They’re back after the COVID hiatus. Mike Devlin takes a look at the best of summer festivals and who takes center stage
With iconic events like Rifflandia, Victoria has fought hard to earn its reputation as a cultural hub and on average hosts more food, music and cultural events per week between March and September than the majority of other cities its size.
But for the past two years, Vancouver Island’s summer events calendar has been nearly empty, a surprising period of inactivity for a region known for its abundance of festival programming.
However, there are signs of a Godzilla-sized comeback, with help from various city, state, and federal entities.
Record amounts of funding ensured the return of the majority of summer staples. In the months since the lifting of provincial health restrictions, attendance at the events that have unfolded has been strong, despite the uncertain weather.
This bodes well for everyone from producers and service providers to artists and attendees. When the sun returns, watch out.
Rifflandia – which has transformed multi-day, multi-genre and multi-site festivals into a viable entity in Greater Victoria – is back in September for the first time since 2018, bolstered by its best lineup to date.
The festival is set to see record attendance, with headliners Lorde and Charli XCX likely to draw hundreds of off-island fans. Rifflandia reverbs could be felt in the market for years to come.
Competition is everywhere, of course. Another big player on the festival front will be Laketown Ranch, the Lake Cowichan site that hosts three major festivals this year, including country music giant Sunfest.
Big or small, there is a lot to taste. From one-day events like the TD Art Gallery Paint-In and Northwest Deuce Days to mid-island staples like Courtenay’s Vancouver Island Music Festival, summer will be a roller coaster of epic proportions.
Buckle up, festival fans.
VICTORIA SKA & REGGAE FESTIVAL
June 22-26, Victoria
Reggae icons The Wailers are among the headliners of the 23rd Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival, held at four venues downtown. Dozens of acts are scheduled to appear, from as far away as Jamaica, Brazil and New Zealand. Many programs are offered for free, earning Skafest its nickname “The People’s Festival”.
VICTORIA PRIDE FESTIVAL
From June 23 to July 2, Victoria
A full program of events, the majority of which are free, includes the popular Pride Parade on June 26. A new route (which winds from Vic West across the Johnson Street Bridge) and relocation of the festival to MacDonald Park in James Bay will bring a new lease of life to this enduring and increasingly popular event.
TD VICTORIA INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
From June 24 to July 3, Victoria
The producers of the 39th annual Jazzfest are hosting events in Esquimalt for the first time this year, proof that the oldest multi-day festival on Vancouver Island is always finding new ways to generate interest. 10 days of concerts are planned, including performances by Gregory Porter, Lisa Fischer, Gogo Penguin and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet.
June 30 to July 2, Lake Cowichan
Buzz over headliners Wu-Tang Clan has been boisterous in recent weeks, indicating heavy attendance for Laketown Shakedown, held over the first long weekend of summer. Expect the sets of Arkells, the Glorious Sons, Sugar Ray and House of Pain’s Everlast (replacing OutKast’s Big Boi) to be loud – worthy of a shakedown staged at a private venue of 250 acres.
CANADA DAY IN VICTORIA
July 1, Victoria
The main stage performers for the city’s first official Canada Day celebration in three years have yet to be announced, but there’s a lot to like about what’s been confirmed, including a performance from the dancers. traditional Lekwungen. Although there were doubts at one point, the event will include a dazzling fireworks display.
VANCOUVER ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL
July 8-10, Courtenay
A true gem of Vancouver Island’s festival culture, Musicfest has a whole host of things going for it, including the scenic Comox Valley Fairgrounds near the Tsolum River. The music is always on top, and this year’s sets by Femi Kuti, Taj Mahal and John Boutté mark the festival’s return to full force in soulful style.
PHILLIPS COURTYARD CONCERT SERIES
9-10 July/August. 13-14, Victoria
The final two episodes of Phillips Brewing’s first new series (which debuted in May) in years will bring thousands back to the much-loved site, with sets over a month-long period featuring Half Moon Run, The Beaches and Snotty Nose Ground Kids (July 9-10) and Charlotte Day Wilson, Sampa the Great and St. Paul and the Broken Bones (August 13-14).
TWO DAYS OF THE NORTH WEST
July 14-17, Victoria
Although this hugely popular event is under new management, interest in what is billed as the world’s largest gathering of “Deuces” – a term used to describe hot rods produced in 1932 – has only grown. . Need proof? Registration for the 10th edition, which is capped at 1,200 cars, reached capacity months ago.
PAINTING AT TD ART GALLERY
July 16, Victoria
Over 150 local artists will showcase their work at the TD Art Gallery’s 33rd Annual Paint-In, which begins at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1040 Moss St.) and continues from there. Launched in 1987, the event has become one of the biggest and most popular summer attractions for locals and tourists alike.
July 22-23, Lake Cowichan
John Fogerty, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, Keb ‘Mo’, Big Sugar and more lead the way at Laketown Rock, a two-day rock showcase expected to draw 5,000-10,000 to the grounds of Laketown Ranch . The site will reach its climax the weekend following this event (for Sunfest), but fans of classic rock will find plenty of reasons to party here.
SPLASH AROUND THE CITY: SYMPHONY IN SUMMER
July 22-31, Victoria
The old one-day Symphony Splash has been replaced by a 10-day festival, with programming that covers a range of styles and venues. Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies – who perform July 31 with the full Victorian Symphony Orchestra on the Legislative Lawn – leads a program that includes paid performances at the Royal Theater and Christ Church Cathedral and giveaways at Beacon Hill Park.
