Victoria Day celebrations offer more than a parade

Tim Collins

VICTORIA NEWS

The Island Farms Victoria Day Parade is an iconic event for Victoria that regularly attracts more than 100,000 people as the city marks the informal beginning of summer.

Even though it’s the 119th time Victoria has celebrated the birthday of the city’s namesake, every year presents new challenges and opportunities for parade organizers.

For Kelly Kurta, executive officer of the parade for the Greater Victoria Festival Society (GVFS), it’s just part of the job. Since taking the reins of the event in 2015, Kurta has put her own stamp on the well-known celebration, adding a series of family-friendly features to an already popular event.

That’s not to say Kurta hasn’t faced some challenges.

For example, renovations at Mayfair Mall have made the traditional marshaling area for the hundreds of floats, marching bands and cultural shows unavailable for 2017. Kurta explained the marshaling will have to take place on Douglas Street this year, allowing organizers just 90 minutes to get the 3,000 people and the floats lined up in their proper spots.

There was also the problem of the U.S. marching bands. The political situation in the United States led one band to withdraw their participation and two others were still on the fence as of Friday of last week. The logistical problems associated with the situation were daunting, but in the end, after some letters from the GVFS and a host of phone calls to the USA, only one band pulled out.

“Even there, we had a great outcome. About a dozen of the kids in that band and their parents are funding their own trip up here to perform as a smaller jazz band,” Kurta said. “We’re going to highlight them at the legislative building activities and at the Inner Harbour, as a way of showing our appreciation.”

There have also been some changes to the fundamental nature of Victoria Day celebrations.

The festivities now extend beyond the parade with a host of activities at Centennial Square including food trucks, live entertainment, activities, theatre and art.

There will also be a fly-by by the 443 squadron and the Canadian Coast Guard, a 21-gun salute (1 p.m. on Bellville Street), and a parade of bands followed by a drum battle on the grounds of the legislature.

As well, the Victoria Day Block Party (on Humbolt Street between Government and Douglas) will tie into a celebration of Canada 150 to provide day-long activities extending well beyond the parade. The block party is hosted by the Maritime Museum of B.C. and the Union Club of B.C.

The parade starts at Mayfair Mall at 9 a.m. A full schedule of events can be found at gvfs.ca.

editor@vicnews.com