Celebrating James Bay...Picnic
By Moira Dann
Irving Park in James Bay is always a focal point of the neighborhood, but on Sunday, July 21, it was absolutely THE place to be.
The park was full of children, families, singles, and seniors, laughing, dancing and having a good time as participants in the open, inclusive, inaugural James Bay Picnic.
The event started with a welcoming, non-denominational church service and continued with music, a Bouncy Castle, bubbles to blow, a soccer pitch, a chalkboard for child artists, a yoga class, magical cardboard animals, more music, coffee, hot dogs, and cookies for free, a caricature artist, and people to talk to from groups such as the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, New Horizons artisans, and the James Bay Market. The event wrapped up with a dance floor in front of the stage full of people moving and grooving, and a cooling visit from a City of Victoria fire truck, with firefighters demonstrating for children how those big hoses work!
The event was put together by civic-minded and fun-loving volunteers in the area primarily drawn from the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA), James Bay New Horizons, and the James Bay Round Table (a group of James Bay merchants, agencies, and residents with the stated goal of “strengthening community through friendship”).
Members of the first two groups put their heads together, applied for, and received a My Great Neighbourhood grant from the City of Victoria for a local event. Members of the Round Table suggested a picnic. A committee formed and met weekly, rounded up resources, approached sponsors, asked for volunteers, got an ad in the Beacon and posters up around the neighbourhood, and, and, and…there was a long list of jobs required to make it happen. Thanks to dedicated volunteers, it all got done.
The day dawned bright and the weather was perfect. Some people came for an hour to see what was going on, some families came and spent the day. More than 500 people took part, judging from the number of hot dogs eaten!
“One person thanked me, saying the fact that it was totally free made it possible to bring the whole family,” says Gordon Miller, Director of Communication & Neighbourhood Engagement for the James Bay United Church, who was on the picnic committee. “Another said they had run into old friends and made some new ones” in the lunch lineup.
The first James Bay Picnic was a huge success – and organizers are planning for a second James Bay Picnic in 2020. If you’d like to be involved, stay tuned!