Starting a dialogue on the future of White Rock’s Spirit of the Sea Festival is not intended as a slight to those who worked long hours and gave of themselves so that there would be a festival this year.
But it’s clearly evident, from voices Peace Arch News has heard on all sides of the issue, that there needs to be dialogue, now, if the festival is to continue.
It’s an urgent need, particularly in light of the potential, expressed by Mayor Wayne Baldwin, for the City of White Rock to partner with the organizing Community of Lights Events Society.
Merely saying that more people need to step up to volunteer or sponsor is no panacea for current ills.
There has to be some kind of consensus on a vision for the festival, one that residents can get behind and take pride in.
It’s no secret that more than a few residents were disappointed – even “embarrassed” – by the scope and direction of this year’s festival. Their message was received loudly and clearly, and immediately acknowledged by Community of Lights Events Society president Matt Todd when asked how, in his view, the festival went.
On the other hand, the handful of volunteers tasked with all the heavy lifting of the festival this year were working with a minuscule budget in comparison to years past. While mindful of tradition, they attempted to pioneer something different, and their efforts to create a smaller, East Beach-focused festival had its share of bona-fide successes.
We would be remiss if we did not say we have heard other voices, too, from people with great experience in community events, who have volunteered and contributed to Spirit of the Sea many times in the past, only to finally throw up their hands this year and walk away. Such people will tell you privately they despair of being able to help when their calls are not returned, their offers are snubbed and their advice is ignored.
The festival is, indeed, in trouble if some of the greatest resources in the community are alienated and kept out of the loop.
It’s understandable for White Rock to fall into post-festival collapse, but now is the time for organizing, planning, visualizing and connecting with all-important sponsors.
Given the volume of work necessary, next summer is not that far away.