Golf. Music. Community.


Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan

The summer showed up, just in time for Gonzo Okanagan’s 3rd golf tournament, music festival and fundraiser this past Saturday and I was ready to bring a little Hunter S Thompson to the event in my short shorts, martini print shirt, sunglasses, my favorite fedora and Nike sneakers.

Camera in hand, I met up with event organizer and the man of the hour, Brad Krauza. Smiling, as always, he was being pulled in 5 directions when I met him at Sunset Ranch Golf and Country Club. Big hugs all around, he introduced me to a few of the sponsors, walked me through the club house and laid out the plan. It was high noon and the sun was hot. I was to zip around the golf course and photograph the action.  

Speed golf

As soon as I hopped in my golf cart and started rambling around the course, I saw the appeal right away. For one thing, having music blasting on a golf course, for me, makes the sport worthwhile. The first tea box I rolled up to had JAMES HAY and his band playing some soothing blues and the folks teeing off were dancing on the tee box. Now that’s golf. You have 18 tee boxes. So you also have 18 spots for a local musician and sponsors.

James Hay playing some blues on the golf course

The golfers who took part were a gathering of all sorts of folks. One of the sponsors, Elite Auto Centre, had a full bar and offered me my first jello shot of the day. That and a Bert Reynolds. The ladies there were having a screaming good time and, again, with music blasting, while I was taking photos, I was approached in regards to a woman needing a photographer for her wedding coming up in September. I handed over a card.

The ladies of Elite Auto mixing up some tasty drinks

Later, while I was photographing another musician, MICHAEL AVERILL, who happily played my request for some Xavier Rudd, I witnessed a golfer overhear a sponsor talking about her airbnb. He inquired about its availability in September. She checked her phone. The suite was available. A deal was done. Now that’s networking. I zipped around that beautiful golf course for hours trying to talk to as many people about the event as I could and everyone I talked to agreed that it was a long day in the sun but it was an amazing day all around and before long, the tournament was over and it was time to head up to the main stage. 

Michael Averill

The sun was at its apex when I returned my golf cart. Water. I hydrated as well as I could. The sponsors out on the golf course were very generous and there was an abundance of jello shooters going around. I know my limit and I had to stay within it so I regrouped and was in time to see COD GONE WILD play their set in the blazing sun. The heat didn’t seem to affect them much. They hone the East coast sound better than most. There were a couple hundred people that had come out and had taken to the grass and shade, resting on in chairs and lounging on the hillside in the shade, taking in the music.

I had access to the backstage area and I met up with RAQUEL COLE, who was getting ready to take the stage next. She is a Vernon local who has hit it big and is now living in Nashville. Beside her is AARON GRAIN, lead singer of the powerhouse country/bluegrass sensation, THE  WASHBOARD UNION. I had met up with Aaron out on the course. I mentioned that I had some photos of him golfing. He kindly suggested deleting those photos and I told him it’d cost him money for me to do so. “In the photos it looks like you know what you’re doing.” He laughed at that so I’ve kept those photos. Raquel’s time in Tennessee has chiseled some serious chops. She has the swagger and presence of real stardum. Keep your eyes and ears open for her. 

Chris Buck and Brad Krauza on stage

CHRIS BUCK came on next and his set saw the setting of the searing sun and as the day began to cool the folks in attendance ditched their lawn chairs and the shade of the trees and took to the dance floor. Chris Buck and his band are the real deal. Rocking country is what they do and since I’m not big into country music, I’ve discovered that when everyone is having fun, I’m having fun. To my own chagrin, I witnessed myself not only cozying up to the game of golf but also noticed my toes tapping to this genre of music, too.

Towards the end of their set, Chris pulled BRAD KRAUZA onto stage for a dance and a huge thank you in which EVERYONE in attendance erupted in a monstrous standing ovation. 

As the daylight started to fade, the headliners for the evening, The Washboard Union took the stage and without pyrotechnics they blew the roof off their opening song, What We’re Made of. Being a photographer I’m always sandwiched between both the crowd and the band and when I turned around I saw that everyone had pressed themselves against the barrier and most of them were singing along.

