I’m am still smoking busy with my temporary job but I really wanted to help with Elevate, which is a local, accessible arts festival that Meaghan and the rest of the Elevate the Arts Society spearhead every year in Courtenay. I thought sign painting would be a good fit for me so I spent one afternoon doing that in Meaghan’s back yard. There were a lot of kids around who wanted to “help” so it was sort of half making signs and half craft camp for kids but the idea of Elevate is to be inclusive so having the kids paint signs really fits in with their mandate, and really, how important is it that the hand painted sign isn’t too messy?
Also a part of the Elevate festival is May Long Weekend Market Day in Cumberland, which is a lot like car-free day in Vancouver but without the Roller Derbies. I was in the mood to shop so I bought a “Republic of Cumberland” t-shirt from the museum and also a knit scarf and a crocheted necklace, which I totally love, even though it looks kind of fancy for me. I wore for it to the Flesher’s first annual after Market Day BBQ. (Now that we have been here for a year we are finally getting invited to a party here and there. I don’t know what it is about the Village, maybe it’s an opposite-of-the-city kind of thing, but we hardly get invited to any parties, even though we do a lot of socialising). The BBQ was fun. The Golden Honey Second String band did some marching around and around the house. I was really tired from my job so I went home early and missed the drunken singing around the fire.
Parade Day! The Village, for some unfathomable reason, changed the perhaps offensively colonial name of “Empire Days” to the equally perhaps offensively colonial but less colloquial name “Victoria Days” (Step and I suggest we could just change the name to “Parade Day” but the idea got no traction). Anyway, the Parade is a really Big Deal in Cumberland and people from all over Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast come to see it.
The parade is preceded by a fundraiser for the Cumberland Community Schools Society, Thunderballs, or, as I like to call it, THUNDERBALLS. This is an event where a long track is placed between first and second street, and then a big drum at one end releases thousands of golf balls and the first ten golf balls to make it to the end of the track win. You can “buy” a ball for $5, or get 5 balls for $20. Last year the second prize was an impact wrench, but this year most of the prizes were cash. Sean Sullivan, esteemed Village Councillor, hosts Thunderballs and he warned people if they touched the balls they would be disqualified and kicked out of the Village. Then the balls were released (and 3 came out early); watch the video I took. I laughed at least $20 worth.
All the mayors of the towns ride in the Parade in fancy vintage cars, and there are Shriners in little tiny cars, and a mechanical camel. The Mayor of Cumberland, Leslie Baird, decided to go on a bike instead of a car this year, which is really progressive.
I didn’t see the parade this year because I was in it. The Cumberland Community Forest Society usually has a gaggle of people dressed as animals that just walk down the street, but they decided to make a more cohesive presentation this year, which they called “Swarm take the Empire”. This was a bunch of mini “Forest Fairies” which were the little kids, followed by a flock of birds that were, well, flocking, and after that the crown of the parade display which were shirtless men dressed as bee drones carrying a golden litter with a very pregnant Queen Bee on it. It was a real show stopper. I was in the flock of birds and I could hear the parade watchers delight in a wave behind us as people caught site of the Queen Bee. That was followed by the Golden Honey Second String Marching Band, who I think just needed someone to attach to in order to be in the parade, although Dan did wear a bird mask.
Cathy made most of the CCFS costumes, but I took a risk and made myself a Robin costume. (The last two times I made animal costumes they burned in two separate fires. I only ever wore that fat bear costume once, drrrr…). Robins are very drab birds and I would have liked to make my costume better but as I have so little time I just did what I could. It turns out I enjoy dressing as a Robin and being part of the bird flock, but my arms do get tired from all that flying.
Yesterday I found out The Cumberland Community Forest Society won best overall paraders! I didn’t even know there was a contest. Go, CCFS!
Also in the parade is a disproportionate number of pipe bands. Like, I’m talking at least 4 pipe bands and probably more. The parade ends at the big park where bleachers are set up for the mayors and the pipe bands march back and forth in front of them, then there’s a kind of creepy crowning where a teenage girl is made May Queen or something, and then kids dance around may poles (I really like that part). There were food trucks and I bought a piece of chorizo sausage with bacon wrapped around it for $2. There are a bunch of rides and sno-cones for kids and they can roll around in a a giant ball if they want to. We hung out and watched a juggler and then we watched Kevin Flesher, Comox Valley poet Laureate, do a Captain Thunderpants show, which is a show for little kids but I laughed because I have a fundamental sense of humour.
Most people do not watch the kids’ shows but instead follow the pipe bands and they go from drink hole to drink hole and play pipes. We popped by Cumberland Brewing Company and had a pipey drink and then one at the Cumberland Hotel. Check out this amazing young piper I videoed at CBC! I don’t know his name but he was good:
And now to end this post I will share with you this picture of a picture that was taken, I think, about 10 years ago on Denman Island, which I believe was a “family photo”, and that I noticed on Cathy’s shelf during Empire Day. I am wearing the Queen Bee hat in it!