Last night we went to the Renfrew Ravine Harvest Festival / Moon Festival. This event is a really wonderful community event – a modest and well-meaning festival that reminded me of the early days of Public Dreams’ Illuminaires.

We started out at Slocan Park where community and home garden harvests were on display. Contests like the “largest tomato” were balanced by the contest for the “smallest tomato” (tiny red ball about the size of a rice krispie).  Music and entertainment, a couple people on stilts and a bunch of lanterns rounded out the Harvest portion of the event. Then the large and beautiful full moon lantern and a brass band (playing, predictably, a cheery rendition of “autumn leaves”) led our procession from Slocan Park to Renfrew Park via Still Creek and the Renfrew Ravine.  Along the way, we saw a labyrinth formed in crop-circle style in the grass, children dancing with chiffon and hula hoops, and many very, very nice lanterns set into the forest. It was truly the city and nature in harmony.

At Renfrew Park/Community Centre, the concentration and artistry of lanterns in the trees and water transported us to another, magical world.  We wandered in the crowd yet it never felt claustrophobic. It just felt like we were in our community.

The children played at the Renfrew playground for hours. It was sheer anarchy. The full moon and lanterns were the only lighting, and they were racing around the play parks going down slides and climbing and shrieking. After all, usually when it’s dark they have to come inside. They were beside themselves with joy, running independent under the clear night sky.

A band/orchestra played excellent east-meets-west music, we saw fire dancing (and we actually saw it, because there weren’t crazy, poorly managed crowds like at illuminaires!), and we heard First Nations and Chinese storytelling.

We didn’t stay for fireworks. The Small One fell asleep during the Lion Dances and the Bigger Small One was ready to pass out by the time the storytelling began. Overall, this event was a well-executed and personal community experience that connected us to both our roots and the collective cultural history of Harvest and Equinox.

Today: we are going to Pacific Spirit Park for a StoryTelling Walk.

At the end of Mary Poppins, Mr. Banks realizes that he should be less of a committed capitalist and more of a devoted family man, taking a loving instead of investing interest in his progeny. How to heal the wounds of a neglected family? Fix an old kite and go out to the park. In high winds, the Banks family flies kites – faces uplifted towards a heavenly future at home.

So how fitting that on this Father’s Day weekend, you can head out to Vanier Park for the Pacific Rim Kite Festival! They have all kinds of events but really the cool part is being able to watch master kite flyers in action, wielding their graceful ripstop monsters in the sky for everyone to see. 10am-5pm Today and Tomorrow.

With weather like this, who needs events?  There’s plant sales a-plenty. We went by GardenWorks and bought some shrubs for the postage stamp I call a garden – an overwhelming variety has finally come in (I bought a BeautyBerry and a red-wine Lilac, in case you were wondering). Tomorrow head to VanDusen Gardens for free admission and a huge plant sale – grow all manner of unique or rare varieties and old favourites, all born and raised in our local city garden. Or if you end up in Burnaby, the South Burnaby Garden Club is having a sale at the Buy-Low parking lot at Royal Oak and Rumble, from 9am-3pm.

Then there’s a flurry of sales on the may 4th weekend (see http://www.brags.ca/ for a list)- New Westminster, Lynn Valley, and Fraser Valley. There’s also the BC Orchid Show and Sale on May 3-4th at VanDusen. Don’t miss the always spectacular Burnaby Rhododenron Festival on May 4th (Free Admission).

Or, get inspired during the Dunbar in Bloom festival, self-guided tours through usually-locked Dunbar gardens on May 4th and May 30th from 10am-3pm. There’s a bunch of other events associated with the Dunbar community event: “Salmonberry Days” – find a schedule at http://www.dunbar-vancouver.org/DRANews/.

But I’m holding out for the “big one” – the Mother’s Day (May 11) plant sale at the UBC Botanical Gardens – this sale is killer- amazing plants sold by master gardeners at great prices. Line up early, bring water (it’s hot and there’s no shade) and your pocketbook, and get ready to buy.

So, I started the Graduate Liberal Studies program through SFU September last, and it sucked up almost ALL my time. I finally have a space between semesters not tangled in the winter festivals or other familial obligations to reconsidering how to run VanCal in a sustainable way. Since I’ll be in school for the next few years, I’ll figure something out.

