Tug-o-whale, spout ball, and the Parade of Whales and Wonders are taking a hiatus this March as the Pacific Rim Whale Festival Society has nixed festival events for 2019 due to lack of community support.
The festival steering committee is asking locals to complete a short survey to help determine if the Pacific Rim Whale Festival (PRWF) can garner the level of aid required to float the festival into the future.
Both the Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce distributed the survey to local business owners last week and each district will deliver it via email to residents.
Anyone that did not already receive the survey is encouraged to visit the festival Facebook page to participate.
“There is not enough local support and fewer volunteers and fewer board members,” said Lara Kemps, the Ucluelet council liaison for the PRWF.
“I hope the [survey] let’s everyone know how endangered this festival is. We need community feedback and it will determine if we can sustain it in the future,” she said.
Kemps confirmed that for 2019, the West Coast will take a year off with no Whale Festival.
“It’s such a great community event. Not only fun, but also educational. It’s a great start to our season and it also brings both our communities together, which is so important. I just hope people realize the importance of this festival and I hope we can get it going back in 2020.”
Ucluelet councillor Marilyn McEwen has been on the board of directors for the PRWF for the last 21 years.
“I think, if the festival were not to continue, it would leave a big hole in our hearts and March would not be the same without it. It really is the kick-off to the busy season to come. March is still considered off-season here on the Coast due to the unpredictable weather, so coinciding with spring break gives a lot of Islanders and Lower Mainlanders a great option to spend a week, or even a few days of the week, here rather than somewhere else,” said McEwen in an email to the Westerly.
Kemps noted that some of the community events associated with the PRWF, like the educational events led by the Ucluelet Aquarium, could still go.
The PRWF has produced over 32 years of festivities on the West Coast. It has always been a regional festival, said McEwen, involving Tofino, Ucluelet, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and several First Nations communities.
“It is a fabulous mix of education, entertainment and family events, and celebrates one of the most remarkable migrations on the planet. Here’s hoping it continues,” said McEwen.
The deadline to participate in the Pacific Rim Whale Festival survey is Dec. 2, 2018.