WHITE ROCK â€” As the city prepares to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Sea Festival this weekend, organizers are in the home stretch of seeing the past yearâ€™s work come to fruition.
For the community, itâ€™s a chance to enjoy a Sea Festival thatâ€™s likely to bring back memories of the eventâ€™s glory days, while at the same time marking a new beginning for the long-running event.
That new beginning comes in the form of a new society running the festival, a name change harkening back to the days of old and bringing a new focus to some not-so-new features.
For Michelle Pedersen, president of the White Rock Events Society which is organizing the event, this yearâ€™s festival is a chance to restore some of the esteem that the 65-year event was held to in the past.
To do that, the society looked at putting in special efforts ensuring that the Torchlight Parade returns to being a must-see attraction and by the sounds of it, everything is falling into place.
â€œSo we have about 50 entries for the parade, including eight city floats, and the 125-member Sumner Marching Band,â€ said Pedersen, crediting longtime resident and past Sea Festival organizer Maureen Beales for going above and beyond in putting this yearâ€™s parade together.
â€œSheâ€™s done this for decades, sheâ€™s handled the whole event in the past and this time she just annihilated it,â€ said Pedersen.
Crucial to this yearâ€™s parade is the creation of a new White Rock float, which was made possible with the help of city funding. The city matched the societyâ€™s fundraising efforts to the tune of $25,000, which was on top of $15,000 and $65,000 committed earlier in the planning stage. Part of those commitments were to go towards the float, which is seen as a one-time cost for the revamped festival.
â€œCouncil felt that since this was a one-time grant to get the float up and running, which will stand for probably four or five years, it would be worthwhile to remove some of the obstacles they (organizers) face because fundraising is the most difficult part of the whole thing,â€ said White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin after granting the additional $25,000 on July 16.
In addition to the large parade planned, Pedersen said all other aspects have seemingly fallen into place, and at the risk of jinxing it, said all of their planning over the past year is finally paying off.
â€œThe vendors just keep climbing, weâ€™re at about 60 now, weâ€™ve got the Vancouver Aquarium at East Beach on Saturday, got the sundog paddle board competition Sunday at West Beach,â€ she said. â€œThe biggest thing for me was always creating a balance between East and West beach, not having things heavy on one end, so to speak.â€
Pedersen is also happy to confirm that fireworks will be making a return this year, which was not originally on the books, but is now possible thanks to successful fundraising efforts.
â€œSo I think weâ€™re earning peopleâ€™s trust and Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ve got our hiccups coming our way, but weâ€™ve really done a lot of hard work over a long period of time,â€ said Pedersen. â€œItâ€™s not something that weâ€™ve done in a month â€“ weâ€™ve been organizing this since last year so hopefully weâ€™ve done a good job, the proof will be in the pudding.â€
This weekendâ€™s festival will be sort of a bittersweet experience for Pedersen, as sheâ€™ll likely not be returning to help organize next yearâ€™s event.
Having just found out that sheâ€™ll likely be off to China for six months to a year for work, Pedersen isnâ€™t certain at this point if sheâ€™ll be able to be involved.
â€œWe did our best to put on a great festival and this is us being a brand new society, weâ€™ve had nothing to refer to in the last three years, no records, contacts, we were starting from scratch and if I wasnâ€™t going to China in September I would be looking forward to doing this again next year,â€ she said.
â€œI would love to go around next year knowing what I know now but at the same time the team that weâ€™ve built, I have 100 per cent trust and faith in them. This festival wouldnâ€™t be anything without them.â€
Trooper, a Canadian iconic rock band kicks off the SeaFest weekend at The Sea Hall in White Rock on Friday, Aug. 1. Trooper frontman Ra McGuire talked White Rock community, timeless music and why this is the best place to call home in a special feature with the Now.
The White Rock Sea Festival kicks off this Friday (Aug. 1) and runs until Sunday (Aug. 3). For a full schedule of events, go to whiterockseafestival.ca.