The 68th annual – and possibly the last, for a year, at least – White Rock Sea Festival is all set to transform the waterfront for the August long weekend.
And organizers say it will “definitely” be bigger and better than previous years – due to expanded activities in East Beach and the addition of transportation.
“We’re doing what we’ve always done,” Tracey LaMarre, president of the White Rock Events Society, told Peace Arch News last week. “We’ve definitely kept up with the traditional stuff… then we added all the extra stuff for East Beach.
“We wanted to go out (with a bang).”
Set for Aug. 5 and 6, the festival lineup includes everything from live entertainment and children’s activities to fireworks and the torchlight parade.
Organized by the White Rock Events Society for the fourth year, it typically draws tens of thousands of people to the waterfront over the course of the two days.
LaMarre said as many as 130,000 are expected this year, in part due to the addition of free shuttle buses that will run between Semiahmoo (1785 148 St.) and Earl Marriott (15751 16 Ave.) secondaries – on two separate loops, with free parking at each of the high schools – to East and West Beach, from 9 a.m. till 11:45 p.m.
LaMarre said the addition of the buses will boost crowds at East Beach, which typically doesn’t enjoy the same turnout as West Beach.
“We’re really excited about East Beach and how much more things we’re offering down there,” she said. “Normally, it’s not as busy. This year, guaranteed, we’ll have tons of people down there.”
In the lineup for that side of the waterfront is a kids’ zone aimed at the eight- to 12-year-old range (Pirates in the Park, taking place the same weekend in neighbouring Semiahmoo Park, hosted by the Semiahmoo First Nation, is geared toward younger children, LaMarre explained). As well, a scavenger hunt, sandcastle competition, sand art, vendors and more.
“This is big this year,” she said.
Live entertainment will be on the main stage (by the white rock, just east of the pier) starting at noon on both days. Saturday, it concludes with headliners Tom Lavin &The Legendary Powder Blues taking the stage at 8:30 p.m. Fireworks are set to light up the night starting at 10 p.m.
Look for kite-flying synchronized to music on both days, as Team Island Quad Kite Flying presents routines between Oxford and Maple streets., as well as a marketplace chock full of vendors.
Sunday’s final live performance gets underway at 7 p.m., followed by festival’s grand finale – the torchlight parade – at 8:15 p.m., which will make its way along Marine Drive, starting from Oxford Street in West Beach.
The parade began in 1987, and every year, crowds line the sidewalks and pack waterfront balconies and patios to catch the colourful and animated procession. For the past three years, the city’s own float has been part of the show and this year is no exception.
LaMarre confirmed this will be White Rock Events Society’s final year of organizing the sea festival. She cited planned reconstruction of Memorial Park and last month’s vote by city council to have staff examine options for the city taking on organizing the festival in future.
Closing the chapter “will be bittersweet,” she said.
“It’s been a huge part of all our lives for the last five years,” she said.
Remaining focused for the home stretch, LaMarre noted there is still room for vendors who want to join the marketplace; as well, for sponsors and volunteers. Information can be found on the festival’s website at www.whiterockseafestival.com