Special to the Westerly
Saturday at 10 a.m. locals and visitors alike will muster at the fire hall before heading toward a venue that’s held the torch for veterans over nine decades. While many legions across the country can boast a similar claim, few hold a candle to the integral role the local chapter plays in the life of the community.
“The Tofino legion is regarded as the unofficial community hall for Tofino,” said Duncan McMaster, vice president of Royal Canadian Legion Clayoquot Branch #65. “It’s a safe place for the young people to enjoy themselves.”
After a church service, the flag-lowering and two minutes of silence at 11 a.m., and the soup and sandwiches the Ladies’ Auxiliary will prepare for the occasion, the evening’s entertainment and fundraiser is expected to demonstrate how Tofino’s Legion has become one of the central elements of the West Coast’s lifeblood.
At 9 p.m. the hall’s doors will open for a $10 rock show ($5 for members) showcasing The Stacks, The Archaics and Fever Feel. A portion of this entry fee will go to the Poppy Fund.
McMaster represents the more traditional crowd that’s populated Canada’s legions for generations.
“All my family’s been in the services at some stage of the game,” he said, considering the reason behind why he volunteers with the local Legion Branch #65. “It’s a way of giving something back. We live the lives we live because of them.”
It’s a sentiment not every surfer, hiker and paddleboarder who moves here for a season or more could honestly say they possess. Tofino’s legion has found a way to bridge the gap between the youthful demographic of the town with royal tradition.
From the Fishes and Loaves soup kitchen outreach held at the facility Tuesday around noon, to Monday Night dart league and open mic, to Wednesday evening bingo and karaoke, as well as Friday “locals’ night” from 4 p.m., the Legion currently has a pretty solid lock on community events.
“I like seeing the fact that the place is being used,” McMaster said, thinking about the many nights spent manning the box office over that past few years. “We’re trying to attract new people.”
Having a youthful audience filling the space every week is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it means, unlike many of Canada’s ailing veteran halls, it’s a vibrant organization that often puts on cutting-edge events. On the other hand, it results in a core group of stalwarts holding down the fort.
“I think we all know Tofino’s a young demographic,” he said, noting the branch has just a couple veterans. “If they want the legion to continue, they’re going to have to step forward to help run the place.”
Luckily there has been a solid crop of up-and-coming show promoters and performers who have been putting their energy towards maintaining the Legion’s edge.
That includes mainstay local DJs like Mr. McCue, Tako and DJ G-Rant, and newer artists like Ginger Slice, Roy’s Bag and Butterflywingtip.
As Tofino has swelled with tourists over that past few years, so has the audience for shows put on by the Legion, which remains one of the few places able to accommodate large events.
Dave Walton (nom de DJ “Wave Dalton”), 31, takes a break from pinning posters at Common Loaf to explain just how important the Legion has been to help “keep the music alive” – as he puts it.
“People are happy when they dance,” he said, adding that’s pretty useful in Tofino’s rainforest environment. “Especially in the dark winter months. There’s not not a whole to do.”
When it comes right down to it, the legion is a venue that celebrates the sacrifices young people made, McMaster notes, adding he hopes Tofino’s youth will take stock of what that means.
“A lot of these people didn’t have any choice in going off to war,” he said. “I hope everybody remembers that things can escalate quickly.”
That’s something Victoria band Fever Feel, on the bill for the Nov. 11 show, has been thinking about.
“It’s a day we all respect,” said Landon Franklin, 22, lead singer and bass guitarist of Fever Feel, one of the bands on the bill for the Remembrance Day show. “I don’t think it hits as close to home for us as for some others.”
Guitarist Logan Gabert, 25, echoed the sentiment.
“There’s definitely respect and thankfulness we all have for veterans,” he said. “We’re hoping there’ll be some at the show we can entertain.”