Where’ve I been? well, I’ve heard the VSO three times – once “VSO Pops”, once “Musically Speaking” – both of these at the Orpheum, and also to hear a baroque piece at the Chan Centre. Here’s what I can tell you: don’t be late for VSO Pops or Musically Speaking. The conductors/show leaders will take time out of their busy schedules to publicly ridicule you for your lateness, to the amusement of the greyhaired masses. Musically Speaking featured huge flatscreens and live closeups of the musicians, which really I found insulting (the implication being that modern audiences of the type to go to this performance are clearly incapable of paying attention to something that is not tv). The baroque piece at the Chan, on the other hand, was sublimely beautiful – a rich and glorious experience.

We hit the st. patrick’s day parade in March and a variety of public community centre events for kids, too…

I’ve also been to hear the Pacific Baroque Orchestra do “thoroughly modern mozart”, and just on friday night I saw the first half of the Rubbandance’s “Elastic Perspective” dance performance. Unfortunately the Cultch did not post a sign advising of extensive use of a smoke machine in their very small (“intimate”) space which already lacks ventilation. I had an asthma attack and had to leave at intermission. Rubberbandance really didn’t need the smoke effect – their ballet/breakdance fusion is powerful enough to sustain the most functional of environments.

Whew! Well at least I got out a few times in the year! Hopefully I can get out more this summer.

Okay, the Vancouver Zombie Walk is tomorrow. This event is a very loosely organized lurch down robson street from the art gallery. According to the Facebook Event, this starts at 3pm. Look like a rotting hungry corpse (the bloodier the better) and join the undead mob.

This event is one of the few temporary autonomous zone events that happens in Vancouver.  By nature it resists organization.

Last weekend we hit the Richmond Maritime Festival – a celebration of the history of the local area at the Britannia Historical Shipyards, a national historic site. There were booths from various organizations, most notably conservationists the David Suzuki foundation, psuedo- and real militarists (Scouts and the Navy), and the usual government and arms-length organizations, Vancouver 2010, Parks, and Environment Canada. We heard the lovely and coordinated Navy Band, viewed lots of old boats and hung out in the sun. Very nice.

The next day we went to the Gastown Motorcycle Show N Shine to view lots of really cool bikes. We scored a free pink “Bitchin Gear” cap for the elder daughter from some scantily dressed women dancing to cock rock a la “Coyote Ugly”. We also got some free Harley orange balloons from the Harley Davidson tent. The highlight has got to be the Motorcross tho, trick bikes somersaulting through Gastown – VERY cool. I’ve got to say there was such a strong sense of community, as all kinds of people wandered down Water Street admiring the bikes. From Bikers to Yuppies to tourists to local junkies, we all sure liked those bikes. And we all thrilled to hear the engines roar.

motorcross.jpg

Then on to the Mini Train – a well-kept secret of Burnaby is the Burnaby Central Railway. $2.50 gets you a just-long-enough ride on a mini train run by model train enthusiasts in striped overalls. There’s a variety of model engines including a replica steam engine, a 1940s deco engine and a more modern tram style. Something wonderful happens when you’re balancing on a tiny train rattling through the forest: you can’t help but wave at the other grownups on passing trains, at the perplexed bystanders just discovering the place for the first time, and at the birthday party celebrants in the midst of musical chairs. The amazing thing is that they all wave back.

Go find a dark sky this weekend especially Sunday night. The Perseid Meteor showers are at their peak from about 11pm until dawn and if you find a dark enough sky you should be able to see roughly 1 per minute or more. Here’s an article from the CBC about the showers.

On Saturday night, the Royal Astronomical Society is joining the Fraser Valley Astronomers to watch the meteor showers at Aldergrove Lake Regional Park between 730 and 11pm – head down there for hot cocoa and some sky experts – sometimes they bring telescopes too!

Here’s a link to help you learn more about viewing meteor showers, and here’s a link to free star charts for the month so while you’re waiting for a shooting star you can identify some other astral phenomena. Don’t forget some red film for your flashlight!