Vancouver's 125th Birthday

arts and culture

A Year-Long Celebration

by Remy Scalza

You might say that the city of Vancouver got off to a bit of a rocky start. On April 6, 1886, the rough-and-tumble West Coast timber outpost of fewer than 5,000 people was officially incorporated. Two months later, an inferno sparked by a brush fire burned the new city to the ground in 30 minutes.

Since then, however, things have looked up, and we have never looked back. The very next year, the first transcontinental train in the country chugged into the Vancouver terminus, launching a wave of development. Fueled by immigration, the city grew over the next century from a logging and fishing town into the cosmopolitan world capital it is today.

Just declared the world’s most livable city for the record fifth year in a row and still basking in the glow of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Vancouver is now ready to celebrate. In honor of the city’s 125th birthday in 2011, a year of festivities is planned. Here are some highlights you won’t want to miss:

Birthday Cake, Anyone?

The celebration starts on April 6, 2011, with Birthday Live, an outdoor bash for the whole city that will take place on the Vancouver waterfront. Watch as Vancouver’s Olympic cauldron is set aglow once again, and then stick around for a full day of family fun and festivities. The free party downtown kicks off with a very Canadian street hockey tournament and continues with live music, street art and innovative performances outside the new Vancouver Convention Centre. Featured artists include Japanese taiko drummers, First Nations musicians and even the Vancouver Bach Choir, which will lead a rousing chorus of “O Canada.” And don’t forget to sample a piece of Vancouver’s massive birthday cake, sliced by the mayor himself.

Vancouver Through Artists’ Eyes

The Vancouver Art Gallery, housed in a gorgeous neoclassical building downtown, is playing host to the landmark exhibition WE: Vancouver – 12 Manifestos for the City from February 12 to May 1 featuring dozens of innovative displays -- all centered on Vancouver. You can listen to hip hop in Halkomelem, the language of the Musqueam peoples native to city; take in a retrospective of the 167 feature films shot right here in “Hollywood North;” or marvel at images of what the city would look like with its old-growth trees still standing. In total, 45 separate displays make up the diverse exhibit, which is organized thematically around a dozen manifestos: the critical ways that Vancouver must “Remember,” “Unite,” “Activate,” “Surprise” and more in the years ahead to remain a vibrant, progressive city.


Stanley Park Puts on Its Party Hat

Vancouver’s 400-hectare central park becomes the scene of a free three-day outdoor music and arts festival this summer July 8-10. The park’s oceanside bluffs, sunny lawns and stands of old-growth forest are the stunning backdrop for Summer Live, which features music by international headliners and local acts, theatre and dance performances, visual art installations and more. Among the highlights are special demonstrations by Vancouver’s First Nations groups and diverse ethnic communities, as well as a special children’s area with a stage and interactive arts and crafts. The family-friendly event is free to attend, with fabulous local food and plenty of organized outdoor activities -- all in Stanley Park, one of the West Coast’s most spectacular natural settings. What better way to cap off Vancouver’s birthday blowout!

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