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Get ready to Play the Parks in New Westminster this September

Music, food and family fun heading to New West parks in September
Will Clements 1 contributed
The Will Clements Jazz Trio is among the performers at the Play the Parks event series that's coming to New West in September.

Music may be the centrepiece of a nationwide event that’s coming to New West – but there are plenty of other offerings at the upcoming Play the Parks event series.

New Westminster is one of 13 Canadian cities selected to host four Play the Parks events in September. Play the Parks is a free, musically and culturally diverse concert series that will spotlight more than 100 diverse artists from Black, Indigenous, Chinese, South Asian and 2SLGBTQ+ communities. 

“There's been so many great events this summer,” said Lisa Kemp, the city’s program coordinator of special events. “It's nice to have something to do in September when the weather's still, hopefully, really nice.”

In addition to a musical performance, a variety of family-friendly activities will be taking place at each event, including Jedi training, dancing with Elsa and superhero training with Spiderman. A food truck has also been invited to attend the events, which are taking place on four Fridays in September.

Play the Parks is presented in partnership by the City of New Westminster, the TD Music Connected Series, and is curated by Canada’s Music Incubator. (Canada’s Music Incubator is a not-for-profit organization that helps emerging artists and bands of all genres develop their businesses, push their craft and expand their networks.)

“At TD, we believe music plays an important role in fostering a sense of belonging and helping to unite diverse communities,” said Michael Armstrong, vice president of brand and corporate sponsorships at the TD Bank Group. “Play the Parks is an opportunity to help bring Canadians together to experience art, culture and nature, while helping to celebrate the summer and sustain a sense of pride and connection.”

In addition to New Westminster, concerts are taking place in dozens of parks between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30 in Victoria and Surrey, B.C.; Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Toronto, London, Brantford, Barrie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario; Sydney, Nova Scotia; and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Play in the Parks was launched in Toronto in 2012. This is the first year that artists and fans will be gathering in person to experience Play the Parks in other Canadian cities. 

“We are very excited to have been selected amongst so many larger cities from across Canada,” Kemp said.

Kemp said she’s been in conversations with Canada’s Music Incubator for some time, but plans for Play the Parks kept getting derailed by COVID-19. She said the city’s role is to enhance the musical offerings by providing other activities at the events.

“They select the performers, they have a stage manager that's there, and they are coordinating the larger program. So they're all about the music and we're all about the space, city services, like access to the park and power and all that, and then enhancing the experience.”

Everything at Play the Parks is free, except the food. In keeping with the Canadian Music Incubator them, the city has aimed for diversity with the food choices being offered at the events.

Play the Parks is envisioned as an event where folks may bring a blanket or chair and enjoy a picnic dinner or food truck fare, and take in some fun activities before enjoying the performances that will begin at 7 p.m.

Attendees are welcome to bring alcoholic beverages to three of the neighbourhood events. (Alcohol isn’t permitted at the event in Moody Park, as that one is being offered in partnership with the New West Youth Centre.)

“We thought that was kind of unique too,” Kemp said. “There's been so many community events, but they're usually like more beer gardens, whereas this would be like a bring your own. There won't be alcohol sales.”

Kemp said the event is a great way of supporting local musicians and local parks.

“There's something for everyone. We're really trying to have activities that are for the little ones, like Elsa, but then also like the caricature artists that like age would be interested in. So there's something for everyone,” Kemp said. “You can bring a picnic, or you can support the food truck. It's very open; you can choose what you like.

What’s happening at Play the Parks?

Friday Sept. 2, 6 to 8 p.m. at Westminster Pier Park.

Activities will include a chance to sing and dance with Elsa, face painting, balloon twisting and lawn games. A caricature artist will also attend tonight’s event. Vietnamese Banh Mi will be available at the Camion Café food truck. At 7 p.m., the Will Clements Jazz Trio will perform.

Friday, Sept. 9, 6 to 8 p.m. in Upper Hume Park

Activities include Superhero training with Spiderman, and police car and fire truck tours. Mexican food will be available from the Dos Amigos food truck. A concert featuring Parlour Panther begins at 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 16, 6 to 8 p.m. at Westminster Pier Park

Activities include Jedi training with Rey Skywalker, face painting, balloon twisting and lawn games. A caricature artist will also attend tonight’s event. Mexican and Greek food fare will be available from the Meet2Eat food truck. Hyaenas will perform at 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 23, 6 to 8 p.m. at Moody Park

Activities include a professional yo-yo champion and photo booth. Jamaican food will be available at the Jerk Shack food truck. At 7 p.m. Incendiary Sweet will perform.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus