Since its humble beginnings as a church fundraiser, which drew about 1,500 people in 2001, the goal of Langley’s International Festival has always been to foster a sense of unity among the vast array of cultures which make up the community.
Over the past 12 years, the celebration of cultural diversity in Langley has grown and evolved, but its purpose has remained unchanged.
Now, that co-operative spirit is being taken a step further, as the International Festival and Langley’s annual Canada Day celebrations officially join forces.
The celebration of national pride, and of the diversity that makes Canada a unique and welcoming place, will happen over four days, from June 28 to July 1 at Willoughby Community Park.
A co-operative effort by the Township of Langley, Tourism Langley, the Langley Events Centre, the Langley School District and the Fraser Valley Regional Library, the event marks the first time these groups have all joined forces to present a major community festival.
Langley has always done an excellent job of celebrating Canada Day, said Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese, speaking during the official media launch, held on Tuesday, May 27 at the Tourism Langley office.
Now, the celebration has “gone through a transformation and an evolution … we can all be proud of,” he said.
The marriage of Canada Day and the International Festival is one that will last many years, he predicted.
The combination of the two events embraces exactly what Canada is known for — its cultural diversity — said Langley School District Trustee Megan Dykeman.
Sarwan Randhawa, librarian with Fraser Valley Regional Library and International Festival Society member for the past 10 years, told the crowd he expects the collaborative event will be the “biggest ever in the history of Langley.”
It is also the only event that is actively promoted and supported by library staff, he added.
“The world identifies Canada as as a multicultural society and a model of tolerance and acceptance for other countries to follow,” said MLA Rich Coleman, in a written statement, which was read out at the launch.
“Langley’s International Festival and Canada Day celebrations are an important way for our community to celebrate Canada through sports, our various cultures and our common heritage as Canadians,” read a statement from Langley MP Mark Warawa.
The first two days of the four-day event will be a sports festival, featuring competition in everything from masters lacrosse to beach volleyball, soccer, bocce and tennis. As many as 600 athletes are expected to participate, said Tourism Langley’s Mun Bagri.
Once the nets and rackets and balls have been put away, the traditional celebration will begin. On June 30 and July 1, the festival will offer live entertainment, a marketplace, food vendors serving a range of traditional ethnic fare, international pavilions, children’s entertainers, a children’s talent show, rides, a car show, fireworks and more.
On July 1, there will be a parade of nations, with participants representing more than 70 countries.
“People will be selling things from all the countries in the world,” said Bob Barrett, president of the Langley International Festival Society.
Barrett acknowledged the vast scope of the task the committee has before it.
“This is a huge project,” he said, noting that organizers expect to welcome more than 50,000 visitors over the course of the celebration, which will be free and will offer visitors parking at no charge.
“We’re going to feed them, entertain them and keep their children happy.”
In order to make that happen, the committee will need plenty of help, he said.
On Tuesday morning, the committee put out the call for anyone who is interested in being a part of the inaugural co-operative celebration to sign up.
“We need to spread the word for volunteers,” said Barrett.
“Without them, we are nothing.”
Anyone who would like to volunteer or is interested in learning more, is invited to visit either the Langley Canada Day website at langleycanadaday.ca or the International Festival Society’s website at internationalfestival.ca.
Sponsors are still needed for this year’s Langley Canada Day celebrations. To get more information, contact Shar Dubas at 604-312-8487 or Sonya Paterson at 604-649-2414