Traditional festivals are blooming more than ever

Several festivals were saved by provincial funds - and its attendees


By Thea Catipon

Faced with the threat of cancellation of some of Vancouver’s most iconic festivals, government and local companies jumped into the breach to keep the festivals alive.

Long-standing festivals, such as the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, faced possible delay or cancellation due to financial trouble.

“Our board had cancelled the festival and had put forward a motion to the membership to consider dissolving the society because the finances were that bad,” said Erin Mullan, president of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

According to Mullan, the music festival’s announcement prompted the provincial government into setting up a $30 million fund for the province’s festival and fairs. The music festival have received a $100,000 fund from the government.

“[It] is a real game changer for us,” Mullan said.

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which serves as one of Vancouver’s iconic events was also significantly affected by the pandemic as were many other festivals. The organizers called for help from the public saying the summer event was on the brink of cancellation.

Donations helped resolve financial burdens

Mullan said public donations have helped to ease the financial strain for festivals.

“We heard loud and clear from the public that people want the festival to survive,” Mullan said.

Aside from government and public support, local companies stepped up as sponsors to provide vital funding for local festivals.

In March, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival announced Edge Construction as the new main sponsor. Yaletown Business Improvement Association and several car dealerships from Gain Group also pitched in with funding.

“We see this festival as a great way for the city to celebrate spring, to celebrate the beauty of Vancouver,” said Richard Whitehead, a client executive for business development with Edge Construction. “And we just want to add to that beauty, we want to add to that celebration.”

Linda Poole, the creative director and founder of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, said the local financial support provided was a testament to the value that the festival has to offer to the community.

“Having our big problem this year showed just how much people value us,” Poole said. “They expressed it and they put their money behind it.”

Lost connections brought people together

Sabina Magliocco, a UBC professor of anthropology who specializes in the study of ritual, festival and religion, said many residents are willing to provide the funds to keep festivals running despite high inflation rates and financial setbacks from COVID-19.

“It is one of the ways that communities tell the world who they are and what values are important to them,” Magliocco said. “And a second reason that they’re important is that they bring people together.”

For some attendees, the festivals are a way for people to recover the social connections that they have lost during the pandemic.

“We need community,” Mullan said. “We need to gather together, and to gather together in a beautiful place and listen to wonderful music is a source of joy and healing. It’s medicine for the soul.”


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