When Bob Day, executive chairperson of the Lake Days Society, stepped down from his position on Jan. 20, he left a lot of questions regarding the future of Lake Cowichan’s favourite annual event. Weeks later, the lead role remained empty, with no board members stepping up to fill the seat.
With planning for the event getting further and further behind schedule, the group worried that outside intervention may be necessary for Lake Days to stay afloat. At a town council meeting earlier this month, former chairperson Laurie Johnson proposed the idea of the Town of Lake Cowichan taking control of Lake Days, with similar proposals also made to the Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce and Cowichan Lake Recreation.
Last Monday (Feb. 16), Jackie Cummings announced that she would be taking on the lead role of Lake Days for its 71st year. She spoke with the Gazette regarding her new position shortly after.
The Gazette: What is your role as executive chairperson?
Jackie Cummings: My role will be to head all the different committees so when the week comes everything will run nice and smoothly. That’s the hope, at least.
G: And why did you decide to take the role?
JC: I got a phone call from a girlfriend of mine who told me that [Lake Days] was going to fold. She knows that I’m at home right now and I’ve got a fair bit of time on my hands – I’m in between schooling right now. She told me she’d help me out, and I’ve done stuff like this in the past. But mostly I stepped up because I didn’t want to see Lake Days fold.
G: So what have you done in the past?
JC: Just in the past five years, after I moved back to the Island, I ran the Spring Fling at Palsson School, I was the chairperson, and I was president of Lake Cowichan Minor Hockey for about ¾ of a season, so [Lake Days] is kind of up my alley.
G: I know it may be too early to say, but do you have any changes in mind? Do you have a vision for Lake Days?
JC: I’d like to sit with everybody on the board, I’ve yet to meet everyone. I’ve been told by [former executive chairperson] Bob Day that there are some new faces, and I’ve had some phone calls from people last week asking if they could help. Right now my goal is to sit down and get to know who everybody is, what they bring to the table, and kind of go from there. We’re a little bit behind schedule so I don’t want to come in with any big vision of something wildly different – I’d like to keep it true to what it’s been – but I’m definitely open to suggestions. I’ve already gotten some in, and we’ll play around with those to see if they’re feasible, but I don’t want to go about reinventing the wheel.
G: When you say you want to keep Lake Days true to what it’s been, what does that mean to you?
JC: Back when it started, it was a family picnic, and it’s expanded with the logging games, the soap box derby, the Lady of the Lake pageant, the baby pageant, the road hockey tournament – to be able to keep that stuff going seamlessly is important, it’s what people have come to expect. If we can add some new things, or substitute some things that might be a bigger draw, we’ll absolutely do that.
G: And are you worried about being able to catch up?
JC: It’s a minor concern, I don’t think it will be that big of a deal. We’re not that far behind, we’ve only missed the January meetings and some of the February meetings, so we’ve lost about six weeks. The board I have has been around for a long time, so I’ll rely on them a little bit. I’ve got Bob Day’s help as well, so I’ll be able to rely on them for assistance and guidance.
G: Are you hoping this position will be a long-term one for you?
JC: I didn’t come into it with that thought, but I’m open to the idea. If it’s a great experience I may stay on, at least to some capacity. I’m going to school in July, so we’ll have to see.
G: Why do you think it took so long for somebody to step up to the position?
JC: It’s a big commitment, it really is. It can be daunting if you haven’t taken on a position of that capacity, or even something smaller to get your feet wet, so I can see why so many people would volunteer to help but not want to actually run it. It’s a lot of work, but I think my role is mostly to oversee the committees. I’m there to spearhead a few things as well, but I don’t have to do everything, I don’t have to wear every hat. I understand that role, but some people may not fully understand what that means. It’s a daunting task, so I respect that.
G: Is there anything in particular you’re nervous about?
JC: I’m putting my name to it, so I want to do a good job. I don’t want people at the end of the day to say “I hope that girl doesn’t come back.” Of course you’re going to have some critics along the way, and not everybody’s idea will come to fruition. You can’t please everybody, I understand that. I have a wonderful team though, so I’m not too worried, I’m still super excited.
G: When I was talking to [former chairperson] Laurie Johnson, she had been pitching to town council and the Chamber of Commerce to take Lake Days over, though she mentioned that she would rather keep the event independent. Do you feel it’s important for Lake Days to hold onto its independence?
JC: I think so. There are a lot of different aspects that rely on certain components, for instance Lady of the Lake is now completely independent from us, and there are some other events like that, but we all still work together. I don’t want to see Lake Days lose its vision, though I’m not sure how losing its independence would affect that.
G: What does Lake Days bring to the community that nothing else does?
JC: Lake Cowichan and the rest of the Valley is a huge tourist area. We’re a very small town, businesses are struggling, that’s no surprise to anybody, so if this can help bring a little bit more into the community and to the economy, the town is still thriving. We’re losing so many activities that have been a long-standing part of Lake Cowichan, like the Great Lake Walk, which is sad. I’d hate to see this fall to the wayside. That was another part of the reason why I wanted to take this position — to keep us on the map. To bring in tourists, people who might not come here otherwise.