Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nanaimo Heritage Days - What Heritage??

Logo only place you will find HERITAGE

The May long weekend celebration known as Victoria Day from 1837 to 2014 saw a society in Nanaimo organize and execute a weekend celebration attended by most of the city at one time.

The tradition finally came to an end over the use of the word 'Empire' which was considered offensive to some. While the actual weekend events organized and funded by a small army of volunteers including a local service club were not offensive to anyone, the mere mention of the word Empire was enough to bring the weekend celebration to an end.

When the society was unwilling to forgo the use of the word Empire in it's name and the city was unwilling to support them, unless they did, the final nail was driven into the coffin of the longest running Victoria Day celebrations in Canada. The organization was willing to change the name of the celebrations but unwilling to change the name of their society. Even that, was not sufficient.

It looked as if the entire event was going to be cancelled last year, until local businessman Morgan Carey stepped up and pledged a large junk of corporate cash to fund the event. The local pot producer, Tilray kicked in $10K and saved the weekend fireworks which would also have been cancelled.

There was much celebration that from last year onward the city would no longer host an event organized by an organization calling itself the Empire Days Society. Now Nanaimo could move into the modern age where even the very thought of empire is considered unacceptable, we would finally be able to truly celebrate the real HERITAGE of Nanaimo. Hence, the Nanaimo HERITAGE DAYS society was born.

Now tasked with replacing the street-packing parade, family fun day and evening fireworks the new group set out to bring us into the modern age with a true celebration of our diverse heritage and all that makes Nanaimo great.

So how have we done??

No fault can be directed at Real Estate Webmasters or Tilray for maximizing the commercial value of the event which is why REWfest completely overshadows HERITAGE fest and TILRAY gets as much top billing as possible for the fireworks. They have done their part and more, by putting up the cold hard cash it takes to put on such an event. In the case of the fireworks, Tilray ponied up $15,000 so we could all sit around the harbour and go oooooo and awwwww as the fireworks lit up the night sky. An event, which is a part of the Empire Days celebrations, which are a part of our history, like the name or not.

So what happened to all those folks wanting to see this turned into a true celebration of Nanaimo's Heritage??

What of:
Our First Nations Heritage?
Our Coal Mining Heritage?
Our Fishing Heritage?
Our Logging Heritage?
Our Rail Heritage?
Our Multicultural Heritage?

Maybe next year someone will be able to put the HERITAGE into the Nanaimo HERITAGE DAYS celebrations. But for that to happen, the organizational work will have to start NOW, three months before the event just won't cut it.

Note: A reader brought to my attention that the Mid Island Metis Nation was in fact represented at the Rewfest event and in fact were the only ones present.



  1. For 2017, have all the events on the same day. Parade, RewFest. and fireworks.

  2. How about we just 'can' it altogether. Perhaps put the money into cleaning up heritage 'sites', reinvigorating places like the China steps, getting a marine, or aboriginal museum going, instead of a depressing 'war' museum. Lots of ways to celebrate Nanaimo's heritage, forget the bad amplified rock and roll, cut rate fireworks, and drunken street gangs.

    let's be constructive-----or not :-(

  3. Kudos to Real Estate Webmasters and Tilray for their support of the Nanaimo Heritage and I was saddened to witness the lack of support of the various groups that have in years past reminded us of their contributions to this City. Despite everything the word "Empire" had significance, just NOT in the way most thought. As a 6th generation Canadian of British descent, I was not aware of the lack of information about British Explorers and the dreadful plan to educate Natives(I was a student at the same time, so this was happening when I was a child)..........I found out after I was married that I was the offspring of Captain James Cook who also may have sired children in the Nootka Sound area where his ships "Discovery" and "Resolution" stopped twice for a new Mast. My British Ancestors are from Newfoundland where Cook spent several years charting the waters of the St Lawrence River and Gulf of St. Lawrence and had a family with my Mother's Great Grandmother in Conception Bay,NL. Apparently my Great-great-Grandmother didn't know he was legally married to a woman named Elizabeth in England and was chagrined to find this out after he was reportedly killed in Hawaii.

  4. I agree with you totally Jim. Nanaimo has a past, a long, diverse history, and a joyous heritage that dates back thousands of years, and it deserves to be celebrated.

