Long-table ‘friendraiser’ aims to get community talking

CITY CENTRE – The Downtown Surrey BIA has cooked up another idea, this time involving some actual food.Bonnie Burnside, who manages the business improvement association, took note of how restaurants that host large parties at a long table happened to encourage conversation among diners.The Sept. 9 event is an idea she snagged from Calgary BIA in which the city gathered together 240 people for a long-table fundraiser for flood-relief efforts.In this case, Burnside says the event will act as a "friendraiser" – where attendees can purchase tickets, get to know those dining around them and create discussion about what’s going on in the community.Unlike the Calgary BIA’s event, organizers in Surrey won’t be making the affair a fundraiser."We don’t want this to just be for the same people who would go to the mayor’s gala," Burnside said."We want this to be open and inviting to everybody. So, the people that are working in the area; the people that are learning in the area; the people that live in the area. We want it to be more of an opportunity for the community to get to know each other rather than raise funds for one specific organization."The event organizing team, which includes BIA special events assistant Tracey Gravel and SFU interns Janalaine Tsui and Alexis Tyller, is aiming to keep the event inclusive by having affordable ticket prices. For just $35 a seat, participants at the Long Long Table will get a five-course meal, some entertainment and, hopefully, some engaging conversation."Because Surrey is such a multicultural community, what we decided to do is have a more international kind of menu," Burnside said.The menu will consist of an Italian tomato gazpacho, Indian vegetarian samosas and pakora with mango chutney, Greek salad, maple soy salmon with wild rice and bok choy, topping it all off with blueberry shortcakewith fresh whipped cream.Entertainment for the night will be two musicians: a Latin jazz guitarist and a sitarist with an Indian violin."People can get together, get to know their neighbours and learn about different things that are going on in the community,"Burnside said. "If it’s successful, maybe next year it might be a completely different look and feel in what’s going on."Surrey BIA’s Long Long Table will take place at the new City Hall Plaza on Sept. 9. Tickets to the event at $35 and can be purchased online at Surreyllt.eventbrite.ca.