May 17, 2007 |

Artist Cafe cookout benefits charities here and abroad

By JESLYN LEMKE

Staff Reporter

You've got the band Echolalia strumming out good tunes on the microphone. Festival coordinator Melanie Villa is flitting through the background, pulling strings and making things happen.

The sun shines hard. Cheney Mayor Allan Gainer takes a bite of steak. The smell of barbecue winds its way through the crowd. Through it all goes the plink, plink, and (they hope) thunk of money into bottles.

Okay, so maybe the Artist Cafés May 26 barbecue cookout won't go exactly like this, but it could be darn close.

This free, all-day benefit festival features more than six musical groups (mostly from Eastern Washington University) and the culinary magic of local chefs.

Proceeds from the event will garner financial support for kids locally and internationally. There's a raffle and a “surprise” for children who donate.

“There's really no overdose of giving,” said Amor Canaday, the aunt of Villa and also one of the owners of Artist Café.

With an atmosphere akin to Spokane's Pigout in the Park, participants can meander through the parking lot to eat food prepared by local chefs.

The event will even be previewed on KXLY's Good Morning Northwest show on May 19.

Several local non-profit organizations who work with children are on the receiving end of donations including the Cheney Outreach Center and Hands Across Nations (HAN).

The latter organization provides grass-roots support to the citizens of Northern Uganda, whose daily lives have been savaged by a viscous 21-year-old war. Thousands of children are orphaned every year; most have no chance of completing high school. HAN helps put kids through school, works to provide clean spring water, and has several other projects in progress.

“Those people are really hard workers…They are not people who are just sitting around waiting for a hand out,” said Carolyn Kurowski, the director of HAN. “They have nothing. How do you start with nothing?”

Villa herself works at the EWU Children's Center and is an Eastern student. She began planning the cookout after a professor assigned a community project for class. Children were on her mind from the start.

“I believe they are the future,” Villa said in an interview at Artist Café. “I believe they'll make a difference in the world.”

Echolalia singer and EWU student Levi Mazurek was pumped when Villa asked him to come play. His band just formed a month ago. Most of their music, classical and folk rock (sounds like “Simon and Garfunkel meets Creedence Clearwater Revival”) has been created solely in preparation for the cookout.

Other local performers include Kyle Butler, Neal Harris, Amber Rhodes, and a musician from HAN.

“It's the fellowship of the community that makes a statement like this possible,” said Mazurek. A Christian for two years, his beliefs tie heavily into the event's hand in a greater cause- lifting others up.

“I don't know a lot, but I do know that one of the principles of being a Christian and living a good life is to help other people,” he said.

Raffle tickets can be purchase ahead of time by calling the Artist Café at (509) 235- 6163 or visiting the restaurant at 28 West First Street in Cheney.

Jeslyn Lemke can be reached at jes@cheneyfreepress.com

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