 7th “United Way Day“.

the Olympic Cauldron, relit this weekend, Vancouver
Photo credit: raoming-the-planet on Flickr

This will mark the launch of the United Way’s 2011 fundraising campaign to help vulnerable children, families and seniors throughout the region.

The United Way Kick-Off at the Cauldron festivities will run from 11:30am until 1:30pm with cauldron lighting to take place at 12:20pm. On the plaza you will be able to enjoy music (from Dr. Strangelove), activities, a beef and veggie burger BBQ, BC Lions team prizes, and more. The event will be hosted by Mark Madryga, Senior Meteorologist at Global News.

Follow United Way of the Lower Mainland on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube to learn more about their initiatives in your community.

Timeraiser Vancouver 2011

September 6th, 2011 @ 1:10pm (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Timeraiser is returning to Vancouver this month at the Waldorf Hotel. This event is a silent auction but instead of bidding with money, you bid with the number of volunteer hours you are willing to contribute in order to win your desired piece. It combines a local art showcase with a volunteer-hour fundraiser, a complete win/win.

When Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 7:00pm (doors)
Where The Waldorf Hotel (1489 East Hastings)
What A silent art auction supporting local Vancouver artists. Bid on art with a pledge of time to a local charity.

It’s also a great time to learn more about local non-profit organizations as many will be on-site including:

3H Craftworks
Alzheimer Society of BC
Beauty Night Society
Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Paraplegic Association
Canucks Autism Network
Compassionate Eye Foundation
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Mission Possible
MS Society of Canada BC & Yukon Division
North Shore ConneXions Society
Take a Hike Youth at Risk Foundation
The Canadian Youth Business Foundation
The Environmental Youth Alliance
TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre
Urban Ink Productions
Urban Native Youth Association
Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition
Vancouver Laughter Mission Society
W2 Community Media Arts Society
Wildlife Rescue Association
Women Against Violence Against Women
Yoga Outreach
Young Naturalists’ Club of BC
…and more

The goal is to raise 4,000 volunteer hours, which can be achieved if each participant pledges around 20 hours over the next 12 months. Tickets for Timeraiser Vancouver are just $20.

If you’re an artist, agency, or potential sponsor, find out more on the Timeraiser Vancouver site and find them on Twitter or Facebook for updates.

Timeraiser also takes place in Edmonton (October 15th), Hamilton (November 3rd), and Ottawa (November 19th) all in support of local artists and organizations. To date, Timeraiser has hosted 28 events across Canada, generated 93,000 volunteer hours, invested $495,890 in the careers of emerging artists, supported 383 charities and encouraged 6,043 Canadians to connect with the causes they care about.

Westjet 737-700 C-FZWS
Photo credit: caribb on Flickr

WestJet Contest

WestJet is a nation-wide partner of the Timeraiser events and at each event, you can enter to win two return tickets for any WestJet destination. Last year they partnered with in Vancouver (exclusively) to offer the same opportunity to one of my readers. I’m very happy to announce that we have renewed our partnership for 2011 and I am once again offering a return trip for two to anywhere WestJet flies (value $4,604).


The official rules and regulations can be found in this document. Residents of Canada (excluding Quebec) who are of the age of majority are eligible*. Contest start date is September 6, 2011 and the last day to enter is September 16, 2011. At that time, entries will be reviewed by Timeraiser staff and I. We will select our top ten entries and fom that group of ten, one winning entry will be drawn at random.

How to Enter

Last year we asked about your personal experience with volunteering and we’d like to do the same again this year but expand the parameters a little. You can leave a comment here saying how you have volunteered in the past (and what it’s meant to you) or how you have seen a volunteer in action – how they have impacted someone else’s life or your own.

If you would like to spread the word, you can post the following on Twitter (please note, there are no Twitter entries for the contest).

Learn how you can enter to win a trip to anywhere @WestJet flies thanks to @timeraiser_couv & @Miss604

All valid comments on this post will be entered in the contest. Please keep entries under 200 words. We will announce the winner Monday, September 19, 2011.

Update September 19, 2011: I would first like to thank everyone who submitted an entry into this contest. The stories of how the participants have volunteered or have seen volunteerism in action were moving, to say the least. Second, thank you to everyone who shared the contest. We had over 140 tweets and it wasn’t even a Twitter-entry contest.

Finally, after narrowing down the our lists, Timeraiser organizers and I drew a winner at random from the finalists. The winner is…. Angie Rai! Angie has been contacted and will soon be on her way to the WestJet destination of her choice. Thank you all for your participation and be sure to get your tickets for Timeraiser in Vancouver and in other Canadian cities this fall.

*Rules and Regulations

Surrey City Centre Library Now Open

September 6th, 2011 @ 10:15am (PT) by Guest Author

Built in the heart of Surrey’s emerging downtown core, the new City Centre Library is set to open its doors to the public this Tuesday. The first major public investment in the area since the redevelopment of Holland Park in 2006, the new library is both an architectural wonder and a civic anchor for the changing neighbourhood.

Surrey Library Tour by Paul Hillsdon
Surrey Library Tour Photo by Paul Hillsdon

Built under the federal and provincial stimulus programs, the library faced an expedited construction schedule. To meet the tight deadline for completion, the building’s architects from Bing Thom used social media to engage citizens in the design process. In collaboration with library staff, BTA asked locals to send in pictures of their favourite libraries on Flickr. A local blog showcased the building through its construction. These successful initiatives led Surrey Libraries to embrace the new mediums – they know have an active Twitter account and Facebook page.

The four-storey grey and glass building features undulating curves that hug the street. Evoking a nautical theme on the outside, the library looks like a modern art gallery on the inside. Coated with white walls to boost indoor lighting, the floors of the library gently slope around a grand central atrium. The LEED-certified building is specially designed to avoid absorbing direct sunlight, which allows it to reduce cooling costs, and also features the City’s first green roof.

Surrey Library Tour by Paul Hillsdon
Surrey Library Tour Photo by Paul Hillsdon

Spanning 77,000 sq. ft., three times larger than the City’s former main library in Guildford, this branch is more community centre than traditional book warehouse. With a fireplace, study rooms, a coffee shop, children’s area, teen lounge, SFU Continuing Education classrooms, community meeting rooms, and more, the space is designed for people over books. Over 80 computers will be available to the public, as well as free wireless internet for those with laptops or tablets.

The City Centre Library opens it doors to the public with a soft launch today (Tuesday, September 6th at 9:30am). A Grand Opening will follow on Saturday, September 24th from 11:00am to 3:00pm.

This post was contributed to by Paul Hillsdon. Paul is the chief editor of Civic Surrey, a local blog charting the maturation of BC’s second largest city. Follow @PaulHillsdon on Twitter for his updates.