VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Get ready for the biggest free party of the summer in Vancouver as we celebrate the “evergreen heart” of the city.
Stanley Park’s 125th birthday extravaganza is this weekend, featuring more than 200 activities and performances marking the park’s history, ecology, and culture.
Few cities are so closely tied to their park space as Vancouver, and few people know as much about Stanley Park’s 1,001 acres as author and historian John Atkin.
“If you somehow sliced Stanley Park off from Vancouver and sailed it away somewhere, I think we would lose so much of what people perceive about the city. You wouldn’t have Vancouver without Stanley Park,” Atkin tells News1130.
New York has Central Park and London has Hyde Park, but Atkin says Stanley Park is the soul of Vancouver — a memory of the forest that used to cover the entire region — and Vancouverites have a unique bond with the land and how it has been shaped and preserved over the years.
“With Vancouver, it’s different. If you think of the early transportation in Vancouver — you came into the city by boat, you came into the city by train — and there is this big chunk of forest. Your perception of the city is shaped by where the park is but, at the same time, as the city develops, you have that respite where you can suddenly get into the forest,” he explains.
“I think it’s that experience, no matter what we’ve done to the park, there’s still something magical about getting in and riding or walking off on a trail and you’re in the middle of a forest. I don’t think there’s any city park anywhere that really comes close to that idea. You can lose the city.”
Atkin leads tours through the park and takes particular pleasure in surprising Vancouverites with little known tidbits about its history and ecology.
“When you take locals into the park, you know, everyone kinds of ‘gets’ the park. But then you start pointing out things and it’s surprising how many hundreds of small things there are that nobody has ever noticed before,” chuckles Atkin.
“The one that I like, because it’s a rather poignant monument, is when you come around Brockton Point toward the Brockton Oval and cricket pitch. There’s what looks like a gravestone sitting at the roadside, which is a monument to the Chehalis disaster, which was a vessel out in Burrard Inlet that got plowed over by another ship. It’s a monument to all the people that died in that disaster that’s just sitting there quietly.”
Atkin says this weekend’s 125th birthday celebrations are a great way to get locals in touch with Stanley Park and its history.
“Stanley Park is part of our DNA. It’s out at the end of a peninsula but we’ve connected it back into the city, connecting it to the seawalls in Coal Harbour and False Creek. No matter where you’re going, the park is always there. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be the same city.”
On Saturday and Sunday, there will be free afternoon performances and activities featuring children’s entertainers, bands (like Arkells, Born Ruffians, The Matinee, Washboard Union, and We Are The City), walking tours, dance performances, face painters, open houses, sports demos and games, a vintage car display, premium licensed areas, great food, and more.
Ticketed evening performances include Boca del Lupo’s Fall Away Home, a free outdoor modern fairytale, and a Theatre Under the Stars sing-along with the hit movie musical Grease.
Expect large crowds. Parking will be in high demand, so you’re encouraged to carpool, walk, cycle, or use public transportation.
There will be no road closures in the park during the weekend.