Festivals, like restaurants, can be judged by the lines they generate. By that measure, the Saanich Strawberry Festival held at Beaver Lake Park Sunday was a smashing success.
Rob Phillips, special events co-ordinator for the District of Saanich, said it is always difficult to estimate how many people attend the annual festival. “We figure about 8,000 people come out each year,” he said. “Today was a bigger crowd. So we definitely think it is close to 8,000 or 9,000 people that have come out to enjoy the day.”
Perhaps the defining feature of the event is the traditional serving of strawberries and ice cream for 50 cents each. Local dignitaries including Couns. Fred Haynes, Leif Wergeland, Judy Brownoff and Susan Brice, as well as Saanich South MLA Lana Popham handled serving duties. And boy, were they busy, as were the people behind them, preparing the ice cream.
Three separate lines at the serving area easily exceeded 50 metres in length for long stretches of the afternoon. A snarl of people hoping for a taste were still lining up for tickets well after the cut off time for ticket sales, forcing organizers to extend sales. Not surprisingly, organizers sold out fairly early in the day.
What had once started as a celebration of Saanich’s agricultural history and roots has since blossomed into a big festival that draws not just local Saanich residents, but also out-of-towners, said Phillips.
Part of the appeal lies in the diversity of available activities. While one part of the park offered music, ice cream and beach access, the other featured inflatable playgrounds of various kinds as well as several arts and crafts stations. Various organizations including Saanich’s Canada 150 committee and its council representative Coun. Vicki Sanders were also present to reach out to the community.
“Strawberry Festival continues to grow every year,” said Phillips. “We encourage people to come out early and take part in the activities. Parking is a challenge with the amount of crowd that we have here, but it is a great event and we look forward to putting it on every year.”