Toronto’s Sarah Wells and Sam Effah moved to first place in The Amazing Race Canada after a successful outing digging for clams at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station. The reality competition’s visit to the Nanaimo area was the most read arts and entertainment story of 2019. (Photo courtesy CTV)

Toronto’s Sarah Wells and Sam Effah moved to first place in The Amazing Race Canada after a successful outing digging for clams at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station. The reality competition’s visit to the Nanaimo area was the most read arts and entertainment story of 2019. (Photo courtesy CTV)

Top 10 most-read arts and entertainment stories of 2019

Articles about TV filming in and around Nanaimo and local artists appearing on TV dominate Top 10

1. Nanaimo is the next stop on ‘The Amazing Race Canada,’ July 23

On July 23 it was announced that Nanaimo would be the next stop on The Amazing Race Canada, the CTV reality competition in which teams of two travel across the country and race to complete challenges in order to advance to the next locale.

The Nanaimo episode would mark a return to the Island for The Amazing Race Canada. Last season’s race began at Hatley Park National Historic Site in Colwood outside Victoria, and after a swing through B.C. and the Yukon the contestants were back in the area for challenges on Salt Spring Island, Duncan and Shawnigan Lake.

Amazing Race Canada executive producer Mark Lysakowski called the Island “a beautiful oasis in the country” and said B.C. in general has a lot to offer.

Amazing Race Canada host Jon Montgomery lives in Victoria and often travels to Nanaimo to play golf, go boating and visit with friends. He said each time the show comes to the Island they’re “pulling at different threads.” He said the places the racers were to visit in and around Nanaimo were all new to him and that the competition is an opportunity to show the Island off to the rest of the country.

2. Pamela Anderson returns home to enjoy ‘peace and solitude’ of B.C., Aug. 26

After years living abroad in places like Malibu and Marseille and travelling the world, this past summer actress Pamela Anderson returned to her hometown of Ladysmith. She said she was relieved to make it “back in one piece.”

In an interview, Anderson discussed how she’s enjoying her time back in Ladysmith, what she’s been doing since coming back and her future plans.

She mused about starting some businesses in town and restoring her family’s property, including building a house, cabins and “my version of a wild Butchart Gardens with some tree houses.”

She spoke about how she deals with media scrutiny and said “it was worth embarrassing myself” because the money she was offered to do “crazy things” all went towards her foundation and supporting causes she cares about.

As an animal rights and environmental advocate, Anderson said she plans to speak out against fish farms and continue to support Nanaimo-Ladysmith Green Party MP Paul Manly, a past collaborator with whom she appeared during his re-election campaign.

Anderson said she also hopes to do what she can to help address the issue of drug addiction in the area. She said it’s something she’s seen a lot of in the entertainment industry.

3. ‘The Amazing Race Canada’ comes to Nanaimo area, July 30

On July 30 The CTV reality competition The Amazing Race Canada came to Nanaimo for the first time, with the teams of two competing in a number of challenges that showed off the area’s parks, wildlife and natural beauty.

First the teams headed to Petroglyph Provincial Park, where they found the supplies they would need for the rest of the Nanaimo leg of the race. Next they were off to WildPlay Element Parks where the pairs split up with one doing a bungee jump and the other riding a giant “primal” swing. Once on solid ground they then had to correctly recite the recipe of a Nanaimo bar in order to get their next clue.

Teams then journeyed to the Deep Bay Marine Field Station where they donned rubber boots and waders and were tasked with digging and correctly identify four different species of shellfish.

Once the teams collected the right shellfish they were off to Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, where they searched for hidden letters that spelled out the location of their pit stop: the Goats on the Roof Old Country Market in Coombs.

Sarah Wells and Sam Effah, a pair of Team Canada track athletes from Toronto, won the Nanaimo leg.

4. 15-year-old Nanaimo singer who had viral Facebook video releases single, May 14

After making her television debut, 15-year-old Nanaimo singer Lauren Spencer-Smith released her first single.

The Grade 10 Dover Bay Secondary School student scored a viral hit in March when a video of her singing along to a Lady Gaga song garnered more than 19 million Facebook views, and a 2015 video of her performing onstage with Australian country singer Keith Urban at Cowichan Valley’s Sunfest Country Music Festival has racked up nearly three million views.

On May 6 Spencer-Smith sang for her widest audience when she appeared on American comedian Steve Harvey’s talk show, filmed in Los Angeles and broadcast on NBC. She said it was a “super cool” experience, and as someone who’s been singing for audiences for nearly half her life she said she was comfortable performing on-camera.

With her first taste of serious show business under her belt, Spencer-Smith released her debut single on May 16. She chose to record a cover of Always Remember Us This Way, the viral Lady Gaga ballad that put her on millions of people’s radars.

Over the summer came another milestone when Spencer-Smith headlined her first concert at the Port Theatre. She said she wants to pursue a career in country music and one day move to Nashville.

5. ‘Chesapeake Shores’ filming in downtown Nanaimo, May 21

For years, Qualicum Beach, Parksville and Nanaimo have been standing in as the fictional seaside community of Chesapeake Shores in the Hallmark Channel TV series of the same name.

This summer actors and crew from the show were back in the Harbour City as filming wound down of the program’s latest season.

On May 21 the production came to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. While Nanaimo has hosted shooting, most of the filming for the series is done in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area.

Emilie Ullerup, who plays Bree on the series, posted on social media on May 12 that there were two weeks left to go before wrapping up on Season 4.

Fans of the show will find out what’s next after the Season 3 finale which saw Abby and Trace face an uncertain future while the O’Briens finally opened up about the past.