The Washboard Union
The crowd going Gonzo

Like I said, this genre of music is new to me and it struck me that I didn’t really understand just who I was in front of. On one side of Aaron was Chris Duncombe, sporting a dedicated, ZZ TOP like beard, plucking a banjo and limping on what looked like a broken foot, smiling and singing along and on the other side was David Roberts. This guy was also dedicated to one hell of a beard and he held an actual washboard way up into the air as he too sang along. You’re talking about colossal stage presence from all the members on stage and they had a few extra talented musicians up there with them. These guys played 17 songs including an encore.

Afterwards, was another chance to chat elbow to elbow with the bands and for me, one who is at a crossroads of sorts, had an opportunity to talk to the folks who have dedicated themselves to what they were most passionate about and who were on the road, doing what they do best.

I asked them all about how it felt to be back from the pandemic and it was a resounding, collective, ‘amazing’ kind of answer and when I had a chance to put the camera down and pour myself a bourbon I asked Aaron about overcoming the fear of quitting the day job to pursue what I myself am passionate about.

“You just gotta believe and don’t be afraid to lean on those who are willing to support you.” 

Chris Duncombe, Raquel Cole and Aaron Grain

We shook hands and as if on cue, Brad Krauza popped in with KINGA by his side.

The tournament saw over 700 people come through its gates. It was a creative way to bring the local business and music community together and for those who need some help getting the instruments and the funding to get their projects off the ground. I’m proud to be a part of this crew because at the root of all the dedication, hard work and sacrifice it takes to get this off the ground, it’s ALL about working together, supporting one another and staying the course in this crazy world we live in.

Thank you so very much to everyone who took part in this endeavor. Without you, none of this is possible. 

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The Okanagan’s been my home since I was born. Life has taken me across the planet several times and through that transient lifestyle I developed a journalistic style to my photography and to my writing. My influences would be that of James Nachtwey, Annie Lebovitz, Ashley Maile, Hunter S Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Tom Robbins, Wes Anderson and Charles Bukowski. The world outside this incredible valley, its cultures and its mystery is what’s kept me working and trying to save my money, so I can keep getting back into the world. That’s the way it used to be. Covid has opened my eyes to the land I call my home and there are so many tales to tell right here in BC. From tales of the impoverished to the neglected to those who overcome adversity, to the spirit to overcome fear, the power of storytelling has never been more relevant. I’ve always been a storyteller. There’s a tale worth telling in every neighborhood. I just happen to write about what happens to me along the way and I’ve kept them close to my heart, hoping one day I’ll have an outlet so I can tell those stories the best way I know how; by writing them down. From adventures of long ago, both here or maybe far away, future interviews with musicians, artists of all kinds, the coverage of events, the people I meet along the way, whatever I get up to I intend to have you as my guest as I go back in time and dig up the bones of those old adventures or chase down new ones. Through the alchemy of storytelling, you can come along with me if you like. Before Covid-19 I was really coming into my own photographing live shows; punk rock bands, hip hop showcases, tattoo portraits, rock climbing adventures, Femme Fatale burlesque performances you name it, the phone was finally beginning to ring. Then Covid showed up like a hurricane and I guess it wiped us all out in one way or another. I have a real bone to pick with Covid-19 and if I can share some stories for our readers to enjoy, I’ll do that and when we can return to live music and to foreign travel and we can safely get to working on mending what’s been damaged I tell you I want to be ringside like Joe Rogan commentating on Covid getting its ass whooped. I want to see it tap out and watch us overcome this hardship, raise our collective hands triumphantly and move on into whatever new normal is waiting for us. I’ll be there and through my eyes, just like the boss man, Hunter himself, I’ll do it in Gonzo fashion and bring you kicking and screaming along with me. So hold on tight and dig in. It might not always be pretty but I won’t call it all ugly, neither. That’s for you to decide. My name is Shane Collins and I hope you’ll read along with me and our team here at


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