    There could be some irony in having Tilray and webmasters as the primary sponsors for an event that traditionally had story tellers and someone to provide the refreshments and tobacco to create the mood, and a fine display of fireworks to finish off the evening delights.

    Historically, there was a gathering on the beach, or in the long house,of families and old friends from other villages, up and down the coast. the sky would be filled with stars, and the light of the moon would shimmer across the water to the rythum of the waves washing onto the beach. There would have been a fire, with its sparks rising into the sky, instead of fireworks. There were families reuniting and telling stories, of events of days gone by.

    There would be caressing and cuddling, dancing and songs and a feast of the catch of the day, dug clams and fresh oysters pick from the beach, all wrapped in wet kelp, steamed on the fire, then eaten with your fingers.

    Now that is a Heritage that brings back wonderful memories and well worth celebrating and doing again, year, after year. Heritage days, the good old days, those were the days, my friends.

  5. Just watched the 'parade'----bordering on a parody !

    Why not make the bathtub race parade 'the' event of the year. If we must have a parade and fireworks etc.. then make it a well attended, loud, busy, expensive, fun event. One big bash with all the floats, bands, groups etc…

    We can celebrate everything at once, and make it worthwhile !!

    seriously, the parade today was embarrassing :-(

    1. Anonymous.....some people do their best to create a fun event and some like to sit on sidelines and bitch and criticize .....on social media to was a delight to see smiling faces out in big numbers...especially children. Oh how much bigger and better it could be...and memorable event for families especially for kids...if there were less bitchers and more doers!

  6. Anonymous.....some people do their best to create a fun event and some like to sit on sidelines and bitch and criticize .....on social media to was a delight to see smiling faces out in big numbers...especially children. Oh how much bigger and better it could be...and memorable event for families especially for kids...if there were less bitchers and more doers!

  7. Parade wasn't up to your standard? Get off your high horse and help out or don't bother showing up if all you can do is criticize the hardwork of volunteers. It's magical for kids to watch and we tried...stay home if you can't help and just have to say something so mean!!

  8. Had no idea there was a need for help. Where was that publicized? If I didn't read this blog, I wouldn't have even known there was a parade.

  9. Anonymous.. know it's hard to believe...but if you really could do more than read a find out that of course help is needed to put on a huge community event....or that there was a parade planned. Heritage day Web, Google may long weekend nanaimo, speak to people...

  10. Perhaps a few of you need to get out from behind your computers and contribute creatively and get involved instead of whining and complaining about someone else's efforts. Sheesh.

  11. I saw a call for the need for parade marshalls a week or two before the parade. Before that I heard nothing about the need to organize events, beyond the parade that actually have something to do with the heritage of our community, after all, that was the reason for booting the Empire in the first place. Who are the organizers of the event? I know who the sponsors are, but who actually put the weekend events together??? To Taylor's point, what did this have to do with any of our rich heritage?? Where is the DNBIA, the City's Heritage department, etc. etc.??? Where are the First Nations? A local historical society?? In other words, besides the corporate sponsors, who took the lead for the Nanaimo Heritage Celebrations??

  12. As to the size of the parade I presume that many of the entries from years past no longer come to Nanaimo. Some of the marching bands, motorcycle drill teams etc. only came to Nanaimo because they were on the Island going to Victoria for their parade the following day. At that time the Nanaimo parade was a sanctioned event earning credits for marching bands etc. I also note the lack of marching bands, the presence of the HMCS Nanaimo and anything from the military base this year. Considering the reduced level of potential participants, the organizers did an admirable job putting the parade on, which I am sure was enjoyed by the kids along the parade route. The fact of the matter is, that parades could very well be a hanger-on from a bygone era and have lost their place of importance as also witnessed by the lack of commercial floats, which at one time also made up a big part of the parade.

  13. Sorry folks, watched it close up, and it is time to call it a day. Not a complaint at all, more a realization that parades like that are of a bygone time. there was a meagre turnout to watch. Lacklustre at best.

    Like I suggested, for those of you who think all I did was complain. Let's make bathtub days 'the' event of the summer ! I am all onboard for that.

    We are known for it, let's do it up right.


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