The Tri Township Arena in Mt. Brydges will host Canadian hard rock legends The Headstones Saturday, headliners of the 14th annual Rockin’ Wheel fundraising concert.
With support from London-based rock band Bobnoxious and Mount Brydges’ own punk rock prodigies No Exception, the Juno Award-winning Headstones will be performing some of their best-known tunes while raising awareness and funds for local organizations assisting people suffering from spinal cord injuries.
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Now entering its 14th year, the long-running music festival — which has featured such iconic Canadian musicians as the Sheepdogs, the Trews, and Chad Brownlee — is the brainchild of Rockin’ Wheel president Kenny Allore, who founded the event in 2005 to help educate the public about the severity and prevalence of spinal cord injuries while also emphasizing precaution and avoidance.
The issue hits close to home for Allore, who suffered a broken neck and injured spine during a hockey game 29 years ago, leaving him unable to walk.
“I was checked from behind playing hockey when I was 17 and since then I’ve always wanted to do something, do my part,” said Allore, who also travels to schools across Ontario to talk about spinal cord injuries. “I knew that there was no concert in North America that raises funds specifically for spinal cord research, awareness, and prevention programs, so I thought, well, I love music, I’m a wannabe rock star, and it seemed like a great idea.”
In its first year, Rockin’ Wheel was a family-and-friends affair organized entirely by Allore’s inner circle featuring a lineup of local bands.
“Eventually I wanted to take it that next step,” Allore said. “If we put it outside we’d attract more people, which would raise more awareness. And that’s what happened.”
Rockin’ Wheel has certainly grown by leaps and bounds since those early days, attracting bigger crowds from around Southwestern Ontario as well as drawing countless high-profile Canadian acts. Last year’s sold-out show, which featured Finger Eleven and Econoline Crush, attracted 1,200 people.
With support from the community, sponsors and a loyal group of die-hard volunteers Allore refers to as the “Rockin’ Wheelers,” the annual concert has raised close to $80,000 for spinal cord research, Allore said. It’s a figure that he never could have dreamed of when he started the festival a decade-and-a-half ago.
“I’m quite proud of Rockin’ Wheel and what we’ve accomplished,” he said. “Honestly, I feel like I’m the luckiest guy ever. I’ve got so many great friends who supported me, helped me out with this. I also got the support of this community, which has been fantastic.”
Allore is hoping for another sold-out show this year, which means more people leaving with more knowledge about spinal cord injuries.
“It’s good to see a lot of people come out, have fun, and they’re all there for a good cause,” he said.
“We never have any problems, probably because there’s too many of us old guys out there,” Allore added with a laugh. “If we can prevent one spinal injury from happening, then all our efforts have been worth it.”
IF YOU GO
What : Rockin’ Wheel fundraising concert for spinal cord research
When : Saturday, doors open at 7:30 p.m., concert begins at 8:15 p.m.
Where : Tri-Township Arena (22647 Adelaide St., Mt. Brydges)
Cost : $40. Tickets available at ticketscene.ca .