Mini-festival proposed for town

With this year’s Sunfest Country Music Festival less than 130 days away, businesses and community

With this year’s Sunfest Country Music Festival less than 130 days away, businesses and community members alike are stepping up their preparations for an unprecedented influx of visitors to the Lake, with one group planning something big for downtown Lake Cowichan.

On March 23, the Lake Economic and Activity Development group, which has a subcommittee dedicated entirely to preparing for Sunfest, held a public meeting to discuss plans to host a kind of daytime mini festival in the heart of town.

“The program that we’re working on is music in the parks throughout town,” said Jenn Pollner, who chairs LEAD’s Sunfest subcommittee.

The group is hoping to have stages set up at four local parks (Central Park, Saywell Park, the town square by the library and at the senior centre’s park), where visitors can enjoy live music, food trucks and possibly a beer garden. Pollner said that community groups could help run tents at each location and share the profit with LEAD.

She said community groups can also organize activities that will keep Sunfest-goers entertained during the festival’s 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. lull before the music starts up there again.

“Obviously tubing is going to be busy but there’s only so much they can put through their stores. So maybe a volleyball court, a climbing wall and other games and things,” said Pollner. “Hopefully one of the groups will come out and put together a bunch of different games that people could pay to use. Because they’re going to want to do stuff while they’re here. They’re not going to want to just stand around.”

Pollner said her committee also hopes that some businesses can be permitted to hold street sales by setting up tents in the parking spaces in front of their shops.

However, she acknowledges many of these ideas will not be possible without special bylaw exemptions from the town, specifically for the food trucks, the beer garden hours and closing certain parking spaces for street sale purposes.

Brent Clancy, owner of Vancouver Island Labour Services and a member of LEAD’s leadership team, said he sees real potential in such a daytime fair during Sunfest weekend.

“It’s going to be in everyone’s best interest to do it because people are going to make money, all the businesses will as [festival goers] walk all down that strip to Saywell Park, there’s all that opportunity to make revenue for all those businesses,” he said.

“I would hope that of these empty buildings that some of the lease holders would offer short-term leases and pop-ups.”

Clancy has been co-ordinating LEAD’s infrastructure-related plans for Sunfest weekend, including parking and transportation. He said he has been in talks with Cheers Cowichan Tours, a Duncan-based tour company, which has agreed to provide shuttle service between the town and Laketown Ranch during the day. “We’re going to need people from that industry to fill that void so there isn’t a massive influx of cars and people causing gridlock in Lake Cowichan,” he said.

LEAD chairwoman Glenda Osborne-Burge said that for now, the greatest unknown is just how many people from Sunfest will come down to Lake Cowichan during the days.

“Until we get through one year, we won’t know,” she said. “I expect there will be some glitches, there always are the first time you do anything.”

For now, Obsorne-Burge urged more members of the public to get on board with the group’s activities as volunteers. “The more volunteers we have, the easier it’s going to be. The more we can guarantee our guests, who are the attendees of Sunfest, are taken care of and want to come back.”