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It's no secret that the demographic of the Penticton Hot Jazz and Music Festival skews a wee bit more, um, mature than the demographic of, say, a Miley Cyrus show.
But 98? That's just short of three digits.
Nevertheless, that was the age of one of our two interviewees Saturday night at the Trade and Convention Centre's "French Quarter" venue. And he was definitely a cool cat.
On stage was Carolyn Martin's Swing Band, hailing from the southeastern United States. But on the menu this night wasn't "swing" at all. Instead of their usual song list, the band opted for a tribute to famed American songstress Patsy Cline.
The tribute is one of the reasons they were hired for Penticton, and the set went over like gold. The crowd couldn’t stop singing along. Or dancing.
And front and centre was 98-year-old George Bentham of Courtenay. With him was his 82-year-old girlfriend whose name we sadly lost in the buzz of the crowd.
Regardless, this wasn't their first time at the Penticton event. Indeed, they attended the very first festival in 1996. And they're tried to get here every year since. All the way from Courtenay.
On the 25-year anniversary of the thing -- COVID canceled it in 2020 and 2021 -- we figured that was pretty cool.
"We both were here for the first one," said Bentham, "and we’ve loved it all along.
"And now it's progressed to be a more efficient show now. And the talent level has increased greatly."
According to Bentham, his love for music began in his youth. He played the keyboard for much of his life, has been known to get up to the mic himself on occasion, and taught ballroom dancing.
"We had a festival in Victoria for quite some time," he said in explaining the couple's growing attraction to Penticton. "But it slowly wound down because it had too many venues and because if you if you wanted to see a band, you had to leave halfway through another band's show."
His better half, whose name still escapes us but who arranges for the bus that annually carries 40-plus people from the Courtenay region to the festival, said the two met 32 years ago.
"We started out square dancing way back," she said. "When I met him I was looking for a dancer and I found him. Now that's what we do."
Bentham's faovurite acts of the three-day event, apart from the Patsy Cline tribute, were Dave Bennett and the Memphis Speed Kings and Tom Hook and the Hounds.
Both acts play upbeat, youngish jazz and rockabilly, and both put on a heck of a show.
As for the star of Saturday's well-received tribute, Carolyn Martin said she'd come back to Penticton "in a heartbeat."
And that's saying something. Four members of her band live in Nashville. Carolyn and her hubby/bassist live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. That's a long haul.
"This is our first time here," said Martin. "We were invited and we were so excited. Three of us have played on Vancouver Island eight, nine years ago, so we kind of fell in love with the place back then."
"And being here this time, it's been like we were long-lost family. That's not hyperbole.
"From the time we landed here, everyone has been so nice. My husband and I like to get up early and go for walks, and everybody we encountered said hello."
Now we look forward to 2024, when the event is scheduled for Sept. 6 through 8. For more info as the dates draw closer, head here.