The moon has a special place in the folklore and traditions of many peoples – including the Semiahmoo who first inhabited the peninsula.
Semiahmoo, we are told in local legend, even means “half moon” – after the shape of the bay.
But autumn festivals of the moon are also very important in the culture of people of Chinese descent, including the Peninsula’s growing community.
On these and many other levels, a new cross-cultural event, the White Rock Moon Festival, seems a natural for the community.
The first edition will come to the West Beach waterfront this weekend as part of the city’s Fall Festival of the Arts; a celebration of Chinese and Canadian culture that will feature the magical sight of some 800 Chinese lanterns lighting the pier and promenade, plus a variety of entertainers, food vendors and art displays.
The event is the brain child of Eric Stepura, White Rock’s Leisure Services director, who has developed it in association with Dr. Ricky Q. Li, president of the Association of Chinese Cultural Promotions Canada (ACCP) and Leslie Zhao of the White Rock Chinese Arts Centre, with a strong assist from the White Rock Rotary Club.
Stepura is no stranger to such events – as former manager of sports and community events for the City of Richmond he was closely involved with the Richmond Lantern Festival, as well as co-ordinating many other events such as the Tall Ship Festival and serving on the design team for the Richmond Olympic oval.
“In my discussions with White Rock’s city manager, Dan Bottrill, when I was first hired, we talked about the desire of council to have events on the waterfront to take place during the ‘shoulder’ seasons,” he recalled. “I said a festival like this would be a perfect fit for our waterfront.”
“What the Moon Festival is in Chinese culture is a celebration of the harvest, as well as the spirituality of the autumn moon. A lot of traditions go with it, such as the eating of moon cakes, and there are many legends about the moon in Chinese culture.”
Stepura said the entertainment lineup, at a main stage just east of the White Rock Museum and Archives, will include traditional Chinese dancers, martial-arts displays and “a variety of both Chinese and Western entertainers in both music and dance,” including White Rock’s Spiral Dance Company. The White Rock Chinese Art Centre will feature products of the local artistic and cultural community as well as co-ordinating childrens’ activities.
The festival will also be the venue for the Day of Drawing artists’ collective, who will mount their first ‘pop-up’ exhibition, housed in a 26-foot truck in the parking lot west of the museum (the exhibition will also travel to Morgan Crossing, Surrey Arts Centre and Kwantlen Polytechnic University on subsequent weekends).
Imaginative drawing activities will be available in an adjacent tent for all ages and skill levels – and the theme for the weekend’s drawings, naturally enough, will be the moon.
Stepura said that a lot of the razzle-dazzle of the inaugural festival will come by way of the co-promotion with the ACCP, which is also organizing the current Vancouver Chinese Cultural Festival.
“We will be utilizing performers who are also part of the Vancouver festival as well,” he said.
“A big part of what we want to accomplish is to showcase the waterfront to a variety of people from the Peninsula and beyond, and encourage them to visit our local restaurant and pubs, and also to celebrate Chinese culture – we want it to be a real learning experience for people.”
The festival runs Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more informatrion, visit www.whiterockcity.ca