Tourists jubilated into Ucluelet this past weekend to join locals in celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ukee Days.
Ucluelet’s director of parks and recreation Abby Fortune said this year’s event was “extremely successful,” and once again proved the community’s ability to punch above its weight in the festival category.
“We have top class entertainment, we’ve got the logger sports which is an incredible thing in itself, we have incredible music; it really is a great event,” she said.
Fortune said her parks and recreation team plan for Ukee Days all year with “full-bore” efforts kicking in about two months before the event and this work is supplemented by a supportive army of volunteers.
“The brains and the brawn behind a lot of this is all the volunteers,” she said. “We have over 75 volunteers that help with this event and that’s what really makes it fun.”
Fortune said this year’s festival got off to a stellar start at Friday night’s barbecue, which benefited from a new community-engaging line dancing event.
“To me that was one of the best Friday nights ever,” she said. “Real community involvement; you looked out and you saw everybody smiling.”
One of the volunteers helping out at the barbecue was Ucluelet’s Oyster Jim Martin who was in his element, shucking oysters for the barbecue’s attendance. Martin also served as the official Ukee Days town crier and drove around town with 6-year-old twins Jer and Annie Harris-members of Martin’s family who were visiting from Hawaii-sharing their excitement through a megaphone to ensure everyone woke up on time.
Fortune said the vibe at the fairgrounds was “phenomenal,” and noted a change in BC’s liquor laws that allowed beer to be consumed outside
the beer gardens was well received.
“That’s been fabulous, people have been very respectful about it and I think people really enjoyed, that so that’s been a positive,” she said.
The Logger Sports Canadian Championships again served as a key draw at this year’s festival and harkened back to Ucluelet’s pre-tourist-town days when industry was primarily resource based, according to Fortune.
“It’s become a bit of a lost art and now it’s become a bit more of a show but we still have the true logger sports competitions here,” she said. “We’re truly one of the few small communities left that actually do this.”
She said the Logger Sports event is very well supported by the community and will continue to be a main feature of Ukee Days.
“It’s extremely important,” she said. “It’s one of the anchor events, with Ukee Days we have some events that come and go but this one, in my mind’s eye, is always an anchor event.”
She was thrilled to see the festival draw a solid mix of tourists and locals.
“I love that it’s community and tourism all in one and the way the community backs everything up is just incredible,” she said.
“Everyone that comes here, all our vendors and the musicians, can’t believe the hospitality that they receive and the enjoyment of the festival.”