Walnut Creek arts leaders play host to Belgian students stranded in SF by the Iceland volcano

Scott Strain thought, why can’t Walnut Creek do that, too? The actor, producer and board member of Walnut Creek’s Contra Costa Musical Theatre had just heard on the radio about a group of Belgian digital arts students stranded for more than a week in San Francisco following the eruption of the volcano in Iceland. The students were among millions of airline passengers around the world whose flights were put on hold after authorities closed European airspace once the volcano began erupting April 14.

Strain immediately remembered the story of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, which became the refuge for passengers of trans-Atlantic flights grounded for up to a week immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The residents of that small town played host to the nearly 7,000 stranded passengers, gave them places to stay, clothes to wear, and food to eat.
Strain’s idea was something a little different. He thought of how CCMT and other Walnut Creek arts leaders could offer these students “a true slice of Americana” in the form of a visit to Walnut Creek and a performance of CCMT’s most recent production, that all-American musical Oklahoma!

The students were excited by the invitation. They had been stuck in the hostel with only a little money for food and not much money to do much else in San Francisco.”They were here an extra nine days after they were supposed to go home, and they had no money to go out and do anything. They were buying food and cooking it in their hostel.” 
CCMT worked with the Diablo Regional Arts Association, the fundraising arm of the Lesher Center for the Arts, to bring the students to Walnut Creek this past Friday for an evening’s performance of Oklahoma!. DRAA arranged for a charter bus to transport the students to and from San Francisco.
Kris Bonfil, one of DRAA’s restaurant partners, took the students, 20- and 21-year-olds, on a tour of downtown Walnut Creek. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse prepared them a “sumptuous” filet mignon and shrimp dinner in the banquet room, Bonfil said. After dinner, the students enjoyed coffee at Saxby’s Coffee Co., before the performance of Oklahoma.
“They were all seated together in the theater,” Bonfil said. “They had never seen a musical show before.” The cast, choreographer, and director came out after the performance to meet with them, Bonfil added.
The students managed to get on a flight to Antwerp the following Saturday afternoon. They were very appreciative of their visit to Walnut Creek. “It was beautiful,” said Bonfil.

18 thoughts on “Walnut Creek arts leaders play host to Belgian students stranded in SF by the Iceland volcano

  1. Wow, what a great thing to do for stranded strangers! Kudos to the individuals, organizations and businesses for making it all happen!


  2. Dinner, coffee, transportation and a show for some foreigners? With all that money we could have hired a police officer for some overtime.


  3. Anon 1:41,
    Why should the arts folks not be allowed to do something thoughtful and good to help people? The WCPD holds a toy drive each year. Should they instead sell the donated toys to increase their pensions or pay themselves more? I don't think they would ever think of that.
    Thanks to all in the story for the kind deed.


  4. yeah show them the worst of wc culture – yuppie overpriced steak and faux theatre.

    all at whose expense?? that's far from clear in the post?

    next we'll setup a sister city deal and fly the mayor first class.


  5. I am a bit tired of hearing the negativity of many people on this blog – not only with this story but with a few others.
    First, many people went out of their way to do something nice for a group of stranded people – many of which were young adults. Kudos to you all. This is when a bright light shines on Walnut Creek.
    Second, when you do not agree with something, that's fine. I can understand it with a decision by city leaders. But I would hope folks would be respectful of the person (which they are often not) and at least not throw daggers (which is often done). An opinion is great; an insult is just that.
    Finally, it is really easy to have an opinion and be rude, negative or just plain mean when you are anonymous. If you are going to say something, have the courage to identify yourself and stand behind your comments and not hide behind anonymity.
    Again, thank you to those people who helped these stranded students. I would hope that if it were my child — or yours — stuck in a foreign country, people there would do the same.
    Dave Powell


  6. David,

    Thanks for speaking up. Anyone making personal attacks should identify themselves.

    The Belgian guests will take home fond memories of Walnut Creek and some will return the favor to others in the future.


  7. Generosity and kindness is how you make friends – and REAL friends expect nothing in return except friendship (use your own definition of what that means to you).

    … then of course there are the scumbagss who take advantage of people. Sorry.. gotta inject some reality.



    The ash generated by the volcano and wreaking havoc all over Europe has been tentatively identified as the last vestiges of Iceland's economy.



  9. I was one of the stranded students and very much appreciated the gesture! Had a nice evening and I'm glad I got to see Walnut Creek 🙂 Thanks!


  10. Dear Loona,
    It's very nice to hear from you. Thanks so much for adding your voice to this story.

    I'm sorry I missed Contra Costa Musical Theatre's Oklahoma! I'm glad you were able to see it, and hope your time studying in the US and coming to Walnut Creek was enlightening and fun.

    Good luck with your future studies and endeavors.


  11. That's what we really need — feed foreigners free steak dinners and entertain them. No wonder we are invaded by them. And if the arts folks have too much money why do we need to support the arts and that dam#$% library? We need these funds for our Police Department here in WC.

    And I note the folks came from Europe. Can't their socialist government provide for them? They get free healthcare free steak and free entertainment any day. Let's sent the bill to the Belgian government for this.


  12. Wow, 7:28… just wow. Really? I hope that you're never stuck in a foreign country, although from your ignorant attitude it appears you've probably never been to one. People are people, it doesn't matter what country they are from or what kind of political system is in place in their home country.


  13. Hi all! I was one of those students. I LOVED the musical, that was an amazing experience. The steak was really great too 😛
    Thx to all the people of Walnut Creek for the support! We'll try to do the same of your kids ever get stranded in Antwerp 🙂

    @7:28 I shouldn't worry too much about us invading you guys… There are cities in the US with more people than the entire population of our country 😉 And you should really read up on European politics.


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