Heritage Days set to celebrate Cowichan Lake history

Some newcomers to the Cowichan Lake district see the swaths of clearcut forest in the hills

Some newcomers to the Cowichan Lake district see the swaths of clearcut forest in the hills and think they’re a travesty, a blight on the region’s beautiful landscape.

Pat Foster, however, sees them as part of the area’s history and one of the reasons Heritage Days is still an important annual event at the Lake.

“[Forestry] is such an important part of our history, I just think we should really appreciate the logging trucks and the logging that happened here,” said Foster.

“We live in the middle of a working forest. I would like a sign on Highway 18: ‘You are now entering a community that’s in the middle of a working forest.’”

Heritage Days has been an annual tradition in Lake Cowichan for more than 20 years, celebrating the area’s rich history and how it became the place it is today.

While forestry isn’t the sole focus of the weekend, it definitely plays an important part. Visitors can view images from the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) photo collection at the museum, watch the logging truck parade through downtown Lake Cowichan or have their pictures taken in old time clothing at the new photo booth (also at the museum).

There are also heritage walking tour maps available for history buffs who also feel like getting some fresh air.

Foster said over the years she has been asked why organizers don’t merge Heritage Days with the Lake Days festivities in June.

“People always asked why we didn’t combine the two but we didn’t because Heritage Days was a very low-key celebration. We don’t charge a fee for anybody to have a booth [at Saywell Park] or anything,” she said. “It needs to be its own [event] because it’s focusing on our heritage and that’s really important because people tend to forget their heritage.”

However, not all events have a direct focus on regional history. There are children’s games and vendors at Saywell Park, a children’s bike parade and even a Pooch Parade with judging at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Lake Bloomers Garden Club’s plant and hanging basket sales will also take place at the park that morning, and the Kaatza Art Group’s annual art show and sale will be running all weekend in Honeymoon Bay.

The weekend is capped off with the Heritage Talent Show on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m., with proceeds going to Radio Cowichan.

In the past, volunteers would dress up in 19th century garb and walk around town during Heritage Days and businesses would set up window displays celebrating chapters in the areas local history. However, over the years those aspects of the weekend have fallen by the wayside.

“It’s become a bit more casual but it’s still very important to remember our history and heritage,” she said.

Gesturing to the hillsides around Lake Cowichan, Foster says the clearcuts are a reflection of that history.

“People come into town — newcomers — and go, ‘How ugly is that?’ But for us, for people who live here, it might be brown for a little while but guess what, in just a few years it all grows up. For me it’s just like farming.”