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Canada Day: Reimagined festival brings people together — spaciously

Canadian flag means many things to different people: Sakai.
The Steveston Salmon Festival is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Richmondites are back to celebrating Canada Day in-person this year, with a little twist.

Celebrations began last weekend with the Pacific Rim Kite Festival, and the in-person festivities with various celebration zones will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, July 1.

Each festival zone will feature a combination of food, performances, exhibitions, and pop-up stages, and a Festival Shuttle will be available throughout the day to transport Richmondites between different zones.

Online festivities are also available, including a live stream of the welcome ceremony at 12:30 p.m., as well as a trip down memory lane with people’s video messages about their favourite Steveston memories.

“What makes [the reimagined Salmon Festival] special is that it’s the things of the past two years have made us really think about what people really want,” said Alan Sakai, president of the Steveston Community Society.

Sakai told the Richmond News preparations started late this year due to uncertainties about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“But it’s coming together. We’re working hard ... to pull it together,” he said.

This year’s festivities will be the first live celebration since 2019, and Sakai believes that the reimagined format will cater to different comfort levels.

“We wanted to make sure that it was open, and people could come join as they felt comfortable,” said Sakai.

“We thought [spreading out the celebrations] was a way to meet the needs of everybody’s… comfort levels with being together again. But we wanted to get people together again in some way,” he said.

In a recent poll by the News, readers gave mixed responses about the reimagined format without the signature parade.

Local MP Parm Bains has attended the Salmon Festival since he was a kid, and he believes that his first time attending as an MP won’t feel any different – apart from the fact that he might get stopped a little more now.

Bains also thinks that the reimagined format might allow him to better engage with the community.

“It’ll be a very engaging experience, I believe. Maybe even more so than just, you know, walking in the parade and waving at folks to be able to actually go and visit the various booths, tents, and stages and chat with people,” he said.

Waving the Maple Leaf

Apart from missing the familiar sight of the Salmon Festival float in the midst of fluttering Canadian flags, some might also be hesitant about waving the flag in light of recent events, which include the discovery of unmarked graves at former Indigenous residential schools and the truck convoy anti-vaccine mandate protests.

Bains thinks that we shouldn’t let others hijack what the flag means.

“I look forward to seeing Canadian flags and people wearing the red and white - being out there in a festive mood. Because the mood of the people ultimately determines what the Canada flag really means,” he said.

And Sakai hopes that people can keep one thing in mind — openness.

“[The Canadian flag] means so many things to different people,” he said.

“And I think that’s good… As long as everybody understands that we have our own understanding of the Canadian flag and don’t pigeonhole us into thinking it’s one thing or another thing.”

For information about Canada Day events, go to