Horsey set dance to local country artist

Lee Dinwoodie isn’t accustomed to wearing a top hat and tails.

Vernon’s Lee Dinwoodie is photographed with some of the horses from the Bedgebury Park Equestrian Centre in Kent

Vernon’s Lee Dinwoodie is photographed with some of the horses from the Bedgebury Park Equestrian Centre in Kent

Lee Dinwoodie isn’t accustomed to wearing a top hat and tails.

The local entertainer is instead used to putting on his Stetson and well-worn boots to play his rockin’ country at dances throughout the province and beyond.

However, this past year, Dinwoodie found himself in more refined pastures, where an English saddle is preferred over a western one.

Invited to perform at the Bedgebury Park Equestrian Centre in Kent, just south of London, England this summer, Dinwoodie and his band played a country hoedown as part of a big equestrian event.

“It’s very well established, and all the equestrian people there had a good time,” said Dinwoodie, who was invited back to the centre in December, where he donned the aforementioned top hat and tails for his part in a pantomime of A Christmas Carol.

“I lit these lamps to open the show,” he said. “I felt like Forrest Gump out there. It was done to the nines. Everyone was on a horse in the show, except for Scrooge who was positioned on a bed in the middle of the field. I thought it was fun.”

It turns out even royalty likes its country music as Dinwoodie learned after he performed a special show for Prince Albert of Monaco a few years ago at the Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing resort in Blue River.

A regular performer at the B.C. heli-ski resort, Dinwoodie was invited to play at Bedgebury Park, which is owned by Canadian business woman Gabriella Atkinson, when a member heard his act there.

And he’s been invited back to play at a pre-Olympics equestrian event in Britain this coming summer.

Back in his hometown of Vernon, Dinwoodie is getting ready to put on another barn burner during the 51st annual Vernon Winter Carnival.

Dinwoodie’s first major gig was around 25 years ago when he played a Valentine’s dance in Peachland, and he’s no stranger to Winter Carnival, having played a sold-out dance at Paddlewheel Hall last year, and many others before then.

“When I’m in town, I find myself playing a lot of community dances in places nearby. That’s where I started, playing community dances, and I try to do more dances as my music is fitting for that.”

A pretty fine two-stepper himself, Dinwoodie is just as happy playing a dance when not kicking up his heels with members of high society.

He can be found in a community hall in places such as Falkland-Westwold when he’s not playing corporate gigs in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

“I did one at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. I was the cowboy who stepped into the Crystal Ballroom,” he laughed.

“I think my career has stayed the way it has is because it is diversified. I play from acoustic shows to ones with a six-piece band. I’ve managed to survive in this business because I am open to different markets. I think a working person relates to my music as much as anyone else because you can dance to it. And if you’re not dancing, you wanna dance.”

And he’s no stranger to performing overseas. Dinwoodie has seen his music appear on the European country music charts, and he’s played some major music festivals, including the biggest of them all, the Country Rendez-Vous in de Craponne sur Arzon, France, and he’s been asked to return to perform at the festival this summer.

Although it’s been eight years since he recorded his last professional CD, Rewind, Dinwoodie is also not adverse to getting back to the studio, and says he hopes to fly to Nashville in the next while to work with producer Dean Dillon.

“I hope to speed up the procedure, but I’m very picky,” he said. “I would like to do some of the production on it, and I think it will happen when it’s supposed to happen.”

Sponsored by Kiss FM, Dinwoodie and his band perform the Country Stomp at Vernon’s Army Navy Air Force Hangar, 2500-46th Ave., Feb. 4. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $20, available at the Winter Carnival office. Call 250-545-2236, or order online at www.vernonwintercarnival.com.