In its 23-year history, no two Arts Alive street festivals have been the same – and nor will they ever be, as long as Teri James has a say.
There will always be a mix of favourites – from artists and artisans displaying wares, to musicians and street performers entertaining the masses, said James, the executive director of the Downtown Langley Business Association, and organizer of the annual August street festival for the last 17 consecutive years.
Along with the popular repeat-offenders, James said she strives to keep it fresh. Therefore, the free Arts Alive is all about attracting new and emerging artist, as well – in all types and styles of genres. And likewise, they are always trying to drawing new and first-time visitors from through out the Lower Mainland to the show.
This one-day arts event, held on the one-way section of Fraser Highway (between 204th and 206th Streets) in downtown Langley City every August, is a huge draw for locals as well as out-of-towners from as far away as Seattle, Vancouver Island, and the B.C. Interior, James said.
It’s not a festival for art snobs, its a family-oriented event meant to showcase all facets of art, from visual artists and artisans, to stage performers, and street buskers. Even aspiring young artists have a blast in an art-centred children’s fun park, she explained.
Since James first became immersed in Arts Alive – all those years ago – she noted how the festival has grown.
It’s estimated one of the largest crowds, with about 22,000 people, visited Arts Alive last year. And this year, dependant entirely on the weather, there are expected to be more.
“Too hot is just as impactful as rainy,” she explained.
In part, James is predicting a huge attendance Saturday because there’s so much more to see and do.
While organizers usually have 180 vendors (every kind of artist including painters, potters, sculptors, authors, and jewellers), this year that number has risen to 200.
“We’ve had to get really creative with space for everyone,” James said.
There are also a few new features this year. There is a waste-management team presented by Super-Save, helping divide and funnel the festival waste accordingly – especially food waste.
“This year, we’re particularly proud that we’ve gone completely green,” James elaborated.
There will be eight staffed waste stations, each with an educational component, helping festival-goers divvy up their waste, recycling, and organics.
“We’re thrilled with that. Waste is a challenge for any big event. We are thrilled to join the ranks of the responsible,” James said.
Where’s the money?
The most commonly asked question at Arts Alive isn’t about washrooms. Surprisingly, the most frequently asked question: where is an bank machine?
“Obviously its a high priority issue,” James said. “It comes up time and time again.”
Hearing the concern, Arts Alive organizers have arranged for ATMs to be brought in and set up near the centre of the festival.
Those planning to come down are encouraged to think about using transit. Failing that, James said, the parking enforcement is waived for the day – except for those being “silly” and parking in reserved spaces, in front of yellow lines, blocking fire hydrants, and in other obviously prohibited spaces.
Cascades Casino has also “graciously” offered their four-storey parkade (off Logan Avenue) for overflow festival parking, free of charge. And the bonus, James said, is that it is only a half block away from the street festival.
A touch of history
This event was started 23 years ago by local businesses in downtown Langley.
The purpose, James said, was to draw attention to business in the area and to host a festival that allowed them to say thanks to all their customers for their patronage through the past year.
Fast forward to today, and the business base in the core is 120 strong, James explained.
At least 40 per cent of those play an active role in Arts Alive, which the festival organizers says is an “incredibly high participation rate” compared to festivals and business improvement areas in other communities.
“They see the value of being engaged with the public,” James added. “More businesses are wanting to be involved every years, seeing the value of being on the street with interactive booths, not just business cards and sign boards.”
This year, for instance, there’s a higher than ever number of restaurants moving outside with food.
Forever Yours Lingerie will once again have its cotton candy sales, Stickys is selling sugar doughnuts, Naka Bistro will have a full menu of Thai cuisine, the Soroptimists will be selling hot dogs again, Coffee on the Coast will be offering little samples of coffees and biscotti, Match Eatery will also be handing out samples, Mr. Cool will be on the street with ice cream, and All of Oils is giving out samples of oil-infused popcorn.
This year’s show, running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the festivities will take on a steampunk theme.
For more information about the festivities, people can visit the website: www.artsalivefestival.com, follow the discussion on Facebook, or come down for a free day of family fun this Saturday.