The Royal Canadian Legion Crescent Branch 240 will be turning 60 this month, and members aren’t about to let the occasion pass without a bang.
Organizers are pulling out all the stops for the Aug. 20 celebration, which will begin at 11 a.m. with a parade down 128 Street from Crescent Park Elementary to the legion (2643 128 St.). Observers can expect to see a pipe band, veterans, cadets and numerous legion supporters and beneficiaries in the procession.
A subsequent ribbon cutting with Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg will officially open celebrations, including live music every hour from noon to 5 p.m. The Sumner Brothers, jazz trio the Square Pegs, Gwen Gouchee and Andrews sisters tribute Company Jump will all perform.
Lesley Maudsley, treasurer of the legion’s ladies auxiliary, said there will be plenty of activities for the whole family – all of which will be held outside, weather permitting – including a bouncy castle, face painting, a magician and free hots dogs and pop.
“Anyone from anywhere is welcome to join us.”
The first birthday cake will be cut at 2:30 p.m., and a steak barbecue ($10/person) will be served at 5 p.m., followed by a second cake.
At 7:30 p.m., a free dance featuring Straight Goods #2 will be held inside the legion for those 19 and older.
“It’s just to say ‘thank you’ to the community, because without them, we wouldn’t be here,” Maudsley said of the day-long event.
For Jack Berry – a Second World War veteran – the anniversary is a reminder of how far the legion has come since its humble beginnings in a Crescent Beach fire hall.
“When it first started up, it was all veterans, and gradually the veterans passed away,” Berry said. “The younger generation has taken over.”
Membership is no longer restricted to those who have served – or who are associated with someone who has served – in the Canadian Forces, and more people are always encouraged to join, Maudsley said.
There are currently 740 members – which is down from past years – many of whom are active volunteers.
“A lot of people have the misconception that the legion is just a place to come and drink,” Maudsley said.
In the last five years, the legion and ladies auxiliary has given around $500,000 to numerous causes, including scholarships and bursaries, local non-profit societies and the Red Cross.
Members also stepped up to support White Rock Venom, a slo-pitch team made up of locals recovering from drug and alcohol addictions.
“There is nothing that we don’t consider giving to,” Maudsley said. “We just want the community to be aware that we’re there and we’re here for them. We’re available for people in all walks of life.”
The legion is also looking to appeal to modern-day veterans, and has invited some who have served in Afghanistan to the legion’s anniversary celebration, which happens to fall on Afghan Veterans Appreciation Day.
Maryellen deWolf, the legion’s branch manager, said the conflict in Afghanistan has made war more relatable to youth.
“The Afghanistan war is closer to the last two generations than the First and Second World Wars,” deWolf said. “The Afghanistan war has opened (their) eyes.”
Such awareness gives youth perspective of what older veterans went through, Maudsley added.
“(Afghanistan’s) made the young people realize that years ago, if these brave, young men and women didn’t fight for us, where would we be?” she said, noting much can be learned from veterans’ experiences.
“They’ve all got stories and they all want to be listened to. And that’s what the legion’s for – to remind people what has happened.”
For more information about Crescent Branch 240, call 604-535-1080.