The Washboard Union performs during the 2018 Gone Country benefit concert, to return to Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre in Cloverdale on July 23, for the first time since 2019. The 2020 and 2021 events were postponed due to the pandemic. (Photo: Facebook.com/TwinsCancerFundraising)

The Washboard Union performs during the 2018 Gone Country benefit concert, to return to Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre in Cloverdale on July 23, for the first time since 2019. The 2020 and 2021 events were postponed due to the pandemic. (Photo: Facebook.com/TwinsCancerFundraising)

BENEFIT CONCERT

Gone since 2019, and long sold out, Surrey cancer concert to return in summer facing new challenges

Organizers of Gone Country deal with increased production costs ahead of July 23 event in Cloverdale

The eighth edition of Gone Country was supposed to happen in 2020, but COVID killed those plans, along with dreams of a return in 2021. Now it’s 2022, and Langley twins Chris and Jamie Ruscheinski are busy lead-organizing a summer event in Surrey that promises a good time for a good cause.

Their country music-fueled event is now planned for July 23 at Cloverdale’s Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre, a familiar venue for a fundraiser that has helped raise close to $3.9 million through Twins Cancer Fundraising (TCF), which they launched when their mother was sick with breast cancer back in 1999.

Sold out for close to two years, Gone Country 8 will feature a slightly different lineup in 2022, with some artists, including The Reklaws, not able to make the twice-revised date due to changed travel plans.

This week, Twins Cancer Fundraising’s Facebook page has buzzed with artist announcements for the rescheduled concert, to feature The Washboard Union, Jojo Mason, Karen Lee Batten, Tony Stevens, Dakota Pearl, Tanner Olsen Band, Dave Hartney and others.

“After two years off, it was important for us to bring back bands that truly understand what Gone Country is about – that it’s always a cancer fundraiser more than a concert,” Chris Ruscheinski said.

“We’re there to raise money, and the artist performances are obviously a bonus of all that,” he added. “These guys get it. I mean, Jojo (Mason) shows up to help clean on Sundays after the event. It’s a grimy job and he shows up, gives everyone a big hug and high-fives, takes care of everybody and helps out for a few hours. The Washboard Union guys, they came out to the very first Gone Country and opened, and now they’re headlining, so it’s a pretty cool reunion for all of us.”

People have held onto their Gone Country 8 tickets for two years.

“When 2020 was cancelled we gave everyone a couple of weeks to request refunds,” Ruscheinski recalled. “We also said basically that people had two weeks to still buy tickets, and that we were going to cap it. We did get some ticket returns but ended up selling those, too, in those couple of weeks, and raised more money in the end.

“At this point,” he added, “we’re not planning on releasing any more tickets, just due to capacity limits that may happen come this summer. We don’t hope that happens, of course, but we don’t want to have a situation where we’re over limit if new (pandemic) restrictions are announced.”

This summer’s Gone Country will be slightly smaller than in 2019, “only because it was a bit scary for a group of volunteers to see that many people on the field,” Ruscheinski explained, “so we’ve toned it down a little bit and made sure all the people who really wanted to be there were able to get a ticket.”

The 2019 concert, which featured Aaron Pritchett and George Canyon as headliners, raised close to $822,000 for B.C. Cancer Foundation. A year before, in 2018, Gone Country raised $651,000 for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, with Gord Bamford and the Washboard Union headlining.

• RELATED STORY/VIDEO from 2019: Gone Country success means so much to cancer patient.

This time around, the twins are feeling “a little rusty” when it comes to staging Gone Country with the help of a small army of fellow volunteers.

Event organizers also face some new challenges related to increased production costs.

“We’re dusting off some rust here with organizing it all,” Ruscheinski said, “and we’ve realized that our costs have gone up on everything. The crappiest part is that we sold tickets for this two or three years ago and now all of the costs have skyrocketed, so it’s going to be a little tougher this year but we’re still going for it. Because of that, we’re hoping people donate a little more where they can. That’s all we can do at this point.”

Local realtors, the twins lost their mother to cancer more than two decades ago, along with their friend Shaun G. and others close to them.

“This has only added gasoline to our fire,” says a post on twinscancerfundraising.com. “We are not going to stand idly by while it continues to attack the ones we love. Your generosity and continued support is greatly appreciated.”

When massive floods hit B.C. last fall, TCF organized a donation drive-thru event outside a Langley restaurant, and will again host Rad Santa, a Christmastime fundraiser, Ruscheinski noted. A Battle of the Bands fundraiser has also helped the cause in recent years.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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