ABOVE: Looking good for 40: Former Slocan Valley residents are expected to return in late August for the Vallican Whole community centre’s three-day birthday celebration. BELOW: Share certificate designed by underground comics artist George Metzger

ABOVE: Looking good for 40: Former Slocan Valley residents are expected to return in late August for the Vallican Whole community centre’s three-day birthday celebration. BELOW: Share certificate designed by underground comics artist George Metzger

Vallican Whole turns 40

Forty years ago this summer, a big benefit dance took place on the floor of what’s now the Vallican Whole community centre.

Forty years ago this summer, a big benefit dance took place on the floor of what’s now the Vallican Whole community centre.

There were no walls then — for there was no money left to raise them once the foundation was completed. Consequently, some wag dubbed it the Vallican Hole.

But proponents were not so easily discouraged.

“The community felt the need for the building and also it was a face saving thing because people were determined to build it,” recalls Moe Lyons. “It’s just that we had a bit of a snag. So they had the raise-the-walls benefit on the naked dance floor.”

To mark the anniversary of that dance, which helped the Hole eventually become the Whole, a celebration is planned from August 26 to 28. It’s expected to draw former Slocan Valley residents from far and wide.

Festivities begin on the Friday with a Cafe Voltaire-style coffee house and meet and greet. Poets Tom Wayman, Lynn Lidstone, and Geordi Campos will provide the words and jazz singer Laura Landsberg the music.

The following day, there’s more music from noon onward, primarily geared at the under 30 crowd, and an arts and crafts market that will be run like an artists’ collective.

“We’ll have a wide range of people that might not come if they had to perch at their table,” says Lyons, one of the organizers. “It’s a very arts-oriented event, largely because there will be so many people coming from all over the place and we want them to have something to take away from this event.”

In the evening, it’s the annual 100 mile meal, aka locavore’s feast. While normally a pure potluck, due to all those from out of town, this time it’s a combination potluck and paid meal.

There’s also a 50-50 auction, with Corky Evans doing the honours with the gavel.

Among the high-end items up for grabs: one of artist Pamela Nagley Stevenson’s famous dragons, an Ann Swanson Gross oil painting, and a trip on New Denver mayor Gary Wright’s sloop. But the pièce de résistance, Lyons says, is a cake by mother and daughter Glynis Wilson and Sabbian Clover.

“It could well be the last time we have one of these amazing cakes offered at the Whole. They have been offered at benefits over the years and have been a source of tremendous excitement.”

That night there’s a dance by Brain Child — featuring Bing Jensen and Helen Davidson, formerly of Brain Damage, the valley’s premier band in the Whole’s early days.

“Brain Child doesn’t want to be known as Brain Damage any more,” Lyons says. “They’re quite adamant about this. But as far as most people are concerned, that’s the draw.”

Sunday will be a family day with kids activities and performances, a big birthday cake, and a classically-oriented concert.

Throughout the weekend, sand sculptor Peter Vogelaar and crew will be on site, while Evelyn Kirkaldy will lead people in painting a bus that will become part of the Whole’s new sculpture park (more on that later in this series).

Some events are free, others have admission charges. The full weekend is $50, which not only gets you access to everything, but a limited edition Max the Jeweller medallion, based on a Bob Inwood design representing “looking back, looking forward.”

The Whole has thrown birthday parties before — including for its 20th, 25th, and 30th — but Lyons says this is probably “the big one.”

“For the crowd that began the building, we’re still able to party all night long,” she says.

“We have this beautiful building and magnificent culture we’ve developed. It’s really important that those of us who were here from the beginning pass it on to the next generation and keep it going and growing.”

Tamara Smith, the Whole’s administrator since 2003, who is part of that younger generation, agrees: “It’s not just a reunion. It’s to engage people into part of the living myth and encourage them to come out and make this their community centre.”

Next: A new exhibit at the Kootenay Gallery chronicles the Whole’s whole history.