North Island Festival Guide

Ah, summer.  Time to celebrate outdoors.  Longer, warmer days and starry nights.  Our love of the outdoors is equaled only by that of a good festival.  Canada celebrated 150 years on July 1st and Vancouver Island North is happy to keep the party going.  Boasting some of the freshest salmon, an infatuation with Orcas, small but spirited parades and make you want to dance all night music, each festival has its own interpretation of west coast culture, heritage and traditions.  Festival fun awaits.
Port Hardy is celebrating their 40th annual Filomi Days July 14-16.  The three syllables Fi, Lo and Mi represent the rich history of Fishing, Logging and Mining.  The festival is an all ages welcome mix of fun packed events.  Start your morning off with a hearty pancake breakfast.  Visit the artsy, crafty vendors before finding yourself a place to watch the parade.  Catch the excitement of the soapbox derby and then wander over to Kidfest for games and face painting.  On the Tsulquate River cheer on the rubber ducks as they to the finish line for prizes.  Live music and fireworks round out the schedule.  Come one, come all.

Kimberly Kufaas photo

Alert Bay is gearing up for their 35th Seafest July 28-30.  This year’s theme is “Rock Through the Ages.”  See how many faces you recognize in the Legends of Rock & Roll parade.  Right after the parade attend the crowning ceremony of Mr. & Mrs. Seafest.  Stick around for The Purple Pirate Show, Kids Zone, pie eating contest and many food and craft vendors.  Art Fest features the original creations of 40+ Alert Bay artists at the net loft on the government dock.  Everyone is welcome to participate in the 5km/10km Salmon Run.  Beautiful views with every step.  Then change into your dancing shoes for 12 hours of live music from noon until midnight at Music Fest.  They’re promising everything from country to classic rock and blues.

Once a fishing and cannery village Telegraph Cove is a summer destination teeming with thousands of whale watchers, kayakers, fishermen, boaters and campers.  The Cove’s festival action happens August 5-6.  Wander the historic boardwalk on Saturday during the Craft Fair.  On Sunday join locals and visitors in the Fishing Derby. All proceeds from the fishing derby as well as the sale of fresh steamed corn on the cob go towards local salmon enhancement projects.

Boomer Jerritt photo

Did someone mention salmon?  Sointula Salmon Days happens August 11, 12 & 13.  This old school and totally cool festival brings people back to their origins of commercial fishing.  Celebrating abundance from the ocean and showcasing wild and sacred salmon.  After the parade find out if the reigning Salmon King and Queen keep their crowns one more year or will they be dethroned?  Sit down to a wild salmon dinner caught, prepped and prepared by “old timers” and then dance the night away with live music by the band XLR8.  Two days of eating, drinking and celebrating all things salmon.

One of the best parts of living and playing by the ocean is watching Orcas (Killer Whales) that travel through the Broughton Archipelago.  Celebrating our favourite cetaceans, the biggest annual event in Port McNeill is OrcaFest August 19 & 20.  This year’s theme is Wild Wild West Coast.  Small town spirit shines through starting with a parade winding through town that includes everything from youngsters on their decorated bicycles to huge logging trucks.  Pounds of candy and goodies are given out so make sure you get a ring side seat.  The party continues downtown and at the waterfront.  Fill a bag with fresh produce and wares from local artisans at the Farmer’s Market. There are plenty of games for kids, a salmon barbecue and feel the rhythm of live music.  And don’t miss the original play, “Wily Wild West,” happening at the Gate House Community Theatre August 18 & 19.

Bring your camera and also an umbrella. These festivals run rain or shine.  So, pick a party and hit up one of this summer’s festivals.  We’re waiting for you to join in.  The region’s abundance of wildlife and picture perfect marine communities might be what draws you here but it’s the friendly communities that will make you want to come back.

Karen Stewart – Freelance Writer

Karen is the author of the blog This is Port McNeill