One of the Coast’s favourite festivals is on the upswing for 2017.
The Pacific Rim Whale Festival (PRWF), which celebrates the return of the majestic grey whale, has opted to migrate its annual fundraising gala and silent auction from the Wickaninnish Inn to Tofino’s newly refurbished and renamed pub: The Reel Room Taphouse.
Charles McDiarmid, managing director of the Wickaninnish Inn, said he is in support of the location change even though his establishment has hosted the gala for the last 20 years.
“Our venue can cater to a maximum of 60 people. We can’t host a larger crowd. It’s good to have some fresh blood in town. We are still supportive of the Whale Fest. and glad they are moving forward to a bigger venue,” McDiarmid said.
“The guys at [Tofino Resort] are really investing in the place. There’s a lot of work happening. It’s a great option and I’m super happy for the festival,” he said.
The Reel Room Taphouse, formerly known to the community as Jack’s Pub, can accommodate 194 guests, according to general manager Scott Wilshaw.
He said the new owners of the resort – former Vancouver Canucks Willie Mitchell and Dan Hamhuis and Mill Bay Marine Group’s Andrew Purdey – donated the use of their lounge, sports bar and restaurant at no charge to the PRWF Society.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Wilshaw.
“We want to work on building bridges in the community. We want to get involved with these kind of events. It also gives us a good chance to test out our new pizza oven and showcase our menu items.”
He went on to say that all three partners are trying to arrange their schedules so that they will be in town for the gala.
“We’re hoping for a real good time,” he said.
Wilshaw, who relocated to the West Coast from Calgary in October, said this will be his first Whale Festival.
He threw down the gauntlet to local restauranteurs.
“Me and the boys want to win the Chowder Chowdown,” he told the Westerly.
The Chowder Chowdown is one of the Festival’s most popular events.
Each year, hundreds of festival goers get to sample some of the best chowder recipes from Tofino and Ucluelet chefs.
Bradley DeClercq of Port Alberni’s Starboard Grill took home the Peoples’ and the Judges’ Choice awards at last years contest. The Reel Room is closed for the month of January as workers continue to hammer away at extensive renovations. Wilshaw said the plan is to re-open the sports bar section of the facility just in time for Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 5.
The 31st annual PRWF is set for March 11th-26th. The gala and silent auction kicks off the two-week long festival on March 3. Tickets for the gala will go on sale at the end of the month.
The PRWF Society is a non-profit organization funded entirely by donations and fundraising efforts. They are currently seeking items for the silent auction and an individual to help with the official event website.
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating is encouraged to contact the event co-ordinator, Sue Payne, at firstname.lastname@example.org.