Festival season kicks off with Cook Street Block Party

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle

Despite cancellation of Rock the Shores and Rifflandia, there are plenty of parties and events to watch out for in Victoria this summer

Graphic by Natalie Inez, Design Director

Swarms of bicycles are locked at every sign pole, these clusters growing more dense with each block closer to the Cook Street Village Block Party. Six blocks of Cook Street are blocked off for rows of vendor tents sprouting food, artisan goods, and volunteer services, along with a soundstage. People and pooches of all ages stroll in the middle of the street in the late spring sun.

For people like Vanessa Leong, Public Celebrations Project Manager for Atomique Productions, the Village Block Party signals the start of Victoria’s festival season.

“This is kind of the kick-off to the summer,” Leong says of the event. “I think this is the first big outdoor festival that we have.”

Every summer, Victoria is full of festivals. From Sooke to Sidney, these celebrations — community or otherwise — are abound, celebrating everything from music (like the Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival, coming up on June 19 to 23), to food (including Fernwood Bites on June 23), to culture (such as the Victoria Indigenous Cultural Festival from June 21 to 23).

Why choose Cook Street Village as the place to host this summer’s inaugural festival? For Leong, the strong sense of community and the iconic setting play a big part.

“People feel nostalgic about [Cook Street Village],” says Leong. “It’s a beautiful six blocks to set up an event like this.”

On the day of the block party, the temperature sits in the 20s and forecasts predict a hot, dry summer afternoon. Weather plays a huge part into why festivals like the Village Block Party are such a presence in the summer months, Leong says.

“The weather is much more enjoyable [when you can] come out in the sun, be dry, and have fun than it is to be out in the rain,” Leong says. “So that’s why a majority of our events are [run in] the season where we know the weather is going to be really wonderful.”

Longtime festival-goer Angela Mcrae says the summer  atmosphere brings together people from all walks of life, which is one of her favourite parts of these festivals.

“I think it brings the community together,” says Mcrae. “I think it’s great fun having the music, and all the food — I always enjoy being able to taste lots of different types of food. It’s a great outing for families as well.”

Over 150 vendors came to the Village Block Party, and for people like Michael Lane, the Community Engagement Manager of WorkBC in Victoria, having space for small businesses in these markets are vital. For the business community, he says, these markets are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the company’s services and products to folks who may not normally stop by.

“For example, [WorkBC is] a government funded service and we offer a lot of free employment services to all the citizens of Greater Victoria, but not enough people know about us,” Lanesays. “So this is a great opportunity for us to get out and let people know that the services exist.”

Festivals, however, can be a tricky realm to navigate. This year, Atomique Productions’ summer rock festival staples Rock the Shores and Rifflandia, have been cancelled. Speaking with CHEK News, Atomique Productions’ director Nick Blasko said the cancellation is due to a “combination of factors,” including “access to talent and the right collection of artists to support the event.”

Regarding the Rifflandia’s postponement, the company issued a statement saying, “as our city continues to change before our eyes, our region’s unique festival landscape is evolving and this requires our careful attention to ensure that Rifflandia is able to thrive for years to come, alongside our artists, audience and partners.”

Festivals may come and go, but Victoria has plenty more parties to come this summer. Events such as Fernfest, CarFree YYJ, and Phillips Weekend Backyarder are growing, showing there’s little to truly stop people that want to bring the community together.