Music takes center stage in Birch Bay this weekend

Published on Wed, Aug 7, 2013 by Ian Ferguson

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From small beginnings four years ago the Birch Bay Music Festival has doubled in size every year since, and local humane societies and animal charities have reaped the benefits.

Supported by volunteers and donations, this year’s event will run for three days: Friday through Sunday, August 9–11. Organizer Tammy Pearce said the festival is a testament to the altruism of Whatcom County residents and businesses.

“It always amazes me how many people donate their time, money and resources to the event. Every band performs for free, tons of people donate to the silent auction, and all these local businesses are chipping in to help out,” Pearce said.

The festival will be located between The C Shop and Bay Café on the corner of Alderson Road and Birch Bay Drive. Kulshan Brewery in Bellingham has donated beer to the event, and Via Birch Bay Café and Bistro has volunteered to keep the beer cold in its refrigerators. Just as they did last year, Safway Scaffolding in Ferndale will build the stage this year, 3six0 music shop will provide sound equipment, and Birch Equipment will supply the generators.

Eighteen bands will perform at the festival, including local staple Reverend JD and the Blackouts, Electric Soul Society, Jeremy Serwer and Bre’r Rabbit. There will also be a bouncy house and a children’s train ride.

Musicians will play from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Bidding on the silent auction begins at noon on Saturday, and ends at 3 p.m. A Saturday after-party at Bobby’s Dry Dock Grill and Bar, 7876 Birch Bay Drive, will feature Show Pony Kick and Reverend JD and the Blackouts, with a $3 entry to benefit the festival’s charities.

On Saturday, local photographer Janell Summer will offer professional pet photos, and Rainbow Orca Designs will provide animal spirit card readings. Agents from the U.S. Border Patrol will give a K9 demonstration at 11 a.m., and festival-goers can “Ask the Vet” with Dr. Donna Keller at 1 p.m. and Dr. Kim Johner at 2 p.m.

On Sunday, the Doggy Fashion Show will award prizes to winners of categories such as best pet/owner lookalike, funniest fashionista and best peanut butter eater, among many others. Entry is $5 per category, and registration is due by noon on the day of the event. A printable registration form and more information can be found at

The Birch Bay Music Festival began in a barn on Kickerville Road in 2010 after Tara Nelson, former editor for The Northern Light, suggested that Pearce begin a fund raiser for local animal shelters. Pearce talked to a musician friend of hers, and the ensuing music event raised $1,000 for the Whatcom Humane Society, the Alternative Humane Society, and the Grey Muzzle Organization for senior dogs. The next year, Keith Alesse at The C Shop offered to help host the event next to The C Shop. Pearce co-owns Bay Café across the street, and agreed to locate the festival between the two businesses. That year’s festival raised $3,900, which was donated to the Whatcom Education Spay and Neuter Impact Program (WeSNiP).

Last year, local guitar maker Bryan Cronk offered to raffle off one of his fine custom guitars at the festival. The raffle was a huge success, and the 2012 festival raised $7,244, with proceeds again going to WeSNiP.

Cronk has built another guitar for this year’s festival. It’s made of Hawaiian koa wood and mahogany, and features an eagle and flag motif. With top of the line hardware, rare materials and intricate craftsmanship, the guitar is worth well over $5,000, Pearce said.

“I’ve lived on Hawaii, and I know koa wood is very rare,” she said. “It’s a beautiful guitar.”

The theme of this year’s Birch Bay Music Festival, “Paws across the border,” is a reflection of the decision to include the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) on the list of beneficiaries.

“The BCSPCA does a lot of wonderful things for their animals, and they’ve been able to dramatically reduce their instances of euthanasia because of their spaying and neutering programs,” Pearce explained. “Even though we’re in Whatcom County, we want to work with our B.C. friends, and this is just a way to tell our Canadian friends that we appreciate them. If it wasn’t for their patronage, a lot of us in Whatcom County wouldn’t have jobs.”

Other beneficiaries include the Alternative Humane Society and the Silver Cloud Special Cat Sanctuary.

“It’s been a labor of love,” Pearce said. “We love animals, and there are so many wonderful volunteers who work tirelessly for these organizations. We want to prevent overpopulation and we want to prevent abuse.”