Maestra Tania Miller leads the Victoria Symphony before a crowd of thousands at the 2012 Symphony Splash in the Inner Harbour. The hugely popular annual B.C. Day long weekend event is the culmination of months of preparation.

Maestra Tania Miller leads the Victoria Symphony before a crowd of thousands at the 2012 Symphony Splash in the Inner Harbour. The hugely popular annual B.C. Day long weekend event is the culmination of months of preparation.

Gearing up to make a community Splash in Victoria

A volunteer cast of hundreds keeps Symphony Splash a well-orchestrated event

It may sound like the obvious punchline to a bad joke, but when it comes to how many people it takes to put on the Victoria Symphony Splash, the answer is: a lot.

To be more precise, it takes about 370 volunteers, dozens of hired hands and a few star project managers to stage a world-class musical event for roughly 40,000 participants in Victoria’s Inner Harbour every year.

“The thing that amazes me is how much people put into this,” said volunteer co-ordinator Ian Piears, who is working to fill about 430 shifts for this Sunday’s event, many of them 12 hours long.

“We do have the diehard symphony fans that come along, but a lot more people are interested in volunteering than in the event,” he said, noting that even feeding his army of volunteers is a task that requires careful planning. “There’s a pride of being involved in the community of Victoria that I really like.”

The logistical process begins Saturday, when an industrial barge pulled by tugboats is slotted into the Inner Harbour, where it will house the symphony, directed by Maestra Tania Miller. About a dozen private vessels are temporarily relocated to other marinas by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority for the remainder of the weekend.

Across the harbour, pyrotechnic experts begin wiring up the visual finale of Splash, a fireworks display that is the culmination of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

After months of preparation, said production manager Janette Galan – she oversees everything from crowd control to food carts to street closures – the day of the show actually runs quite smoothly.

She begins at 6 a.m. and shortly afterward, the first delivery of the day arrives: 44 portable toilets.

“Nobody’s around at that time. It’s quite easy actually, before mayhem ensues,” she said.

Speakers are erected and large electrical cables snake from the legislature’s giant sequoia tree to soundboards across the street, as well as under the water to the dozens of microphone inputs and lighting atop the barge.

“It’s one of those interesting logistical challenges,” Galan said.

More road closures are put in place as hardcore fans begin to set up lawn chairs on the harbour causeways and legislature lawn. But be warned: organizers will keep careful watch to ensure no one sets up their chairs before 8 a.m. Sunday.

At 2 p.m., full road closures come into effect and a ragtag army of food vendors set up shop on Government Street between the legislature and the Royal B.C. Museum. The vendors must be self-contained, meaning they supply their own electricity and running water. Generators won’t be permitted onsite as the classical music doesn’t do quite as effective a job at drowning out peripheral sounds as a rock concert, Galan said.

At the end of the day, everything that has gone up must come down for the city to return to business as usual on the B.C. Day holiday Monday.

But the payoff is worth it, Galan said.

“When you can see 40,000 people down there … enjoying each other, enjoying the music and being safe and respectful – and then after, they leave it like they weren’t even there because the place is so clean – it’s very rewarding,” she said.

Aside from the tireless work of volunteers, staff, vendors and hydro crews, Galan tips her hat to one more critical group who make the event a success: the attendees.

“Victorians have a real sense of ownership, in the nicest possible way. They love it,” she said. “They’re polite, they respect the areas we lay out for them. We tend not to have any problems at all.”

– with files from Daniel Palmer

Splash day

The schedule for the Victoria Symphony Splash starts very early on Sunday (Aug. 4).

5 a.m. – North lane of Belleville Street between Government and Menzies streets closed

8 a.m. – Lawn chairs may be set up on the upper and lower causeways

2 p.m. – Full road closure begins, including Government from Superior to Humboldt streets, Wharf Street from Government to Broughton Street, and Belleville Street from Government to Douglas Street

7:30 p.m. – Concert begins, including performances by young soloists Carter Johnson and Eric Manning

8:30 p.m. – Intermission

9:30 p.m. – Finale with 1812 Overture and fireworks

11 p.m. – Street reopens to traffic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This male Dungeness can safely be harvested after passing muster. An official with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is not clear how well locals on the Saanich Peninsula are complying with crabbing regulations, but her comments suggest that any problems might be of a minor nature. (Department of Fisheries and Oceans/Submitted)
Sidney and Sooke record 57 crabbing violations in 2020

While recreational crab fishery has ‘compliance issues,’ no evidence of ‘large scale poaching’

Police seek information after a pedestrian was hit in a crosswalk at the intersection of Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway on March 3.(Google Maps)
Witnesses sought in Langford pedestrian hit and run

Suspect is older man driving four-door, gold sedan

The University of Victoria has said some of its students were impacted by an off-campus exposure to COVID-19 last weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria students impacted by off-campus COVID-19 exposure

UVic has not specified where the exposure occurred

Const. Mat Jones of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit joined a team of Saanich police officers and ICBC representatives cracking down on distracted driving at the McKenzie/Quadra intersection in Saanich on March 3. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
‘Leave the phone alone’: 40 distracted driving tickets issued in two hours at Saanich intersection

Saanich police, CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit crackdown on drivers’ cell-phone use

Victoria police are investigating after a person broke into and stole a vehicle from a Douglas Street car dealership on the morning of March 3. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Suspect sought after vehicle swiped from Victoria dealership

Suspect broke into Douglas Street dealership shortly before 5 a.m.

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read