This weekend Youbou celebrates one of the Lake’s oldest annual traditions, and regular attendees will be pleased to learn the organizers have brought back a very popular event that was disallowed for years due to gaming restrictions.
The Youbou Regatta, which is organized by Cowichan Lake Recreation, will be held Saturday, Aug. 13 at Arbutus Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will feature a variety of family-friendly events throughout the day including the much-loved and long-absent Funky Chicken Bingo.
“[It] required that you have a gaming licence because the winner wins 50 per cent of the revenue, and the local government can’t get gaming licences so we had to drop it,” said Linda Blatchford, manager of Cowichan Lake Recreation.
“So this year the Youbou Community Association has got a gaming licence to host the Funky Chicken Bingo. So that’s a really fun event.”
The event involves placing a chicken on a fenced-in tarp with 100 numbered squares. The first square it “goes to the bathroom on” determines the winner.
“People love it. It’s very safe for the chicken. Everyone just crowds around and waits for it to go,” said Blatchford. “Sometimes the chicken lays an egg and the children can’t believe it. They all see it coming out and they didn’t know that’s where eggs come from.”
There are canoe and kayak races, a volleyball tournament, kids games, a physical literary obstacle course for kids and a short parade from the community hall to Arbutus Park. There is also a watermelon eating contest sponsored by Lake Cowichan Country Grocer, relay races and the Clarence Whittingham Memorial Quarter Mile Swim.
From the 1940s until his death in 1998 (at age 96) Whittingham used his tugboat for the quarter-mile swim, ferrying contestants out the set distance into the lake from which they then race back to the dock at Arbutus Park.
In 1999, Whittingham’s daughter, Claren, and her partner took over the job of operating the tug boat.
“We just wanted to keep his legacy going,” she said. “We had the boat and we wanted to keep it going… He was part of the community and that’s the way he was. If he could help, that’s the way he was. He would do it.”
She said her father first arrived at the lake when he was 17, and initially resisted working there.
“It was his birthday, June 8, and it was blue skies and pouring rain and he said ‘This is the only godforsaken country that can have blue sky and pouring rain — I’m out of here!’”
Eventually he was coaxed back to the lake to work temporarily as a tugboat operator until a permanent employee could be found. After a summer spent enjoying the full beauty of Cowichan Lake he was hooked. Youbou became home which, along with its regatta, maintained an important place in his heart.
Marcia Stewart has volunteered with the Youbou Regatta for many years and said she is sorry to be missing this year’s event because she is visiting family in Ontario.
“It’s great fun. The camaraderie is wonderful,” she said in an email to the Gazette.
She said the events are all important traditions for the community and even though people may have moved away over the years, many of them continue to return each year and plan their summer gathering around the Regatta.
“Working in the concession I’ve been able to catch up with old neighbours, meet the latest addition to a family. It’s just a wonderful event to keep Youbou connected,” she said. “Youbou has lost so much over the years. This is one event that keeps us united.”