Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival illuminates PNE

This Friday, December 15, 2017, the PNE debuts the Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival, the largest of its kind in Canada. One of the most beautiful and culturally significant festivals will light up the skies of Vancouver with dozens of spectacular gossamer lanterns, some reaching nearly 200 feet in length.

Bin Zhu, Director of Sichuan Tianyu Culture Communication Co. Ltd says, “We believe our lantern festivals can improve cultural communication between China and the world.”

“It is a tremendous honour to have been selected by this leading cultural organization as the inaugural host in Canada for this important festival,” says Mike McDaniel, President and CEO of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE). “We anticipate people from all ethnicities and cultures from across our region will be excited about the opportunity to see this important and impressive display.”

Lantern festivals started during the Han Dynasty, about 2,000 years ago. For centuries, lanterns festivals have been lit on the fifteenth day of the first month in the Chinese calendar to pray for a good harvest, and to gain favor of Taiyi, god of heaven. Today, the lantern festivals are still held each year around the country, with each major Chinese city having its own light festival.  In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs such as the ones that will be on display at the PNE.

The Festival will be featuring Dragon, White Pagoda, Kylin, and Huabiao Column lanterns, each lantern symbolizing a Chinese sage or legend. The columns are said to be protectors of the residents and a reminder for the emperor to pay attention to his duties.

In addition to the lantern displays, the festival will also include two nightly performances in the PNE Amphitheatre: Sunday to Thursday at 6:30pm and 8:30pm, and Friday and Saturdays at 7pm and 9pm. Featuring Face Changing, Acrobatics, Plate Spinners, Folk Dance, Jar Balancing and Erhu. These exciting performances are family friendly, and are sure to wow. The lantern festival will also feature a food and beverage program and additional children’s activities.

Vancouver Chinese Lantern Festival opens December 15th, featuring 35 illuminated displays transforming over 14 acres of Hastings Park running daily from December 15th, 2017 (closed Christmas Day) until January 21, 2018.

For further information and tickets visit 

A Christmas Carol at Gateway Theatre

This year, the Gateway Theatre holiday season takes a slightly darker tone as A Christmas Carol finds the Christmas spirit, or in this case four spirits.  It’s hard to tinker with a tale as familiar as Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, but this adaptation by Michael Shamata, directed by Rachel Peake, trims the play into a show that’s manageable for all ages and focuses on the ensemble and core spirit of the work.  All members of the creative team mention how they feel the play’s  message of finding and sharing good with your fellow man is especially needed in these current times.

Scrooge (Russell Roberts) & Marley (Allan Morgan)
Photo: David Cooper

Allan Morgan begins the play as narrator, talking directly to the audience to set the stage for what is to come, and has led to the moment we meet Russell Roberts’ Ebenezer Scrooge and Adam Olgui’s Bob Cratchit at work on Christmas Eve.  While the supporting characters are present, Peake has centred the production on the ghost story, and the message the spirits bring to Scrooge, starting with the eerie ghost of Jacob Marley bringing a warning to Scrooge of continuing his secluded, miserly way of life.  The simple staging by Drew Facey allows the audience to fill in the blanks as the ghosts take Scrooge from his past to present and future.

Ghost of Christmas Past (Josh Chambers) & Scrooge (Russell Roberts)
Photo: David Cooper

The Gateway Theatre holiday show often serves as a mentorship to up and coming actors and stage crew. This production includes five members from the acting program at Langara College’s Studio 58, all playing multiple roles alongside the seasoned, professional players.  At just 110 minutes, including intermission, the production is compact and conveys the spirit of the Holiday favourite in a way that the whole family can enjoy.

A Christmas Carol is onstage at Gateway theatre in Richmond until December 24th.  For Information and Tickets visit

Vancouver Foodster Holiday Market Recap

This week, Vancouver Foodster presented the first edition of Holiday Market, a great evening of browsing, shopping and tasting.