Last year Hallmark said Chesapeake Shores is one of the network’s most-watched original series.

6. Vancouver Island town to star in new Syfy series: ‘Resident Alien’, Dec. 5

Fresh off its role in the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie, Ladysmith will star in the new Syfy series: Resident Alien.

The comic book adaptation follows a crash-landed alien named Dr. Harry, played by Alan Tudyk of the cult science-fiction program Firefly, who, after taking on the identity of a small town Colorado doctor, slowly begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his secret mission of destruction on Earth. This leads him to ponder the question: are human beings actually worth saving instead of obliterating?

The pilot was filmed in Vancouver last year, however the lot where it was shot was sold, which brought the production to Ladysmith.

Writer and executive producer Chris Sheridan said he expects the show will begin filming in Ladysmith sometime toward the end of January. The season will be 10 episodes, nine of which will be filmed in Vancouver and Ladysmith.

The Ladysmith filming will take place over two weeks, one in late January, and then another in either February or March.

There may be opportunities for Ladysmith residents to participate as extras in the show. Sheridan said Ladysmith residents should stay tuned for those opportunities if they arise.

If the show is picked up for more seasons, Resident Alien will return to Ladysmith.

7. Nanaimo dancer to join ‘renowned’ European ballet company, June 14

Nico Janssen was two years old by the time he wore out his first pair of ballet shoes. This past summer, the 19-year-old Nanaimo dancer joined the Royal Danish Ballet.

Janssen has lived in Toronto since being accepted into Canada’s National Ballet School at the age of 12. He had just finished the National Ballet of Canada’s two-year apprentice program when he applied to the Royal Danish Ballet. Last January, Janssen was invited to Copenhagen for an audition and when he heard he made the cut, he was overjoyed. He said it’s one of his “dream companies.”

Janssen said the one thing that sets the Danish ballet apart is its adherence to a style of ballet created by 19th century Danish dancer August Bournonville, which Janssen said is known for its “humane” quality.

Before Janssen left for Scandinavia in July, he spent a few weeks with family in Nanaimo. While he was home he taught his first-ever ballet workshops at Vibe Studio alongside Vibe instructor Ivana Ho, who he said was one of his first dance teachers. The two have stayed in touch since Janssen moved to Toronto and he said he was looking forward to sharing everything he’s learned with the younger generation.

8. Young Nanaimo dancers to appear on NBC program ‘World of Dance,’ Feb. 19

Last spring Nanaimo dancers Jacksun Fryer and Deeya Sharma were seen performing on the biggest stage of their young careers.

Sharma, 12, and her group Minibots, including four Vancouver dancers, and 15-year-old Fryer’s duo Funkanometry, with dancer Carlow Rush from Cowichan, appeared on the NBC program World of Dance.

In the competition, dancers of all ages and styles face off for a shot at a $1-million prize. The judges were pop singer and dancers Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo and Derek Hough.

Fryer and Sharma were scouted while at an event in Los Angeles in May 2018 and auditioned in Vancouver in the summer. They both said they couldn’t believe they made the cut.

Fryer has been dancing for nine years, while Sharma has been a dancer for six years. Both dance at Nanaimo’s Vibe Dance Studio.

Vibe owner Serra Stewart said she felt like the “proud mama” having seen Fryer and Sharma’s progress and growth over the years. She said she was in the audience crying during Funkanometry’s performance.

A.J. (MegaMan) Kambere has been coaching both dancers for years. He said he wasn’t surprised they made it past the audition because he knows how talented they are. He said he wants the rest of the world to know as well.

9. ‘End of an era’ as Gabriola Island art venue closes, Aug. 15

Over the Labour Day weekend, as its four-year lease expired, Gabriola Island’s Hive Emporium closed its doors for the last time.

The art gallery, store, café, performance venue and meeting place occupies the building in Folklife Village plaza that housed Gabriola Artworks from 1996 to 2014, and its closure means the end for a space devoted to arts and culture for more than 20 years.

For Nanaimo it was the second gallery closure since March, when the Nanaimo Arts Council left its headquarters at 78 Wharf St. In an Aug. 5 Facebook post the Hive team announced that the venue will close on Labour Day weekend.

In anticipation of closing down, the Hive was selling off its art and store fixtures. Its final exhibition was a pottery show by the Tozan Cultural Society and on Aug. 24 the Hive hold its farewell party.

Co-owner Mark Parlett said many factors led to the closure the Hive. Among them are the challenges of competing with digital retailers and insufficient support from a community that can spend time and money elsewhere.

He said it can be a challenge to confront people to re-evaluate their priorities and become more culturally engaged. The Hive attempted that by being a gathering place for all forms of expression.

10. Parksville carver turns invasive species into cutlery and more, June 9

For the past two and a half years, Francois Lavigne has been hard at work etching out a niche for himself. He’s a Parksville-based wood carver whose primary material comes from the trunk of the notorious invasive plant, Scotch broom.

He calls his work ‘Island Ivory.’ The name is partially an ode to the fact that wood from Scotch broom can take quite a high polish. The finished product is smooth and glossy, a far cry from the scraggly roadside growth that’s earned the ire of many environmentalists since its introduction from Europe in 1850.

Lavigne’s most ambitious collection carved from the invasive species was a series of spoons with a skull carved into each bowl, and handles shaped to look like bones.

For a plant that’s reviled enough to have groups devoted to its eradication, the public reaction to his work has been mostly positive. Lavigne sells his wares at the Craig Street Market and the Qualicum Beach Market, and he says he does good business.

He says he can tell instantly if someone is a tourist or a local based on their reaction to his work. The tourists are curious, but those with experience of the plant are somewhat skeptical.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter