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Giddy up, it's Billy Barker Days

Maureen Murray admires the mural on the side of the Billy Barker Days kiosk which sits on Reid Street until the festival begins

Called the largest free family festival in the province, Billy Barker Days is set for the 38th annual event, July 14 – 17.

In venues across the community, the public and out-of-town visitors can expect the same high-calibre activities on which Billy Barker Days Festival has built its reputation.

Day-to-day events stick to the traditional lineup that has drawn thousands. However, each year, fresh, original elements keep bringing people back.

The festival begins with Thursday’s Seniors Day in LeBourdais Park.

“Seniors look forward to this event and if we change anything they’re very vocal in their objections,” souvenir and information booth director Maureen Murray said.

She has been staffing the information/souvenir booth on Reid Street as lead up to the festival and said the buzz is already starting.

“When the public starts buying programs and Billy buttons, we know the buzz is beginning,” Murray said.

Although she is already selling about 40 programs a day, Murray said many prefer to purchase it from Ron Paull who has been an enthusiastic, highly-visible part of the parade Saturday morning.

“Ron and his grocery cart of programs is very popular,” she said with a grin.

Volunteers are vital to Billy Barker Days. Murray said they have about 20 core volunteers who have taken on the directorships of various aspects of the festival, however during the festival, including all the independent events going on throughout the weekend, hundreds of volunteers ensure every last detail happens without a hitch.

Funding for the festival is largely dependent on the many, loyal corporate sponsors plus the percentage paid by other events.

“Staging an event during Billy Barker Days pretty well guarantees the attendance will be up significantly,” Murray said.

Friday brings families to LeBourdais Park for Kids Day in the Park where Shooting Star Amusements, a platinum sponsor of Billy Barker Days, provides thrilling rides for the very young and the very adventurous.

Friday evening the B.C. country band Jo Hikk headlines the entertainment on the Friendship stage in LeBourdais Park.

Saturday morning the streets of the parade route are lined with eager watchers and this year the Shriners Giza Drum and Bugle Corps, Keystone Kops and the Shriners traveling medical bus are headliners in the annual parade.

Then, after a busy day of festival activities, entertainment organizers are expecting a large crowd to pull up their lawn chairs to enjoy the Powder Blues Band.

Each year the directors consult what they refer to as their bible, a complete manual on policy and procedures for every aspect of the festival.

“Each director has a manual but they are also encouraged to put their stamp on it,” Murray said.

“For example this year the Billy button is black with reverse lettering in yellow and it stands out quite nicely.

“The stage director prefers to remain in the background and has organized a number of people to MC over the weekend.”

The Billy Barker Days logo has also had a redesign by Barry Curtis, son of the original logo designer Jason Curtis.

“We still use many of Jason’s designs today,” Murray said.

“The new logo, which is on all the shirts and tank tops, both screened and embroidered and on the official Billy Barker Days pin, is in keeping with the traditional designs.”

Each year, the festival offers a limited edition second pin saluting something occurring in B.C. This year it salutes CRD being named Forest Capital of Canada.

For Murray, she really looks forward to the entertainment in LeBourdais Park.

“As souvenir/information booth director, I spend the festival at the kiosk in the park and have a great view of the ongoing stage acts,” she said with a smile.

Despite the long hours spent volunteering and enjoying the festival, Murray can often be found Sunday evening as darkness falls, gazing at the sky with hundreds of others, watching the spectacular finale, the fireworks display.

For information about Billy Barker Days, visit the booth on Reid Street, drop by the office in LeBourdais Park or call the office at 250-992-1234.