It's becoming easy to think of Vancouver as a city of festivals, much like Montreal or Chicago.
These events not only showcase local talent, but they often bring in amazing performers from abroad.
The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the PuSh Festival are two of many such examples.
But what isn't often commented on is how festivals also advance our understanding and appreciation for other cultures.
They provide a glimpse into the world around us, not only in our town but also in other locales. They're where intercultural friendships are formed and connections are made that can last a lifetime.
And this make us more resilient in a turbulent world with too many Trumps, Putins, and Dutertes eager to divide us.
For those who cherish Vancouver's diversity, here are five festivals worth attending before Labour Day.
One of the centrepieces of National Aboriginal Day is the annual community-based festival at Trout Lake in John Hendry Park. This year it’s bigger than ever before, with dance, hip-hop, and soul, roots, and blues music, as well as a whole lot of food trucks.
Performers include Kwhlii Gibaygum Nisga’a Traditional Dancers, Métis and contemporary dance company V’ni Dansi, the Git Hayetsk Dancers, DJ Mukluk, Norine Braun, Jody Okabe, Withes, Dakk’One, Eden Fine Day, Murray Porter, and Gerald Charlie and the Black Owl Blues Band. This year, it runs from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. And it's free!
Who it appeals to: Anyone who loves outdoor concerts and watching indigenous canoeists and is in a mood to celebrate the leadership role that indigenous people are playing in protecting B.C.’s coast.
Hors d’oeuvre: Head to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC in advance of the event to learn more about indigenous cultures around the world.
July 6 to 15
This year’s festival will welcome two-time Giller Prize–winning novelist M. G. Vassanji, two-time Grammy-winning tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts, celebrated Indian violin god L. Subramaniam, and one of the world’s most popular graphic-book authors, Joe Sacco.
The festival features 19 events with 108 artists at 12 venues, offering a smorgasbord of music, literature, and current affairs. It begins with an always memorable opening gala at the Roundhouse Community Centre, which is sure to rouse the taste buds with cuisine curated by celebrated chef Vikram Vij. The evening also includes a performance by DJ Rup Sidhu. Another highlight of the festival will be the July 8 concert at the Orpheum Theatre with Watts, Subramaniam, and other musicians.
For those of a literary bent, novelists Pasha Malla and Anosh Irani will join the Banff Centre’s Devyani Saltzman in conversation at SFU Woodward’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on July 7. Less than a week later, on July 12, Vassanji will be at the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby.
The theme this year is “Tales of War & Peace”, which makes sense given the presence of Sacco, who has depicted war and oppression in journalistic comics unlike anyone else on the planet. Another graphic superstar, Molly Crabapple, is also scheduled to speak.
Who it appeals to: Those who like their festivals to aim high, appealing to their intellects and literary sensibilities while expanding their musical boundaries.
Hors d’oeuvre: On June 26, Booker Prize–winning novelist Arundhati Roy will speak about her new book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, at St. Andrew’s–Wesley United Church.
July 8 and 9
The annual free Latin American carnival at Concord Pacific Place is the culmination of a monthlong series of events celebrating the cultures of countries from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego. And this colourful event has it all: hundreds of musicians and dancers, plazas featuring fashion, travel, food, sports, beer, and urban art, and plenty of activities for kids.
In addition to the lovely Latin American music, there’s also an on-site Carnaval del Sol World Soccer Tournament. A dozen teams representing different countries in Latin America show why the beautiful game is so beloved in that part of the world. The urban art plaza features live body-painting, sculpture, photography, and handicrafts. And chefs will be on-stage at the travel plaza for a cooking demo.
Who it appeals to: Lovers of mambo and merengue, fans of Alex Cuba, and those who salivate at the sight of churrasco.
Hors d’oeuvre: Organizers will start the fun with Latin America Music on Wheels, which features young musicians from 18 to 25 years old performing at pop-up locations from Saturday (June 10) to June 24 around Vancouver. On June 30, the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island will be the site of 150 Years of Canadian and Latin American History, a free night of storytelling along with a photo exhibit.
September 1 and 2
It’s Richmond’s signature entertainment event, which takes place every Labour Day weekend in Minoru Park. The headliner hasn’t yet been announced, but one thing is certain: the park will be rockin’ not only with music but also with the Digital Carnival, theatrical performances, and poetry.
Who it appeals to: Metro Vancouver residents who see diversity as a source of strength and community resilience, not weakness.
Hors d’oeuvre: Drop by the nearby Richmond Museum to learn about the history of the city.
September 2 to 4
The food is endless, the traditional Chinese medicine is salubrious, the music is marvellous, and the entire area around Granville Street remains spotless thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the Tzu Chi Foundation Canada. A Labour Day weekend isn’t complete without dropping by to experience Taiwanese-Canadian hospitality.
Who it appeals to: People with a serious addiction to beef noodle.
Hors d’oeuvre: To learn more about Taiwanese culture and its great filmmaking tradition, check out this weekend’s Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival at the Vancity Theatre. After all, this is the country that gave Ang Lee to the world.