By AIDAN HAROLD, EXCLUSIVE! to From A Reporter’s Notebook
WELLAND – Every year, the friends and family of Owen Harold gather on the Saturday closest to his birthday to celebrate his life, and the causes he dedicated it to. Owen, my older brother, passed away in a car crash on September 30, 2008. He was 22 when he died, and was incredibly passionate about environmental issues, social justice, music, and his large group of friends and family. We combine all of his passions in Owenpalooza, an annual music festival held at Club Richelieu. This year the show is on Saturday, July 23, with doors opening at 6pm.
Once again, Owenpalooza will feature two stages, and as always will have a majority of local bands. The headliner this year is Ivory Hours, who are joined by UKAE, Northcote, Bratwurst Days, the Fortune Runners, Revive the Rose, Jeff Beadle, and the Gatta Sisters. Once the first band goes on, there will be near continuous music until the end of the night. As in previous years, after the final act is done we will offer a free ride home to anywhere in the Niagara Region. We are committed to making sure that people can enjoy themselves, without endangering themselves, or others. We also serve a light meal free of charge, and there will be local vendors selling food on the premises.
In continuing commitment to supporting environmental responsibility and sustainability, Owenpalooza will once again be a green event. In our history we have never produced more than a single bag of garbage, even with past events drawing 1200+ people. Everything else is either recycled or composted. Our t-shirts are made by Me to We Style, one of the Craig Kielburger family of organizations. All shirts are produced in an environmentally and socially conscious manner, with a tree being planted for every product sold and a portion of profits being donated to Free the Children.
For the past seven years, Owenpalooza has been dedicated towards raising money and community support for a number of incredible and important causes. Over the years, we have had a steadfast commitment to environmental sustainability and to social justice. We will focus, as always, on those topics, but this year, for the first time, Owenpalooza will centre on, support, and call attention to a topic of paramount importance.
On Saturday, July 23, the Owenpalooza family warmly invites you to join us as we “Light it up Blue” for autism awareness. To signify our dedication to raising awareness, this year every Owenpalooza shirt sold will be blue, the chosen colour of the autism awareness movement, and will feature a puzzle piece representing the unbelievably complex developmental disorder that affects so many in all of our communities. Furthermore, all Owenpalooza signage, tickets, and graphics will also commit to the blue theme.
Funds raised from Owenpalooza have traditionally been split between supporting the Owen Harold Memorial Scholarship Fund at Notre Dame College School, which Owen attended, and the Owen Harold Random Act of Kindness Fund. The latter has supported a number of causes over the years, both local and global.
This year fundraising will focus on autism related causes and charities. Two young members of our Owenpalooza family have been diagnosed with autism. For those who don’t know, autism affects socialization, behaviour, and both verbal and non-verbal communication. Early intervention is absolutely crucial in the the support of people with autism, and in helping them to develop and grow into their full potential. Previously the Ontario government has supported early-intervention programs, but recently the current government has made drastic cuts, despite the years of proof that the programs dramatically increased the future success of young people with autism. For reasons like this it is so important that we continue to raise awareness about the issue, and even more important that we call for support for people with autism. It is our responsibility and duty to help the most marginalized people living in out society.
I invite you to come out to Club Richelieu here in Welland on Saturday, July 23, to enjoy a night of fantastic Canadian music, some great food, and even better company, all while showing your support for social justice, the environment, and autism awareness. I can think of no better way to remember my older brother than by celebrating his passions: music, friendship, and creating positive change in the world we all share.
(This is the multi-talented Aidan Harold’s second contribution to the blog about Owenpalooza. His first was last year. Thanks Aidan!)