The event brought together two dozen vendors at 4 locations around South Granville, Kitsilano and Mount Pleasant. The evening’s vendors included a mix of food products, artisans, and gift ideas just in time for Holiday shopping.  New enterprises, established ventures and collaborations were all presented by the vendors to educate the participants on their wares and services.

All participants checked in at Milano Coffee Roasters on West 8th Avenue which was filled with Holiday Market patrons anxious to see what lay ahead.

Within the cafe, Milano was warming everyone up, serving a duo of their award winning coffees to sip while browsing the vendors around the room including;

Olympia Komianos: Jeweler, Olympia showed her beautiful, rustic hand made silver and gold jewelry.

Foodie Books: Cookbooks by Brad Hill – The North Shore Foodie, The East Van Foodie, The Gastown Foodie are all part cookbook, neighbourhood restaurant guide and history book.

Hayat’s Garden: Floral salads and nutritious, athletic foods created by Saj & Co

Livia Sweets: a small, boutique bakery creating homestyle goodies for sale in cafes and markets around the city.

Jonny Hetherington Essentials: Clean, simple and delicious fruit based Hot Sauces and Ketchups from Jonny Hetherington

Whipped and Beaten: a brand new Vancouver baker creating gluten-free and traditional cakes and pastries.

Faculty Brewing: The False Creek brewer works in collaboration with Milano to brew the 599 Cold Brew ESB also serving their popular Citra (citrus based) Pale Ale.

Next up we visited Meinhardt Fine Foods at 14th & Granville in South Granville, where the store itself is a treasure trove of sweet and savoury gifts for everyone on your lists.  Here we found even more new and established vendors to show us what they’re all about;

Meinhardt’s kitchens prepared some of their renowned bites for patrons to indulge in as they walked over the threshold.  Perfectly balanced housemade Egg Nog, Fried Shrimp of savoury crackers, and Curry Chicken.

ARC Iberico: reminiscing of Spain, we sampled some Chorizo, Iberico Ham and more.

Sal de Ibiza: now in North American Sal de Ibiza presents 30+ products all touched by the Queen of Salts, Fleur de Sel.

Paw Paw’s Cocktail Cherries: Paw Paw is a Southern US term of endearment for Grandfather, who in this case, is on the bottle of these sweet, tart and perfect cocktail cherries.

Justea: Ethically, fair-trade tea direct from Kenyan farmers served their vibrant Purple Rain and Purple Mint teas, yes they’re really purple.

Maureen’s Natural Foods:  Maureen served her classic Caribbean Rum Cake

Terra International Foods: Great European foods gifts sourced from around the continent, like Stollen, Speculaas and more

Laiki Crackers: Simple and Satisfying red and black rice crackers, collaborated with
Blue Heron Creamery: a Vancouver plant-based non-dairy cheese maker
creating savoury cheese and cracker bites

Be Fresh Market Cafe on Bayswater was the next stop filled with more vendors from the shelves of the market curated by

Be Fresh Catering: tempting, tasty vegetarian bites, perfect for your next party like Roasted Zucchini and Brie Cheese Sliders and more.

Tempea Foods:  Rich, and ‘meaty’ Tempeh ‘meatballs’ do not make you miss the beef .

Biota Fermentation:  The small batch fermentor, specialized in fermented pro-biotic foods and kombucha and served a fresh tart and tangy wheatberry salad

Blume Latte:  Zesty, Spice, Sweet are the flavour palate that comes when you try Blume’s trio of Latte Mixes. Turmeric, Chili Turmeric, Beetroot

Kapow Now!: Plant-based superfoods crafts crispy, healthy crackers and much more.

Talk To Me Naked: Artist Tori Swanson is inspired by you, your body is her muse for her custom ink works

On 4th Avenue, Silk Road Tea has so much in-store they didn’t need other vendors to fill out our Holiday Market evening.

Serving a selection of their Wellness Teas, and a rich and decadent Tea Hot Chocolate, the Silk Road Tea shop is filled with create gifts for yourself or those on your lists.

