A memorial event for a man killed at a Surrey house party will be more of a celebration this time around.
The sixth annual Burnouts in the Sky car show pays tribute to Bradley McPherson, whose killer was given a life sentence for second-degree murder earlier this year.
The event returns to Cloverdale Fairgrounds on Saturday (Aug. 18) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with live music, a beer garden, vendors and, of course, plenty of freshly polished vehicles.
It’s a show that features the kind of cars and trucks loved and appreciated by McPherson, whose right foot was sometimes a bit heavy when he was behind the wheel of the 1980 GMC he called “Emma.” By all accounts, he was fond of doing burnouts in the charcoal-coloured truck, which will again be displayed prominently at Saturday’s event.
Following McPherson’s death, his family and friends lost track of the vehicle, which had been sold along the way. Eventually, a family friend saw the truck in a Craigslist ad and, within 24 hours, bought it back.
“We lost her for awhile and we finally got her back,” said Susan Simning, Brad’s mother.
McPherson was killed in the early hours of Christmas Eve in 2011. At a house party in Newton, the 28-year-old confronted a male guest who was harassing a female party-goer.
“Brad, being who he was, a guy who didn’t condone such treatment of women, stood up and said something to the guy, for him to show some respect,” Simning, who lives in the Brookswood area of Langley, said in 2017.
The guy left the party, but later returned. Not long after, McPherson was shot dead.
Last April, Russell Bidesi was given a life sentence for the crime, a couple of months after being found guilty. He isn’t eligible for parole for 15 years.
“This is a very positive outcome for IHIT,” Corporal Frank Jang, spokesperson for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said following Bidesi’s conviction in February.
“The dedication and determination shown by our investigators and partners to bring justice in Mr. McPherson’s case was paramount. IHIT believes in justice for those who have died unfairly. What motivates our investigators are the family members left behind with their pain of loss. If we can do our job and a person is held accountable for murder, we hope that provides some small measure of peace to the family.”
It’s been an emotional year for Simning and everyone else who knew McPherson.
“After the long, drawn-out process and delays (in the trial), we’re pretty happy with the second-degree (conviction) and the time in jail he was given,” Simning said in a phone interview Monday.
“Obviously we’d like a lot longer before he was eligible for parole,” she added.
“We’re thankful for the witnesses who did come forward, and some of them have stayed in contact with us. The woman who Brad didn’t know, but he stood up for that night, to protect, she’s become quite close with our family, and we keep her close. She’s a lovely lady who continues to say that she’s forever in Brad’s debt, because she always felt that this man was a threat to her as well, right.”
This year’s Burnouts event will feature performances by Me and Mae, Jesse Allen Harris, Hillside Outlaws and Emily Taylor Adams, at 6050 176th St. More details can be found on the event’s Facebook page.
Asked if the gathering will be more of a celebratory one this year, Simning said “yes, very much so.… We’ve all been able to exhale a little bit, and that’s my favourite word, that we can finally exhale to know that we’ve got justice for Brad and we can try to move on with our lives and celebrate, you know. This man affected other families and we stayed in contact with them, and they come to our events and help us. Hopefully this man never sees the light of day again.”
The Burnouts car show raises money for a scholarship in McPherson’s name. The money is reserved for high school students who struggle with attention-deficit disorder, like McPherson did, and also for budding mechanics.
“We’re broadening it, because last year was the first time we gave to a mechanic as well, because Brad had put in an application to go to this high-performance mechanics course in Wyoming, in the States,” Simning explained. “And he was accepted to go there but he never knew that, because all that information came in after he had passed away. It was his dream, it’s what he wanted to do, and so we decided to add a mechanic it, a course for someone who wanted to go into a school for that.”
The scholarship funds keeps growing, she said proudly. At Burnouts in the Sky, the money is raised through donations, entry fees, a silent auction, beer garden and merchandise sales.
“The first year we raised only $6,000, I think. But last year we were just around $14,000 and this year it’s looking to be a lot more. I set a goal of $25,000. So the more people who get to know about this, the better. Bigger sponsors on board would be wonderful, but we’re also thankful for the ones we have. A lot of people help out with this, it’s great.”
The Burnouts event won’t be held at Cloverdale Fairgrounds next year, Simning noted.
“We’ve been advised that the Cloverdale Rodeo site is undergoing a bunch of changes so we won’t be able to use that site after this year, which kind of makes me upset but, you know, hey, life changes,” she said. “So we’ll possibly be moving it to another location, but we can’t disclose that right now because we’re not sure. But we plan to keep doing this (event), because it’s important to get these scholarships to these kids.”