Two records were likely set at Saanich’s premier community festival in terms of the size of the crowd and how quickly 4,000 servings of ice cream and strawberries were gobbled down.
Historically, Saanich’s Strawberry Festival, held at Beaver Lake, runs out of servings within 90 minutes. On Sunday, it was within 60 minutes.
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, who was part of the crew serving ice cream to an estimated crowd of up to 10,000, said the response shows the public’s appreciation for the event.
“It’s our biggest festival,” he said. “We have had it for 56 years. We have two years missing because of COVID. People were so pleased. They have been waiting for it to come back.”
Ivy Liu and her family, among the last to leave the event at around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, were among those who appreciated the event. “We saw a crowd full of smiles, singing and dancing together to enjoy the happy time and the children also spent the day laughing. We are very grateful to the organizers and all the volunteers.”
As in past years, children could play in what looked like a small village of bouncy castles or splash along the shores of the lake. Adults, meanwhile, could listen to bands or simply lounge on the grass.
Haynes praised the atmosphere. ‘I’m truly delighted,” he said.
He said earlier the return of events, like Sunday’s festival, is critical to Saanich’s sense of community.
“We have implemented a full social calendar,” he said. “Yesterday (Saturday), we had the inaugural multicultural festival at Uptown. That was amazingly successful, with dancing and all kinds of entertainment by local groups. And today we have the bands and the music from local groups. It really is a time for celebration. We are bouncing out of COVID. It’s a tired term, ‘bouncing out of COVID,’ but it really is back to normal.”
Other events signalling this return include Saanich’s Music in the Park series, which resumed July 5 and runs through Aug. 23. While Music in the Park has been a long-standing element of the social calendar, Haynes also drew attention to a new element.
“For the first time in the history of Saanich, we have a dedicated cricket pitch at Beckwith Park and there is a considerable cricket community here,” he said. “We have a youth league and now a full Cricket park, which we are testing this year and next year, will be fully implemented.”
While COVID-19 has delayed these plans, Haynes said he is pleased with the current progress. “It’s a sport for all ages, all types,” he said, pointing to plans for what he called a mayor’s challenge team playing later this year.
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