The Vancouver Foodster Holiday Market was truly and evening of delicious inspiration.

Look out for the next Vancouver Foodster event, Noodle Mania January 10, 2018. 



East Van Panto – Snow White & the Seven Dwarves

Through the enchanted viaduct and over to the York Theatre in East Vancouver, we find this year’s East Van Panto, Snow White & The Seven Dwarves.

Photo: Emily Cooper

For the fifth year, Theatre Replacement and The Cultch have teamed up to present a holiday treat for the whole family.  Sticking to the traditional structure of a pantomime; take a children’s tale, add music, slapstick comedy, cross-dressing characters, topical jokes and pop-culture references and you’ve got an uproariously silly good time.  East Van Panto takes Snow White, a goth teen, lock her up in her aerobic instructor stepmother’s West Vancouver home, whilst she longs for the freedom and hipness of East Van. As she escapes, Snow encounters a collection of East Van characters and locations.  Ming Hudson’s Snow White is the centre of the show, a surprisingly grounded heroine who anchors the panto and allows the other crazy cavalcade of characters the freedom to be over the top.  Allan Zinyk’s Wicked Stepmother is a scenery chewing, ridiculous villain, eliciting the well deserved boos and hisses of the audience.

Photo: Emily Cooper

Most of the actors play multiple roles throughout the show, creating some interesting and comedic moments when both of those roles are in the same scene.  Amy Rutherford and Chirag Naik stand out in their supporting roles, both excelling in the slapstick comedy and music.

Veda Hille, also returning for a fifth year, music brilliantly combines modern pop and rock tunes with updated, topical lyrics that both move the story along but also bring up plenty of laughs.  Set to tunes of Bootylicious by Destiny’s Child, Lorde’s Royals, Push It by Salt-n-Pepa, Lose Yourself from Eminem, Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling and many more tracks lend familiarity while tickling your funny bone with hilarious lyrics.

Talking about what happens to Snow White along her journey may give away too much of the story will ruin some of the current affairs humour and characters so just go see East Van Panto for yourself and find out what happens to Snow White.

East Van Panto : Snow White & The Seven Dwarves runs until January 6th at  York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive, Vancouver.  Visit for information and to purchase tickets.


Picks of the Week – December 6, 2017

Just 20 more sleeps until Christmas and 6 until Hanukkah ! If you’re not already in the Holiday spirit, the picks of the week have plenty to get you feeling festive.

Shop: Tonight, browse, taste and shop your way around the Vancouver Foodster Holiday Market, at merchants in South Granville, False Creek and Kitsilano

Symphony: Tonight, join Jann Arden and the VSO for an evening of music at the Orpheum Theatre

Rock: The Killers hit the stage tonight at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Arena at UBC for one night only

Sci-Fi: December 6 – 10, Some Assembly Theatre company presents Nicholas Harrison’s tale of strength and resiliency; How Star Wars Saved My Life 

Market: The Christmas Market season is in full swing with the Vancouver Christmas Market opening today, running until December 24, at Jack Poole Plaza plus River District, Make It!, Got Craft? & Shiny Fuzzy Muddy craft fairs throughout the weekend.

Tea: One of a kind duo, James and Jamesy  find their Christmas Spirit in thier latest touring show, O Christmas Tea, playing tonight December 6th at Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver

Ice: Thursday night, Vancouver Canucks play host to Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Arena

East Van Panto
Photo: Emily Cooper

Snow: Until January 6th, help Snow White and the Seven Dwarves evade her Evil Stepmother in East Van Panto at The Cultch York Theatre

Jazz:  BC’s own Diana Krall brings her smooth sounds to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday night.

Twinkle: Light up your nights with the Festival light displays all around Metro Vancouver; Lights of Hope, Canyon Lights, Bright Nights, Heritage Christmas, Glow Christmas, Lights at Lafarge all bring a little Christmas Spirit.

