DeBungee tourney adding music festival
Home runs and good glovework will be joined by harmonies and great music later this month.
The second-annual Elvis DeBungee Memorial Softball Tournament is slated for Sept. 19-21 at Thunderbird Memorial Park in Rainy River First Nations and George Oltsher Field in Barwick.
“This was borne out of Elvis’ passion for music,” said event director Brian Cochrane Jr., who is Rainy River First Nations’ director of sports and recreation.
“If he was alive, he would be planning this, not me,” Cochrane added.
“It was always a thought to do this last year,” he noted. “But we didn’t have the time or the finances last year to do it.”
That all changed when Cochrane applied to the Rainy River First Nations Trust for monetary backing of the event.
He ended up receiving $44,000 for the music festival and $17,000 for the ball tourney.
The mixed tournament is open to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal teams, as is the festival in terms of the acts welcome to perform.
“We have aboriginal acts as our headliners but we want to showcase aboriginal and local talent, not necessarily just First Nations’ bands,” Cochrane explained.
Many of those performing at the festival have received Canada’s highest musical honour.
Four local acts open the day’s entertainment, including DeBungee’s former band, The Midnight Jammers.
At 5 p.m., George Leach from Lillooet, B.C. is scheduled to hit the stage.
Leach, who also has several TV acting roles to his credit, won the Juno Award for Aboriginal Album of the Year in March for “Surrender.”
Following him at 6 p.m. is Burnt Project, an 11-member group that combines rock, blues, jazz, funk, and traditional First Nations’ music.
Their 2006 album, “Hometown,” won the Juno the following year for Aboriginal Recording of the Year.
Then at 7 p.m., the rock act Eagle & Hawk will showcase their two decades of experience, in which time they have released 10 CDs.
They also have received more than six dozen nominations and awards combined for their work.
Wes DeBungee and his local band, NiteHawks, will play their classic rock format at 8 p.m.
The night’s entertainment then will wrap up with singer/songwriter Derek Miller, who hails from the Six Nations of the Grand River in Mohawk Territory.
Miller, who has toured with “Harmony of Nations” Music Festival headliner Buffy Sainte-Marie, won Junos for his first two albums, “Music is the Medicine” and “The Dirty Looks.”
All the musicians will be playing with a minimum of set design and other usual accoutrements that accompany stage acts.
“The bands loved the idea that we weren’t having the focus on the theatrics around the music, but that we wanted to keep it simple,” said Cochrane.
“Instead of the lasers and the light shows in behind the performers, we don’t want to take the focus away from the music.”
Admission will be $20 for adults and $10 for kids 15 and under.
As for the tournament, which gets underway Sept. 19 at 9 a.m., the field will expand from 16 teams last year to 24 this year, with 12 already on board.
That won’t be the only change.
“We had a double-elimination format for the whole tourney last year,” noted Cochrane.
“But this year, there will be six pools of four, with the winner of each pool advancing, as well as two wild-card teams which have the next best records,” he explained.
“Then we will have an eight-team, double-elimination playoff.”
The winning team will split $4,000.
Well-known and much-revered pow-wow caller Gary Smith of Northwest Bay will be on hand the entire weekend to work the microphone at the Manitou facility.
“He knows most of the players pretty good so he’ll be able to pick on them during the game,” Cochrane chuckled.
A skills competition also will take place on the Saturday at 4:30 p.m. while a pig roast will happen at 5:30 p.m., with both events occurring at Thunderbird Memorial Park.
On the final day, a poker tournament will be held beginning at 11 a.m.
A trip-for-two to Las Vegas will be raffled off, as well, while there will also be a penny table, a canteen and a live DJ providing music during and between games.
For the younger spectators, there will be inflatable castles and a newly-completed $150,000 playground on site to enjoy.
“Our idea is we want to keep the people there and give them other things to do when the games involving their team are done,” said Cochrane.
Anyone wanting to register a team should do so quickly as tournament spots threaten to go as fast as they did last year.
For more information, call Cochrane at 482-2479.