Concert to benefit heating assistance

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MANCHESTER — Ski For Heat isn't going skiing this year. But the nonprofit's annual fundraising concert is still on, and organizers are inviting the public to get on the dance floor and help raise money for people who need a hand staying warm this winter.

Bob Stannard has once again lent his voice, his harmonica and the talents of his friends and bandmates to the cause. Stannard and Those Dangerous Bluesmen will play at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Northshire Eagles Club on Depot Street (Routes 11 and 30).

Tickets are available at skiforheat.org, and donations are accepted at the door. All donations are given to BROC Community Action and are used to help local people in need of fuel oil assistance.

Ski For Heat has raised more than $400,000 in the 18 years since Martha Robertson of Peru founded the nonprofit — the result of Robertson and her twin sister deciding to make donations to worthy causes instead of exchanging gifts on their birthday.

Ski For Heat started in 2001 with a Nordic skiing event, at Wild Wings Touring Center in Peru, and grew to include alpine skiing and snowboarding at Bromley Mountain Ski Resort. The decision not to include the outdoor component this time was made this past fall, Robertson said in a letter on the Ski For Heat website, "after much deliberation and discussion with the board and with deference to family/personal matters."

But the fundraising — with all donations staying local — is definitely continuing. And Stannard, who has cut his performance schedule back to half a dozen benefit shows a year, remains committed to helping Robertson and Ski For Heat with his voice and harmonica.

"It's the power of one. When one person gets it in their head that they're going to move a mountain, the mountain better watch out," Stannard said of Robertson. "This is one of those deals, and frankly it's why I continue doing this show."

Drummer Jeff Salisbury, bassist Kenny B, keyboard player Brad Morgan, guitarists John Falk and Chris Robertson and saxophone player Joe Moore make up this year's batch of Dangerous Bluesmen. And blues singer Gina Coleman, whose memorable guest performance was a highlight of last year's Ski For Heat show, is returning again this year. "She's the real deal and a lot of fun," Stannard said.

Stannard and his Dangerous Bluesman play Chicago-style blues, with songs by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and other greats of the genre. The band's members have impressive experience on their resumes: Salisbury, a University of Vermont drum instructor, played with Albert King; Morgan has played with Rutland-based big band Satin & Steel for 40 years; and Moore performed with Wilson Pickett.

"It's definitely not down-and-out 'woe is me' blues. I mean this is music that you can't sit still to," said Robertson. "They're so amazing. You can tell they're having a good time up there, so the audience feeds off of that."

Clark's IGA and Tyler Electric are sponsoring the event, and the suggested donation at the door is $20.

"We ask people to give whatever they can, so if they can give more, we would happily accept that," Robertson said. "If they just filled up their own heating tank and they've got nothing to give, they're welcome to come anyway. It's about community and letting people enjoy what's out there."

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