Spirit of 150 Victoria Celebrations June 21 – July 1

Spirit of 150 Victoria Celebrations June 21 – July 1

By Robert Hawkes

July 1 is always a great event on the Legislature grounds and Inner Harbour here in James Bay, with tens of thousands gathering in a typical year. This year's festivities will be extended to 11 days, and serve as the signature Canada 150 celebration event for Victoria. Spirit of 150 Victoria runs from June 21 to July 1, ending with a spectacular Inner Harbour fireworks show at 10:20 pm on July 1. The fireworks display will be accompanied with music compiled by DJ Boitano.  

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings are on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen (now known as the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations), who inhabited this area for many thousands of years. Spirit of 150 Victoria begins on June 21, National Aboriginal Day, to honour this rich cultural history.

Mayor Lisa Helps noted this history in her remarks: “What better way to mark this important milestone in Canada’s history and acknowledge that Victoria is located on traditional Lekwungen territory, than leading with National Aboriginal Day celebrations at Victoria’s Inner Harbour.” This year has been designated a ‘Year of Reconciliation’ for the City of Victoria.

 Lekwungen Traditional Dancers after Canada Day performance last year. Photo courtesy of Lekwungen Dancers

Lekwungen Traditional Dancers after Canada Day performance last year. Photo courtesy of Lekwungen Dancers

First Nations performers will be featured throughout the festival. According to the press release for Spirit of 150 Victoria "First Nations culture will be showcased on June 30 with the Esquimalt Singers and on July 1 with a First Nations blessing and performances by the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers on the Main Stage."

Harbour Stage at Ship Point is the location for events leading up to Canada Day. Over 11 days there will be over 100 free music and multicultural events. A variety of vendors will offer local food and refreshments for sale nearby. As well as the recognition of First Nations throughout the festival, Saturday, June 24, performers mark La Celebration de la Francophonie, while Canadian Multiculturalism Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, June 27.

The Main Stage will be set up on the Legislature lawn for the final two days of musical performances, operating from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm on Friday, June 30 and from 3:00 pm to 10:15 pm on Saturday, July 1. The headline performers on Friday evening will be Tegan and Sara. This Calgary duo of identical twin sisters has performed around the world, with music that covers a number of genres ranging from pop to folk to rock. In 2014 they won the Juno for Group of the Year as well as Juno Single of the Year in the same year for Closer. They were nominated for a Grammy in 2013.

Saturday on the Main Stage the rock band the Arkells (they are named after a street near McMaster University in Hamilton) are the headline group. They won the 2015 Juno for Group of the Year. They were also recognized in 2012 with the same Juno award. They have toured extensively in North America.

There will also be lots of talent from closer to home. Valdy & The Salt Spring Children’s Choir are sure to be a crowd favourite. Valdy (his formal name is Paul Valdemar Horsdal in case you always wondered) is a Canadian music giant, who has been writing songs and performing since the late 1960's. He has won numerous music awards, including two Juno awards for Folk Singer of the Year. In 2005 he was awarded the National Achievement Award by SOCAN, Canada's national music society. While Valdy grew up in Ottawa, an extended family summer vacation to Saltspring Island when he was 14 was a life-changing experience. Now Valdy and three of his sisters all call Saltspring Island home. Valdy's music career was based here in Victoria for a number of years.

The Victoria group Carmanah (their name honours the Vancouver Island rain forest of same name) get rave reviews for their passionate performances. On the band's website Carmanah is described as "an eclectic sound that incorporates elements of folk, funk, rock and reggae. Four-part harmonies, supported by a grooving rhythm section, fiddle playing, guitars and a lap-slide...a unique and captivating sound."

Other performers announced at the time of writing include the Funk Hunters, Delhi 2 Dublin, En Karma, De Temps Antan, Dirty Mountain, Stella Swanson and the Rosie Joyfuls.

 Living Flag from Canada Day 2016. Photo courtesy of City of Victoria

Living Flag from Canada Day 2016. Photo courtesy of City of Victoria

A key part of the July 1 celebrations is the Coast Capital Savings Living Flag, where you dress in red or white and join with others to create a huge Canadian flag. The event takes place at 2:00 pm on the legislature lawn, with 4,000 red and white free T-shirts being given out for the event. Groups of 12 or more can pre-register and skip the lines in getting red or white T-shirts for the event (go to the Spirit of Victoria 150 website listed at the end of this article to fill out the form for your group). Individuals can get free T-shirts by waiting in line at the event.

The living flag event started in 2006 when 350 people gathered on the Legislature Lawn for the first living flag. It has grown to several thousand in subsequent years. The idea for the initial living flag came from Victoria Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe and (now) James Bay resident Ken Kelly, former general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. It is hoped that this year's flag will have more than 5,000 participants, thereby setting a new record.

Canada Heritage has provided $400,000 to the local group to help fund the 11 days of Canada 150 activities in Victoria. Victoria is one of 19 Canadian municipalities to receive Canada 150 funding. CIBC is the national Canada Day activities major sponsor for Canada 150, while Coast Capital Savings is the sponsor of the Victoria Living Flag project. Many other companies and organizations are also sponsors.

Alan Lowe, the Chair of the Greater Victoria Spirit of 150 organizing committee, thanked all the sponsors, and invited residents and visitors to “Join us for 11 days of free, family-friendly, multicultural outdoor programming and events at our beautiful Inner Harbour to mark Canada 150.”

Check out the Spirit of 150 Victoria website (www.spirit150victoria.ca) where a detailed schedule will be available by the time you are reading this. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer, email volunteer@spirit150victoria.ca. Let's all make this Canada Day in Victoria the best ever!

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