It’s the first day of summer! Finally!!
This week also marks the start of Vancouver’s outdoor music festival season. The big ones are the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which starts this weekend, and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival at Jericho Beach in July.
Vancouver is not that different from other Canadian cities in having great outdoor music festivals, but what we do have that is uniquely West Coast are some pretty spectacular settings.
Like the stage at Jack Poole Plaza with the North Shore Mountains as its backdrop. This photo is of Spirit of the West performing on Canada Day a few years ago.
For three nights every summer, three different countries compete in Vancouver’s annual fireworks competition, known as the Celebration of Light. More than half a million people from the ’burbs descend upon my neighbourhood to watch some pretty impressive pyrotechnic displays set off from a barge moored in English Bay. This year will be the 27th consecutive competition. It’s the longest running offshore fireworks competition in the world and, I am told, BC’s largest event.
Which is obvious once you’ve tried to make your way through those crowds.
I used to overlook English Bay from a ninth floor apartment and I could watch from my balcony. Now, I walk down to the beach a few minutes before they’re scheduled to start and I always have a great view.
It’s one of the perks of living in the West End.
One activity that is definitely possible here only in the summer is swimming in one of Vancouver’s five outdoor pools. This being Canada, the pools are only open between May and September. Two of them front English Bay, so they qualify as “oceanfront pools.” (The mountain views are a bonus.)
By no means is Vancouver a tropical destination, but for a couple months every year we put on a pretty good pretense.
Vancouver is at its best in the summer. Because of that, and because summer is usually the busiest time in my line of business, I rarely do my travelling in July and August.
This year is going to be an exception, however, as I’m gearing up to spend the summer in Europe. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity that has come my way. But I am also feeling just a little bit wistful about all the fun I am going to miss right here at home.
And so, for the next few posts, I’m going to show you what is so spectacular about Vancouver in the summer.
For my first photo, I give you Siwash Rock at dusk. Dusk in Vancouver in the summer is late — I took this photo in early August just after 9 pm — and that means there is no excuse for not going for a long walk after work.
Walking the Stanley Park seawall is probably one of the city’s most popular activities for locals and tourists alike. And although we locals do it year round, it is so much more pleasant on a summer evening.
Canadians are known for playing hard in the summers. We like to spend as much time outdoors as we can, which is easy, because the days are long, and necessary, because the season is short.
Also, for the most part, the weather is awesome. Not too hot, not too humid.
One of the ways we play hard is by going to outdoor festivals. We’ve got a few, ranging from the traditional fairs and exhibitions and rodeos to theatre (from Shakespeare to fringe) to music of all sorts, including jazz, blues, and folk.
One of the best festival cities in the country, in my opinion, is Edmonton. And one of the best outdoor music festivals in the country, in my opinion, is the four-day Edmonton Folk Music Festival held every August at Gallagher Park. The park is a ski club in the winter, but in the summer, its hill serves as a natural amphitheatre with spectacular views of the city’s skyline.
The Edmonton Folk Fest is one of the largest and best-attended folk music festivals in North America, and attracts musicians from around the world who, once they’ve played the Folk Fest, are always eager to come back. Celtic, country, blues, gospel, soul, and world music — you name it, they’ve got it. It sells out every year, typically within minutes.
If you’ve never been, you don’t know what you’re missing. Seriously.
It’s the middle of August already. There are only a few weeks left of what has been a fabulous summer in Vancouver.
What else is there to say?
When I was in high school, the end of June meant the end of the school year and the start of strawberry season. My mother would throw the ice cream pails into the trunk of the car and off we went ― her and my siblings and I ― to one of the U-pick farms on nearby Westham Island. A few hours of picking (and snacking) later, we’d head home with our haul of luscious red berries. Mom would get to work making jam, while we would help her out by eating a handful of berries every time we wandered through the kitchen. My (then) baby brother called them strawbabies, and the name stuck.
BC berries are so tasty that I became a strawberry snob. To this day, I refuse to eat the pale and tasteless California strawberries that are sold in BC the rest of the year.
One final note: If there was ever any doubt that our climate is changing, the shifting of strawberry season by a whole month is enough evidence for me. Strawberry season now starts every year around the end of May and is already over by the last week of June.
I was catching up with my cousin’s wife the other day by email, and she told me that she and her husband (my cousin) are enjoying their topless Friday evenings.
Nope ― it’s not what it sounds like.
They’re cruising the Alberta countryside in their red convertible.
I was jealous. But not of the red convertible.
I was jealous because there is nothing quite as beautiful as the Alberta countryside in the summertime.