In spite of efforts between the city, Snuneymuxw First Nation and Empire Days Celebrations Society representatives, society members voted to cancel Empire Days festivities for 2015.
In two votes, taken at the society’s meeting Wednesday night, members cancelled the Empire Days Parade and also rejected a proposal to take part in a joint venture celebration by the city, Snuneymuxw and the Empire Days Celebration Society that would create an interim working group under a new name for the 2015 celebrations and potentially become the foundation for new celebration society that would run future Victoria Day weekend celebrations.
Bob Sears, society secretary, said the voting results were a disappointing outcome after coming away smiling from a positive meeting Monday morning when the society’s executive board met with Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay, Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief John Wesley and other Snuneymuxw and city representatives for about 90 minutes.
“By the end of it we were looking at a joint venture to run this year’s weekend celebrations,” Sears said.
The plan essentially called for volunteers from the society to provide the organizational skills, Snuneymuxw First Nation to supply coordinating skills and volunteers, and the city to help with finding local sponsors to help cover costs.
“A small majority did not want to do the joint venture part,” Sears said. “So there’s a few of us kind of on the really disappointed side and one person, who’s been a chaperone for years for the kids on the float, she was having a really rough time after the meeting was over last night because she’s been doing it for 20 years or more.”
But McKay said he still has his eye on a glimmer of hope from the groundwork laid for the proposed joint venture at Monday’s meeting.
“I’d like to put the call out there,” McKay said. “I’ve heard that there are a number of folks out there on social media who’ve said that they would like to organize some sort of heritage celebration for Nanaimo for that weekend. You know where city hall is. Give me a call.”
McKay estimates it will cost about $32,000 to put on a parade and fireworks display and said city council needs to determine whether the $5,250 grant money earmarked for Victoria Day weekend celebrations can be held for a new organization or if the money has to be redistributed among the remaining grant applicants.