by Stephanie Staples | photo by Janis Jean Photography –
When I moved to Sidney almost six years ago I loved the sleepy charm of this seaside community. I was quite certain I could run naked down Beacon anytime after 6 p.m. and no-one would be around to notice. But after a while, I realized that sometimes I wanted to stay out after dark, have some fun and still stay on the Peninsula.
I love to dance, so I started the Peninsula Full Moon Dance Party (find us on Facebook); it’s lots of fun but alas the full moon only appears once a month – what about in between?
Enter the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada Unit 302 (ANAVETS) located conveniently on Fourth Street beside the unmissable big old fighter jet and tank – where behind their modest doors, I was introduce to the most wonderful discovery!
Every Friday night they have an awesome live band and dancing! Every Saturday night they have an eclectic blend of entertainment including things like DJs, Open Mics and get this … once a month, they have a Big Band! I was so excited to find this local gem; I can hardly contain my exclamation marks!!! When you walk in the door, it’s easy to expect people to shout out your name in “Norm-like” fashion and when I entered the first time I suddenly realized why town was so empty – because everyone was inside this building – smiling, laughing, enjoying camaraderie and shaking their booties!
Steph, you say – I’m not a vet, I’ve never been in the army, navy or airforce – to which I say, it matters not: everyone is welcome (under 19 accompanied, of course), it is not just for vets, but they do honour vets. You can come as a guest three times for free and after that, you can gain admission to this private club for between $45 and $55. It’s the deal of the century. But wait, there’s more … if you don’t like music or dancing that’s OK: there is a gigantic games room with darts, shuffleboard, pool and the only snooker table on the Peninsula! Would you like more choices? They have Bingo, they have Poker, they have Cribbage, and I imagine if you don’t see what you like on their calendar, you could probably suggest it!
No more boredom on those rainy days; come in and play! Also, you can rent the room for special occasions; who knew this? Well, Chris and Lynn (pictured) did; they were there to book the venue for their upcoming June wedding reception – while their date wasn’t available they got in our photo and my friends and I snagged ourselves invitations to their nuptials!
One of the best things about ANAVETS Unit 302 is that they are a Not-For-Profit Society. Last year alone, they donated over $55,000 to local charities, from the Wounded Warriors program to the Scouts and Guides to animal and children’s charities – this place is all in to help as 100% of gaming proceeds go back into our community. To me, this makes paying the nominal membership a no-brainer: the whole family can enjoy the amenities and I love that Bar Manager Dion Amyotte keeps the bar well stocked with a big variety of non-alcoholic beverage for people like me and the under-19s. I haven’t tried the food yet, but I’ve heard good things about it.
I think no article about ANAVETS Unit 302 would be complete without mentioning the “Meat Draw” which is the lifeblood of the Unit. I was recently educated about it and apparently, this is a common tradition (which I am telling myself I am perhaps too young to know about). The club purchases $500 worth of meat per draw and every Friday and Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. members and guests have the opportunity to buy tickets (average spend is about $10) for the chance to win a multitude of meaty (and otherwise) prizes. I haven’t been yet but now that I know they have non-meat prizes too (for us vegetarians in the mix) I will pop in! It sounds like a very social evening so I may suggest they change the name to the “Meet Draw” … Oh! That makes me think perhaps a singles night is in order!
As if I wasn’t done being impressed, I found out this unassuming ANAVETS Unit is the most successful – and largest by membership – unit in British Columbia (pushing 700 members); they are run by a volunteer executive board and have the largest Ladies Auxiliary in B.C.!
While the décor is not really my cup of tea (my last visit in April was an odd mix of guns and swords and Easter Bunnies and chicks), I am a raving (and dancing) fan, a card-carrying member and I am proud to support this wonderful spot on our Peninsula. You can find them on Facebook or at www.unit302.ca.
See you on the dance floor!