Café in the Woods gearing up for first season in two years

HONORA BAY—For more than a decade, a little venue nestled at the foot of a derelict ski hill was a veritable Mecca for roots musicians and their audiences. A subtle panic could be read in the faces of the first musicians to grace the stage at Honora Bay’s Café in the Woods when, during their performance, complete silence would fall across the once-murmuring crowd, to be replaced by obvious relief when thunderous applause greeted the end of a song.

Since then, the “little venue that could” has attracted performers well above its weight class, attracting the cream of the nation’s independent artists. But then COVID came to dim the stage lights and the woods fell silent.

This past week, an email from Café organizer Kerrene Tilson announced the tentative return of the renowned musical venue, reaching out to Island residents who have awaited the return of live music and those new arrivals to our shores who may never have experienced the wonder that was the Café.

“Over many years, up until 2019, we ran a music series presenting exciting professional talent who inspired and uplifted many souls and lovers of live music,” said Ms. Tilson. “There was always an electric current and joy shared in the moment between the artist and family and friends in attendance. I believe these performances have been missed and I’m working on trying to restart the series. For those of you new to the Island, these events are held at our ski chalet building at 2619 Hwy 540, approximately 15 kilometres west of Little Current.”

Ms. Tilson sent out a call for volunteers to help work the events and was immediately deluged with offers, but there is still room for more helping hands. “Going forward, I am also appealing for a handful of volunteers to help out with running these events,” she said. “I need backup help to work in the kitchen where we sell desserts, coffee, tea and other beverages. I’m also appealing for bakers to donate a cake or squares or something that could be divided into single servings for sale during our intermission.”

Those donations of baked goodies are vital to the operation as ticket proceeds from the Café go to the musicians so operating costs are met by revenue from kitchen sales. “These shows are all volunteer managed and happen about eight times annually,” said Ms. Tilson. “We do have a core group of volunteers, but they cannot always be available for every event so any help would be on a rotating schedule.”

COVID still remains, however. “For the shows themselves, we will reduce crowd capacity to 50 to space out tables and participants in recognition of the COVID menace,” explained Ms. Tilson, going on to caution, “if there is a surge on the Island, the shows would be cancelled and your tickets would be refunded. Currently what I am looking for is feedback to understand if folks will come out to these shows or be too anxious due to COVID threats. It takes a lot of time and effort to source and schedule shows so I want to establish there will be an audience for these performers who travel many miles to provide top notch entertainment. Please connect by phone or email and let me know your thoughts and feelings.”

The inaugural post-pandemic Cafe in the Woods performance will be on May 27, featuring the super roots group Boreal whose members will be familiar to long-time Café-goers. Tannis Slimmon, Katherine Wheatley and Angie Nussey are each accomplished award-winning songwriters, recording artists and performers in their own right, but together they are nothing short of dynamite.

Ms. Tilson advises that those who are not on the her Cafe in the Woods email contact list and who would like to be included should contact her at cafeinthewoods@, or if folks would like to just call and cha, she offers her cell number, 249-997-0009.