The beach will be the place to be this long weekend, as the White Rock Sea Festival returns for its 67th year.
A torchlight parade, fireworks, live entertainment and children’s activities are expected to draw 100,000 people to the waterfront this Saturday and Sunday for the free annual celebration.
“This is a family weekend,” said organizer Tracey LaMarre. “It brings people in from all over, but not only that, it’s a community event. It gets everybody down to the beach.”
Saturday’s festivities begin with a good stretch, as Lauren Roegele will lead an 8 a.m. yoga session next to the white rock. For those more interested in breakfast, pancakes will be served from 8-11 a.m. near the Grizlee sculpture at East Beach.
Semiahmoo Park in East Beach will host children’s activities. Pirates in the Park will animate the area with a parade, entertainment, a bouncy castle and other activities. The park will also host a salmon barbecue, and on Sunday, the 14th annual Westcoaster’s Daze car show from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Down by the water, children will be invited to build sandcastles, play a game of sand golf and give skimboarding a try.
Closer to the pier is where vendors will set up on both days, selling merchandise and food from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. is the festival’s famous waiters’ race. Starting in front of the museum, the city’s best servers will attempt the impossible – to win a foot race down Marine Drive without losing their loaded restaurant trays.
On the main stage is a packed lineup of musical entertainers, including the headline act, the Legendary Powder Blues, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Following the blues band will be a lantern walk at the pier before fireworks light up the sky at 10 p.m.
Sunday’s main event is the torchlight parade, from 8:15-10 p.m. on Marine Drive. The torchlight parade began in 1987 and has since become a festival highlight. There are nearly 60 entries this year, from extravagant floats to a choreographed 100-member marching band to long-boarders.
“The parade is so much fun,” said LaMarre, who serves as the festival’s vice-president and vendor co-ordinator. “The non-lit vehicles will go first, then as it gets darker the floats that are all lit up will be heading out onto Marine Drive.”
One of those brightly lit floats will be the parade’s signature White Rock Sea Festival float – a hulking blue creation complete with fish, sea anemones and flowers. Volunteers built the float three years ago in celebration of the festival’s 65th anniversary.
“It’s been a labour of love for three years,” said Deanna Pedersen, one of the craft’s constructors. “When we first started this we had a couple of sketches – a couple of things from the Internet – and then it evolved.”
The float has participated in other parades, and is always a crowd favourite.
“It’s awesome,” said fellow float builder LaVerne Hogg. “You won’t find a float like this that’s done by volunteers.”
A hop-on, hop-off trolley will help move festival-goers along between eight stops along the beach from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Organizing the annual festival is no easy task. LaMarre said her board of five works from September through to festival weekend each year putting the event together. Nearly 100 volunteers contributing “thousands and thousands” of hours help make it a success.
“It is a lot of work but that weekend makes it all worth it.”