COUNTRY SUNFEST MUSIC FESTIVAL
July 28-July 31, Lake Cowichan
Four days of music programming is a commitment, but many who attend the party that is Sunfest jump on board at the first available opportunity. This country music staple has plenty to celebrate, from an on-site zipline to appearances by Billy Currington (July 29) and Hootie and the Blowfish’s Darius Rucker (July 30).
VICTORIA FRINGE FESTIVAL
August 24–Sept. 4.Victoria
The second longest-running event of its kind in Canada went on hiatus in 2020 and returned last year with a hybrid model rolled out over a six-week period. Good news for fans of the original format: The Fringe is back to exclusively in-person performances in 2022, which means 26 shows at multiple venues populating downtown.
September 3-5, Victoria
Saanichton will host the 154th edition of this enduring event over Labor Day weekend, its home since 1868. It’s a remarkable feat, but its longevity is well deserved. After a scaled-down 2021 edition, Western Canada’s oldest agricultural fair is returning to normal this year, with 50,000 attendees expected at the event.
September 15-18, Victoria
The city’s most marketable music festival is back in full force, for the first time since 2018. Fans have clearly been waiting, as the first wave of tickets sold out within weeks – four months before the show started. . Let this be a lesson for last-minute buyers who want to participate. Buy now or cry later.
And there’s more
APPOINTMENT June 21-August. 18 datesvictoria.com
TOFINO JAZZ FESTIVAL June 23-26 tofinojazzfestival.com
FERNFEST June 24–25 fernwoodnrg.ca
BUTCHART GARDENS SUMMER FUN July 1 – Sept. 3 butchartgardens.com
NANAIMO MARINE FESTIVAL July 1-31 bathbing.com
RED ARROW SUMMER CONCERT SERIES (Duncan) July 1 redarrowbeer.ca
ONE LOVE FESTIVAL (Ladysmith) July 2 1lovefestival.ca
SKAMPEDE July 6 to 10 skam.ca/skampede
EVENTIDE MUSIC SERIES July 6, 13, 20, 27 eventidevictoria.com
LANGFORD BEER FESTIVAL July 1 victoriabeersociety.com
PARKSVILLE BEACH FESTIVAL July 14-17 parksvillebeachfest.ca
DENMAN ISLAND READERS AND WRITERS FESTIVAL July 15-17 denmanislandwritersfestival.com
CHEMAINUS BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL July 16 chemainusbluegrass.com
FLAMENCO FESTIVAL From July 16 to 24 victoriaflamencofestival.com
SOOKE FINE ARTS SHOW 22 July–August. 1 sookefinearts.com
ISLANDS FOLK FESTIVAL July 23 Islandsfolkfestival.ca
MUSIC BY THE SEA July 23-30, August 1-5 musicbythesea.ca
HORNBY FESTIVAL July 28 to August 6 hornbyfest.com
FILBERG FESTIVAL July 29-31 filbergfestival.com
WONDERMENT July 29 to August 1 wonderment.ca
COOMBS BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL July 29-31 coombsbluegrass.org
EAT AND BEAT July 30 colwood.ca
FIVE ACRE CO. SUMMER CONCERT SERIES (Port Alberni) August 5-7 fiveacre.ca
VANCOUVER ISLAND MARKET SUMMER BLOCK PARTY (Nanaimo) August 6-7 vancouverislandmarket.com
VICTORIA LATIN FESTIVAL August 6 vvlf.ca
VICTORIA BICYCLE MUSIC FESTIVAL August 7 vicbikemusicfest.ca
FESTIVAL MEXICANO August 8 victoriamexicacanadian.ca
SUMMERTIME BLUES FESTIVAL (Nanaimo) August 11-14 nanaimoblues.ca
NANAIMO FRINGE August 11-21 nanaimofringe.com
FREE-B FILM FESTIVAL August 12-13, 19-20, 26-27 victoriafilmfestival.com
EAST WEST MURAL FEST August 15-28 ecah.ca
CUMBERLAND WILD August 20-21 cumberlandwild.com
HARBOR BLUES ‘N ROOTS FESTIVAL August 25-28 jazzvictoria.ca
OUT THERE ART FESTIVAL Sept. 2-5 alterarts.ca/festival
VANCOUVER ISLAND INTERNATIONAL DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL August 6-7 fgpaddle.com
VICTORIA LATIN FEST August 6 vvlf.ca
VICTORIA DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL August 12-14 victoriadragonboatfestival.com
VICTORIA CLASSIC BOAT FESTIVAL Sept. 2-4 mmbc.bc.ca
ONE WAVE GATHERING September 3-25 pacificpeoplespartnership.org
PERSEVERANCE FOLK FESTIVAL Sept. 3 (Cumberland) cumberlandmuseum.ca
ESQUIMALT RIBFEST Sept. 9-11 esquimaltribfest.com
GREAT CANADIAN BEER FESTIVAL Sept. 9-10 victoriabeersociety.com
BREWERY AND THE BEAST September 25 breweryandthebeast.com
VICTORIA AUTHORS FESTIVAL Sept. 28-Oct. 2 victoriaauthorsfestival.ca/