It all began back in 1962 when a group got together at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. They called themselves the “Bored of Trade” and rumour has it that, after a beverage or two, they decided that it was time for Oak Bay to have a party.
They’d roast a giant baron of beef on open coals and invite the community to celebrate Oak Bay. They aimed to dispel a tongue-in-cheek reputation that had Oak Bay pegged as a very British and perhaps a little bit staid municipality said to exist behind a ‘tweed curtain.’
What was supposed to be a one-time event, captured the community’s imagination and 61 years later, the Oak Bay Tea Party is still going strong.
Some things have remained the same, of course.
The Oak Bay Tea Party Society still barbeques giant portions of beef, although these days the barbeque upon which the savoury delights are cooked is far more elegant and efficient.
The Oak Bay Kiwanis Club, which originally took a major role in the early Tea Party events, continues to play a major role, but they’ve been joined by the Esquimalt and Saanich Lions Club, The Girl Guides of Canada, and the Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society.
However, one tradition has stopped that involved being pirated by Buccaneer Days. According to current Buccaneer Days chair, Bob McKie, a few Esquimalt organizers would annually don pirate regalia and raid the Tea Party, make off with some token bit of Oak Bay property and hold it for ransom. It was their way of forcing the Oak Bay organizers to perform some volunteer service to secure the return of their possessions.
“This sort of stopped about 25 years ago, but it was great fun while it lasted,” McKie said. “Pirating Oak Bay just seemed like a good way to get them involved in our event.”
Still, the Oak Bay event has grown and evolved into a weekend of non-stop fun beyond what could have been originally envisioned by its founders.
The Tea Party kicks off on Friday (June 2) when kids and those who are kids at heart can get their wristbands for the rides presented by Shooting Star Amusements. There’s also music, featuring the well-known tribute band, BackBeat.
Saturday (June 3) starts off with a parade, starting at Windsor Park at 10:30 a.m. and winding its way through the community to its final location at Willows Park. The Law Enforcement Torch Run is back, and there’s a pancake breakfast.
But that’s just the start. There’s a full day of events that range from the Lekwungen Traditional Dancers to school bands to old-time rock and roll, courtesy of the Soul Shakers.
Sunday there is another pancake breakfast, of course, rides, music and more to see and experience. The Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society will be out to race some pretty funny tubs, skydivers will thrill the crowd as they plummet toward Willows Beach, the teacup challenge will give Oak Bay’s mayor a chance to show off his rowing ability in a six-foot teacup, and so much more.
There’s also a kids’ craft corner throughout the event where the wee ones can explore their creative instincts.
All of this will take place at Willows Park.
“It’s just a gorgeous venue. There’s the park, the beach … You can look out over the water and see Mount Baker… You just can’t beat it,” said Sandy Germain, chair of the Oak Bay Tea Party Society.
A full schedule can be found at oakbayteaparty.com.
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