Weather energizes inaugural Uptown Live! event

New Values play at New Westminster
New Values play at New Westminster's Uptown Live festival on Saturday.
— image credit: Mario Bartel/NewsLeader

The inaugural Uptown Live! was such a success the Hyack Festival Association is contemplating making it a standalone event in the future.

For the first time, Hyack followed up the Hyack International Parade with a big street party featuring live acts and interactive activities on Saturday afternoon and labeled it Uptown Live!

“The community was pretty blown away with the scope of what we were doing after the parade,” said Hyack executive director Douglas Smith. “The question is do we want it to be a standalone event during the summer, or do it on parade day and capitalize on the crowds.”

Smith, who spent much of Monday morning sifting through emails of support for Saturday’s event, said Uptown Live! was a tremendous risk worth taking.

One of the incentives to creating it was to generate a signature event for the area around Sixth and Sixth, said Smith.

The association will hold a debriefing with its event partners—both Westminster Centre and Royal City Centre were involved as were several area business—before deciding whether to move it to its own date during the summer instead of attaching it to the festival.

“We’ve launched and branded the event so we’re in good shape moving forward. We’ve created the intellectual property,” said Smith, who credited Uptown Property Group vice-president Bart Slotman as a driving force behind the event.

Despite the good weather and the good reaction, there were some hiccups.

“We had some challenges trying to have the parade and Uptown Live! combined on the same day, especially setting up on Sixth Street after the parade went by,” said Smith.

He called the New West Hyacks football team a “saviour” for helping the Flowriders BMX team pre-assemble their apparatus in an alley and then set it up on the street.

“That was a huge hit. There were at least a thousand people around every time they did their demo,” said Smith.

As for the annual parade, Smith said the turnout for out-of-town floats—including Portland and Spokane—was better than it had been in years, and the “tremendous participation” of multicultural organizations “added a lot of colour and spectacle to the day.”

“The parade had record crowds,” said Smith.

“It was just an absolutely spectacular day weather wise. It really created an awesome turnout, and it also created a great energy. The energy of the crowd was just wonderful, a really great spirit of the community.”

Smith thinks it would be better for Hyack not to put all of its eggs in one basket during one time of the year but to create an overall event calendar that allows for large-scale celebratory events all year long because the city deserves it.

For instance, with FraserFest being rebranded as RiverFest in partnership with the Fraser River Discovery Centre and being moved to Sept. 28-29 instead of July, Hyack will be looking for activities in the summer.

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