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Jack Knox: It's a challenge, but parade kicks off summer of resurrected fun

Victoria Day Parade is back, so are Highland Games, Jazz Fest, Moss Street Paint-In, Fringe Festival; but no Symphony Splash and no Metchosin Day
While many U.S. school marching bands bowed out early from the Victoria Day parade, members of Reynolds Secondary School’s band are expected to turn out in their colourful plaid jackets, one of half a dozen Canadian bands in the parade. TIMES COLONIST

It’s not easy being Lazarus, ­rising from the dead.

Actually, Lazarus was only down for four days, not three years. And he didn’t have to worry about where to find ­fencing and portapotties and all the other bits that are suddenly in short supply now that ­pandemic-parked events are being resurrected.

In fact, logistical problems mean some longtime popular dates — Symphony Splash, Metchosin Day — will remain back-burnered this year. But others are lurching back to life, much to the relief of those who crave a return to normalcy.

“People need this, to get back to living,” said Kelly Kurta.

Kurta is executive director of the Greater Victoria Festival Society, which runs what is now known as the (take a breath) Thrifty Foods 122nd Victoria Day Parade Presented by CHEK TV. The first version of the event since 2019 begins at 9 a.m. Monday, funnelling down Douglas Street from Mayfair Shopping Centre to Courtney Street.

It hasn’t been easy to put together. The parade will have 70 to 75 entries, about ­three-quarters the normal ­number. None of the usual American marching bands will participate. Most of the regular ones bowed out early due to the cost and uncertainty of COVID-testing requirements at the border.

Two others cancelled last week after U.S. school authorities ruled that band members would have to stay two to a room, not four, which made the cost of hotel stays prohibitive.

But there will still be a half dozen Canadian bands, including the one from Reynolds Secondary, and the military will have its biggest presence ever, including the mounted cavalry of the Strathcona Mounted Troop.

Afterward, parade-goers can go to Centennial Square from noon to 5 for Gordy Dodd’s One World celebration, where there’ll be music, vendors and food trucks.

Also, there will be entertainment in front of the legislature from noon to 5 Saturday and Sunday, with performers ­including the University of Washington band (too bad they can’t stick around for the parade) on both days. The Canadian Armed Forces Skyhawks parachute team will leap onto the lawn Sunday.

It’s all free, which is great for families but tough on organizers, who are being slammed by ­inflation. Free events like those this weekend don’t have the option of increasing ticket prices to compensate. If it weren’t for grants from the City of Victoria and the province, the parade wouldn’t happen, Kurta said. “We owe the provincial government a lot this year.”

Despite the challenges, many are eager to refill the calendar. Among events returning this summer:

• The Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival go this ­Saturday and Sunday at Topaz Park. The Strathcona Mounted Troop will be there, too.

• Lacrosse and baseball are back after two missed seasons. CHEK will broadcast the ­Victoria Shamrocks season opener against the New Westminster Salmonbellies (one of the most underrated names in sports, BTW) on May 27.

Four days later on May 31, baseball’s ­Victoria HarbourCats host the Port ­Angeles Lefties at Royal Athletic Park. Their ­up-Island rivals in Nanaimo finally get to host their first West Coast League game at Serauxmen Stadium on June 3.

• Golf’s Royal Beach Victoria Open (presented by the Times Colonist, the best damn daily in Victoria) is back to its regular time slot at Uplands June 2-5.

• Music lovers in Victoria will have the TD Victoria ­International Jazz Festival June 24-July 3, the Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival June 30-July 5 and Rifflandia (after a four-year absence) Sept. 15-18. Also on deck: Courtenay’s Vancouver Island Music Festival July 8-10 and Lake Cowichan’s Laketown Shakedown June 30-July 2 and Sunfest July 28-31.

No Symphony Splash in the Inner Harbour, though. “We hope to bring back the concert on the barge in the future, but the stage we have been using is no longer insurable and we have to figure out how much it will cost to replace it,” said CEO Matthew White. Instead, a 10-day series of concerts will culminate July 31 with a free show on the legislature lawn, headlined by the Steven Page Trio.

• The Moss Street market has resumed. Esquitians (I’m ­trying to gain traction for that name) have the option of ­farmers ­­­­­markets on Monday nights in Gorge Park and Thursdays in Memorial Park. The Sidney Thursday night market will resume June 2, but it won’t fill Beacon Avenue as in the past. Instead, it will be in the ­parking lot of the Mary Winspear ­Centre, which is where the Sidney ­Farmers Market is found on Sundays.

• The 60th Oak Bay Tea Party is June 3-5 at Willows Beach.

• The Victoria Pride Festival is back with in-person events June 23-July 2, including the parade and festival June 26.

• Victoria’s Canada Day ­fireworks return this year, as do the Gorge Canada Day Picnic in Saanich and the July 1 parade in Sidney.

• Gearheads rejoice: Classic cars will descend on Victoria for Northwest Deuce Days July 14-17.

• The TD Art Gallery Paint-In returns to Moss Street on July 16.

• After being beached last summer, paddlers will take to the Inner Harbour for the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Aug. 12-14.

• The Victoria Fringe Festival is Aug. 24-Sept. 4.

• Fairs are ramping up again. After a scaled-back event in 2021, the Saanich Fair returns on the Labour Day weekend. ­(Website quote: “We all know that nothing beets the Saanich Fair so we hope you’ll turnip for this year’s event — it will be spud-tacular!”).

The Vancouver Island ­Exhibition is at Nanaimo’s Beban Park Aug. 26-28, while the Cowichan ­Exhibition is Sept. 16-18.

Alas, Metchosin Day won’t ­happen this September, scuttled not by the pandemic but a lack of parking. The big field that is normally used for that purpose is unavailable.

• After staging a half-marathon and 8K races last year, the full Royal Victoria Marathon returns Oct. 9.

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