Spirits: Join the Vancouver Men’s Chorus for an evening of Making Spirits Bright at St Paul’s Anglican Church on Saturday and Sunday evening

Stage: The Arts Club Theatre Company’s dramedy  The Day Before Christmas is onstage at the Goldcorp Stage until the day before Christmas, while fan favourite Onegin remounts the Arts Club, Granville Island Stage, until December 31st and Disney’s Beauty & The Beast is in previews starting tomorrow.

Dickens: From December 7 – 24th, the Holiday Classic, A Christmas Carol comes to life onstage at Gateway Theatre in Richmond.

Narnia: Carousel Theatre, invites families to step through the wardrobe as C.S Lewis’  The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe comes to the stage until December 31st.

Carols: The 25th Anniversary of the VSO’s Traditional Christmas at St Andrew’s Wesley this weekend and in various venues throughout the month

Drag: The Christmas Queen is back to ruin Christmas for Vancouver Theatresports League and on Saturday nights, anything can, and will happen,  when Vancouver drag diva the Unstoppable Connie Smudge joins the stage,  it’s two queens for the price of one at Christmas Queen Drag Race.






Handel’s Messiah from Early Music Vancouver

This weekend, Early Music Vancouver (EMV) presented Handel’s Messiah for the first time in their repertoire.  EMV welcomes music lovers to four performances over the weekend, at the White Rock Baptist Church, Vancouver Playhouse and Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver.  Virtually sold out for the whole run,  there was definitely an appetite for the classic work.

Pacific Baroque Orchestra photo: Jan Gates

Since Handel wrote Messiah in 1742, the oratorio has been performed countless times due to its enduring popularity and familiarity of the famed Hallelujah Chorus.  Over the years the productions of Messiah have swelled to epic proportions, with some performances reaching orchestras and choruses of 100+, as the producers tried to outdo other versions.  EMV had a trimmed down vision for their first foray into the Baroque work.  Music director and harpsichordist Alexander Weimann lead the 20 piece Pacific Baroque Orchestra, playing period instruments. The 30 member Vancouver Cantata Singers, nimbly brought the chorus to life .  Bringing extensive experience in Baroque music, four internationally acclaimed vocalists joined the EMV ensemble;  Yulia Van Doren (soprano), Krisztina Szabó (mezzo-soprano), Charles Daniels (tenor), and Tyler Duncan (baritone).

Vancouver Cantata Singers

Watching our first full performance of Handel’s Messiah, I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than knowing it was a long work.  I was happy to find that while it was long at nearly 3 hours, EMV’s Handel’s Messiah was a fast paced (impressively so, at times), easy to grasp classical work.  The Chorus, and soloists filled the room with their voices and the orchestra was tightly rehearsed to sound as one. Of course, a highlight was the Hallelujah Chorus, bringing the audience to their feet for the uplifting moment.

With the popularity of these performances, I won’t be surprised to see Handel’s Messiah on next year’s Early Music Vancouver calendar. In the meantime, get another Seasonal music experience when EMV presents Festive Cantatas – Vivaldi – Gloria & Magnificat on December 23rd at The Chan Centre for Performing Arts.

Donate to Donnelly Fund Toy Drive – December 5th

Since its beginnings as a few employees enjoying festive drinks and donating a few toys, the Donnelly Fund Toy Drive has raised over $350,000 in monetary donations, given over 12,000 toys to children and hosted more than 5,000 Donnelly Group staff for an annual holiday party.

Donnelly Group also invites the Vancouver community to participate by bringing unwrapped toy donations to Royal Dinette, The Blackbird Public House and Barber & Co. (905 Dunsmuir Street) on December 5th any time between 5pm – 8pm. 

While many lament that the Holiday Season has become more about consuming, it’s nice to know people are still willing to participate in giving, too. The Toy Drive Event brings the year to an end for Donnelly Group staff, ending in a celebratory holiday party where employees will donate their gifts and enjoy a festive evening sharing the company of each other around a massive pile of toys.