Two new special events can be expected in White Rock this year – COVID-19 and variants permitting.
At Monday night’s (Feb. 7) meeting, council members unanimously gave the green light to a White Rock Blues and Jazz Festival (set for Friday, June 10 to Sunday, June 12) and a White Rock Pride Day (set for July 23).
The Blues and Jazz Festival – to take place at various locations around the city – will be organized by the White Rock BIA.
White Rock Pride Day – which will be a daytime street festival with live entertainment and vendors in the Five Corners neighborhood – will be organized by the White Rock Pride Society.
Both are classified as ‘Category C’ special events by the city, in that they ask for the assistance and advice of city staff in operations, logistical and safety planning and may use city facilities, property and equipment, without asking for a cash contribution.
Recreational and culture director Eric Stepura said staff recommended both after having reviewed the applications, and “the organizers’ capabilities and capacity to deliver these events with minimal financial support from the city.”
At the same time, council followed staff recommendations in rejecting two ‘Category B’ events which would have required the city to act as co-producer and provide sizable contributions to their budgets.
The White Rock Lights Society – which produced a winter lighting event at the waterfront in 2019 and 2020 – was asking for $50,000 from the city to stage an expanded event from Nov. 19 until Feb. 19, 2023.
But, as Stepura and chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero pointed out, the city – which had taken the event out of the hands of the society in 2021 to create the Bright Walk in White Rock – is already looking forward to, and has budgeted for, another such event for next winter.
“In 2021, due to financial capability concerns and some outstanding issues between (the society) and the city, council directed the city to deliver a light display and it was held, this year, very successfully,” Stepura said.
“Funding for this ‘A category’ city-produced event has been identified in the city’s parks operating budget.”
Council also rejected a proposal from the White Rock Events Society (former organizers of the White Rock Sea Festival, taken over by the city some five years ago) which was looking for a city contribution of $20,000 for a White Rock Promenade Sculpture Competition to run from May 2022 through April 2023.
Stepura, said that since funds have not been set aside for the event, it would require either an increase in taxes or a re-allocation of funds from the 2022 operating contingency budget.
The society had also asked to install 10 concrete pads in the grass area on the north side of the Promenade between the White Rock Museum and Archives and Bayview Park, Stepura said, which would necessitate relocation of pre-existing underground utilities (irrigation and electrical) and create concerns about the root systems of trees in that area.
Also of concern, he said, was the art-selection process proposed by the group, which would be contrary to the city’s Public Art and Placemaking policy.
According to the policy, Stepura said, public art on city property “must follow a very specific artist and art piece selection process to ensure projects are selected through an informed, open and fair public art competition… and to avoid controversial or inappropriate pieces of art from being selected and installed along the waterfront.”
Both Coun. Scott Kristjanson and Coun. Christopher Trevelyan suggested, however, that they might be willing to entertain a scaled-down version of the sculpture competition, provided the society addressed these concerns.
“I recognize the concerns you have with the art selection and the cost,” Kristjanson said. “But at the same time we want to be a city that supports the arts and I’m hoping we can come up with some sort of compromise where…if we allowed them to select the art, but we had a veto if there was anything inappropriate, it would help us diversify our arts selection and help us get other points of view. I think that would be a very exciting proposal.”
“I think it’s a good idea – I like the principle of this,” Trevelyan said. “Maybe they could come back without the concrete blocks and with less city funding.”