For the first time in its 33-year history Nanaimo’s Festival of Banners has been cancelled, but city streetlights won’t be completely barren this summer.
A week and a half after opening their banner painting studio in March, organizers of the annual event, in which banners are hand-painted and displayed on city light standards, were forced to close down their space due to social distancing measures.
“Everybody’s health and welfare are more important than having everybody come in and paint banners. It’s just not worth it,” said Brenda Peck, longtime festival project manager. “But I really wanted something to hang up in the poles.”
As a “very last-minute” solution, Peck said 92 banners that went unsold from the previous two years were taken out of storage and and submitted to the city to be placed atop lamp posts in the downtown, waterfront, Stewart Avenue and Departure Bay. The banners are now in the process be being put up and will be on display until the last week of September.
“I just think it’s important that we keep some banners up on the street,” Peck said. “It’s pretty sad when you look around town and you see the stores closing down and closed up and boarded up and at least it’s a little bit of light coming through the end of the tunnel.”
This year the Rotary Clubs of Lantzville and Nanaimo were the principal sponsors of the festival, coinciding with Rotary’s 100th year in Nanaimo. Peck said this year’s banner’s were to reflect Rotary’s contributions to the city, but that theme will have to resume next year. In the meantime Peck said the festival is aiming to become a registered non-profit association and then begin applying for grants.
Peck said only one banner was completed before the studio closed and that banner will be displayed next year. Among the unfinished banners is one two-year work in progress.
“It’s really sad because this one lady that came in, she started [her banner] two years ago,” Peck said. “Her mother got sick so she had to fly to Quebec to help out with her mom … and then something happened again last year she couldn’t finish it, she had to go back out. And now it’ll take her three years to finish her one banner.”
Banners will be available for purchase by the end of June on the Festival of Banners Facebook page. Proceeds will support next year’s festival.