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Victoria area makes hay while the sun still shines

Saanich Fair, festivals and holiday put exclamation mark on summer

Downtown Victoria was buzzing over Labour Day weekend as festivals catered to residents and tourists alike.

Good weather drew in crowds to the annual Vancouver Island Blues Bash organized by the Victoria Jazz Society.

"We had record attendance for both free and paid admission," said Darryl Mar, artistic director of the festival.

An estimated 14,000 people showed up over the course of the three-day festival at Ship Point, he said.

"It was a wonderful weekend," Mar said. "The music was full of wonderful surprises."

Mar founded the festival 18 years ago and said it has become a staple of Labour Day weekend. "The festival itself is really established," he said, adding that bands travel from across Canada to perform.

As the stage was being packed up Monday afternoon, Mar said the weekend was a great success.

"I mean, what more could you ask for?" he said, pointing to the Inner Harbour scenery.

Nearby, the 35th annual Classic Boat Festival saw mariners gather together to appreciate the history of wooden boats.

Festival organizer James Webb said 85 boats participated in the show. Over three days, about 10,000 people showed up to soak in the culture of the vessels.

"It was a real success and, absolutely, the weather played a part in it," Webb said. He added that the festival occurs on a weekend between wooden boat shows in Vancouver and Port Townsend, Washington.

This year, spectators might have noticed more home-built boats.

"Sometimes they're better than the professionally built ones," Webb said, adding that construction can take anywhere from a few months to years.

One of the charms of the boat festival is the free admission, Webb said, and it's something he wants to keep.

Further from the downtown core, the Saanich Fair celebrated 145 years and added attractions including a blacksmith shop, pirate school and dog shows. The three-day, old-fashioned fair on Stelly's Cross Road in Central Saanich was kept busy with visitors taking advantage of a sunny long weekend.

And if Monday wasn't already chock-a-block with fun, it also featured the final day of Greek Fest at the Greek Community Centre on Elk Lake Drive, and the Victoria Labour Council's annual Labour Day Picnic at Irving Park in James Bay.

cclancy@timescolonist.com

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