Organizers look to future for Nanaimo Heritage Days

NANAIMO – Future Nanaimo Heritage Days celebrations will get boost from early planning and funding.

Nanaimo Heritage Days will likely improve with age, say promoters and organizers.

Organizers were under the gun to get a new parade, fireworks and other activities arranged in time for the May long weekend after Empire Days celebrations were cancelled in February, but vendors, local entertainers and community groups managed to carry out the weekend celebration.

“It was a beautiful, big turnout,” said Angie Barnard, event coordinator. “I had some vendors say it was the best May long weekend festival they’d ever been to, as a vendor. People were curious. People were buying. People were wanting to be entertained.”

Barnard mentioned some disappointment in turnouts for the beer gardens, which estimates pegged at about 100 people, and for music performances in Diana Krall Plaza.

“I was thrilled with the number of parade participants in such a short period of time,” Barnard said. “It takes a lot of work, in some cases, to put those floats together and rally enough people to make it work.”

Coun. Jerry Hong and the Nanaimo Youth Action Committee entered a float promoting the Slide the City event proposed for July.

Hong estimated 38 floats entered and he would like to see as many as 60 enter in 2016. He credited community sponsorship and support of the inaugural Nanaimo Heritage Days for its success.

“The turnout was spectacular,” Hong said. “The community stepped up and we had more than enough volunteers for the event.”

Hong will be a technical advisor to next year’s planning committee. He and Barnard agree that with an advisory committee in place and formation of the Nanaimo Heritage Days Society will allow planning to start earlier for 2016.

“The key thing is getting enough advance planning so that we can get the marketing and sponsorship right, so we can give those people who are contributing enough bang for their investment,” Barnard said.

Barnard is looking beyond numbers of parade entries. She wants to see strong representations of Nanaimo’s various ethnic groups and cultures, current and traditional industries, such as coal, fisheries, forestry and aquaculture, plus Nanaimo’s emerging future industries to create an overall parade theme.

“I’d like to just see better representation of that, so the parade itself tells an amazing story,” Barnard said.