Why does anyone take on the responsibility of helping guide, create and put on one of the largest July 1 celebrations in the entire country?
It was simple for Kirstine Dickson and Brenda Yttri — tradition.
Both grew up with the Steveston Salmon Festival. It was a part of their childhoods and now as parents and active members of the Steveston community — Yttri is president of the Steveston Community Society and Dickson is a director — they felt it necessary to take up the challenge and keep the enthusiasm for the uniquely Steveston event not only going strong, but elevate and freshen up the July 1 bash that draws people not only from the rest of Richmond, but from around the Lower Mainland and even outside of B.C.
“I remember going to the pancake breakfast and watching the parade as a tiny child and being amazed by the baton-twirling by the majorettes,” said Dickson, who has lent her time to the Salmon Festival for the past nine years.
“I have so many great memories of family and sports teams surrounding the whole event that this was an important thing to help out with. So, when there was an opportunity to lend a hand as a co-chair of the festival, I had the experience.”
Yttri, who has lived in West Richmond her entire life and joined first the community centre board about 30 years ago, said her decision to get involved was akin to passing the torch of responsibility to the next generation.
“I realized that I was fortunate to be involved with the board when there were people like Ted Lorenz, Jack Gilmore and Ron Kemp who were so involved and had all of this great knowledge and reminded us of our roots,” Yttri said.
“And I used to admire that and thought I’d just keep on volunteering and let the executive do what they did.”
But she came to a realization a few years ago that she, as the years had passed, had become one of those experienced people who formed the core of the community society and Salmon Festival.
“I thought it was time to get more involved,” Yttri said.
Dickson said her favourite aspect of the festival is the effect it has in bringing people together.
“It’s all about the people you know coming to see what Steveston is,” she said. “And it’s really important that we celebrate our thing.”
And that thing is undergoing some subtle changes this year.
“I think we’re bringing a little bit of a fresh look at things,” Dickson said. “I have friends who come to the parade and then go home because they think things are too busy. Then there’s other locals who get out of town for the holiday because they also think things are too busy.
“I want to bring the locals back and say, ‘this is fun again, this is what I missed.’”
Part of that is a return this year of the carnival at the Salmon Festival where young and old alike can play some games and have a good time.
The changes also include relocating the main stage to the parking lot across the street to relieve congestion on the community centre grounds. There’s also the addition of a food truck festival — with as many as 26 trucks — to help cater to the rush of hungry visitors who in past years overwhelm the limited number of food vendors on the festival site.
Plus, this July 1 has an expanded list of activities for youth to enjoy themselves.
“We are doing so many neat things this year that we hope to encourage people to not go away or not come down,” Dickson said. “People can expect to see some fun, positive, family-styled changes.”
Next year, if the duo remain at the helm of the Salmon Festival, look for even more new wrinkles which could include a small, pop-up market in the festival trade show.