Letters to the Editor

Plenty to celebrate at sea festival

Fanny Starchild and her Pirate Band lead a Children’s Pirate Parade at this year’s Spirit of the Sea Festival. - Sherron Fairbairn photo
Fanny Starchild and her Pirate Band lead a Children’s Pirate Parade at this year’s Spirit of the Sea Festival.
— image credit: Sherron Fairbairn photo

Editor:

Re: Regret over rocky sea fest, Aug. 8; Parade seemed on its last legs, Aug. 8 letters.

It’s interesting how two separate newspapers writing about the same event see things differently.

One newspaper, Peace Arch News, wrote negatively about the event; while the other, The Now, wrote positively: “Smaller Spirit of Sea Fest earns kudos.”

I guess it’s up to the reader to decide which is a better read?

Tony Roy, White Rock

• • •

There has been a fair amount of discussion about the Spirit of the Sea Festival – both pro and con.

It is important to note the event is entirely organized by a local non-profit group, the Community of Lights Events Society. The City of White Rock has no role in the organization or planning, but we do provide permits and some assistance with electrical supply, traffic barriers, etc.

Over the past couple of years, the society has had to cope with a real crunch in terms of securing sponsorship money, as well as a diminishing volunteer base. At its peak, the event budget was in the $125,000 range. This year, I understand the budget was less than $30,000.

In my opinion, particularly in light of those diminished resources, Matt Todd and his board did extremely well to put on the show they did. There were many positives. I know for a fact Matt and Joanne Charles and the other board members and volunteers put in many long hours, not just over the weekend, but in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the event and for several days afterward. This is an effort that merits the highest praise and respect from all of us.

I applaud their efforts and personal sacrifice.

Certainly, there is some controversy over the confinement of the activities to East Beach and the road closure. However with smaller resources, and the fact that a main venue was located on the Semiahmoo First Nation land, this made a lot of sense. Sure, it was different, but it worked pretty well – particularly for a new format.

For some, it was disappointing not to have the signature events – the Torchlight Parade and fireworks.

The parade has been languishing for years because it needs strong sponsorship and a dedicated organizing team. In order to attract more floats, the city may need to have a float with a volunteer team that is prepared to go to other cities’ parades, because the floats generally work on a reciprocal arrangement – “you come to my parade and I will go to yours.” Without that interaction, you don’t get the floats; without the floats, you don’t get the bands.

An effort was made this year to replace the traditional parade with a participatory procession, but it did not seem to get much traction.

Last year, Semiahmoo First Nation stepped up and paid for the fireworks. This year, no one did, so there were no fireworks. In lieu, there was an outstanding fire show.

It would seem the festival is in need of a boost. It may be time for the city to become a partner – at least as an interim step. We will discuss this with the society and, if there is a mutual appetite to engage in a partnership, our council can consider funding for the city’s participation.

In the final analysis, it all depends on whether the public support is there or not. No matter what the city does, without the volunteers and community support the festival cannot be successful.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin, White Rock

• • •

To those disappointed with this year’s Spirit of the Sea Festival, I’d like to light a positive torch to acknowledge the many positive activities during our festival weekend.

On Friday night, there was the outdoor movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Miss White Rock Pageant.

Saturday morning started with the Children’s Pirate Parade, with 150 little pirates all marching to a live six-piece pirate band down Marine Drive.

It was a delight to see.

I applaud our photographer, Sherron Fairbairn, and all the entertainers, clowns, vendors and volunteers who gave their time Saturday and Sunday and shared their expertise to help create a family fun area in Semiahmoo Park, where all “Pirates in the Park” activities, crafts and games were free for families to experience.

The scrumptious aroma of the Semiahmoo First Nation traditional barbecue – along with colourful bubbles filled the air – and children’s laughter could be heard as they played with the clowns and mascots.

Mid-afternoon, two pirate ships sailed by on the horizon and fired their cannons in acknowledgement.

On Sunday, there was Cupcake’s Teddy Bear Picnic, featuring the new White Rock Royalty and BC Opticians doing the health checks, not to mention the paddle board races at West Beach that were exciting to cheer on.

MC/storyteller Max Tell hosts the entertainment program on the Spirit Stage.I, too, believe in tradition and would love to see the fireworks and Torchlight Parade come back in full next year. I have been a parade entrant for the past 15 years and there is nothing like it!

Yes, some activities were cancelled and changed, but with the best of intentions of saving the festival itself.

The decision was made to still hold our festival but make it a “smaller footprint” this year so that regrouping and plans could be made for our 65th in 2014.

The length of our beachfront makes the insurance very expensive. Even with our discount, it’s approximately $8,000. Moving activities to East Beach this year reduced our cost to $3,500. Thus, the cancellation of the Torchlight Parade.

A different interactive walking parade concept was created, but unfortunately it didn’t execute as planned due to lack of volunteers.

Some of the events – such as the children’s activities and Pirate Parade – started out in West Beach in 2005 but have migrated East Beach due our increase in numbers as well as safety and shade reasons.

To enlighten the public on the participation of the city, fire department, RCMP and festival directors, many hours are banked discussing the logistics, operations and safety factors that are necessary to hold a successful festival. All available manpower is utilized, but festivals also need community volunteers to make it successful.

Our volunteer group of directors dwindled to seven this year. That’s a lot of hats to wear for such a small crew, whose duties include sponsor funding, marketing, media, operations, logistics, printing, entertainment, marketplace, pre- and post-planning and much more – not to mention that we all have jobs and families in real life.

Some oversights were made due to the multitude of tasks and lack of people to perform them, but again, we did the best we could.

There is a wealth of expertise in our Semiahmoo Peninsula, and all we need is for you, our fellow neighbours, to step up and contribute in whatever way you shine. It doesn’t have to be during the weekend, it can be prior or post to the festival, but we won’t know what we have to offer if you don’t come out.

I would like to invite all those who still have a burning passion for the Spirit of the Sea Festival to come out to the annual general meeting this fall – date TBA in the paper – and share your ideas.

Instead of looking for apologies, let’s look for ways to come together as a community and give regeneration to the spirit of our 65th sea festival.

Heather Crawford aka Capt’n Korki, White Rock Spirit of the Sea Festival children’s chair

 

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Community Events, October 2014

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