While steeped in tradition, the Oak Bay Tea Party returns with some twists to celebrate 60 years.
Two years ago the first Friday of June, longtime event organizer Sandy Germain sat at an empty Willows Beach. Where a fair and food and music should have filled the air with a party atmosphere of sound and scents, there was stillness.
“I got kind of choked up,” Germain admitted. The 2020 event was gut wrenching to cancel, 2021 was a bit easier, but the Oak Bay Tea Party Society is thrilled that after a two-year hiatus the party returns to Willows Beach Park the first weekend of June.
Many a favourite tradition is back, from the Friday night dance party and amusement rides to pancake breakfasts and corn on the cob. Germain said the most asked question is if baron of beef is on the menu – and yes, the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society will sell its mouthwatering sandwiches.
The Mayor’s Tea Cup Race is a go and Kevin Murdoch has issued his challenge, though his opponent remains a secret as the society awaits their response.
Germain hopes to have some featured aircraft, along with the skydivers who are already confirmed for the weekend.
Noreen Taylor and her cleanup crew that keeps the trash to a minimum are back, as is the Nanaimo Royal Bathtub Club, though the schedule, including when they race, is still up in the air.
As usual, people are encouraged to cycle in for the event and this year Capital Bike takes over bike corral operations.
Twists include – with “fingers crossed” – fireworks and a theme. Because this is the 60th and it started in the 1960s – that’s the theme.
“We’re hoping people will participate with tie dye and bell bottoms and miniskirts and peace signs and all that good stuff. I think it will be fun to just do something a little bit different,” Germain said.
She hopes to have fireworks similar to the 55th celebration in 2017.
The society usually hosts a raffle well ahead to help fund activities, demonstrations, stage acts and more. This year in January when she’d usually start that process, the party was still tentative.
“And It’s hard to go to small businesses with your hand out after two years of what they’ve gone through.”
So the society applied for a 50-50 licence and plans to start selling tickets in April. The organization also received a fairs, festival and events recovery fund grant from the province.