Profiles of Excellence: Hyack Festival Association

The tapestry of New Westminster has always been woven with colourful threads from its unique history. As the city continues to grow, change, and evolve, that special heritage remains a unifying feature that brings together life-long residents and newcomers alike – especially during times of celebration. The Hyack Festival Association, one of the city’s longest running organizations, is passionate about bringing those celebrations to life.

“We are here to serve the citizens of the Royal City with fun, engaging, and inclusive activities for everyone who enjoys their hometown and all it has to offer,” said current association president Lili De Capite, noting this work also includes serving as ambassadors to other communities which draws tourism and interest in the city. “Our goal is to maintain our cultural heritage in our city and continue the great work that has been maintained for almost 50 years with our high-quality community events.”

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Anyone familiar with New Westminster will instantly recognize the impressive roster of events: the Miss New Westminster Hyack Ambassador Program, Hyack Week, International Parade, Uptown Street Festival, May Day Tea, May Queen Royal Suite Chaperones and Heritage Picnic, Hyack Canada Day Festival and Fireworks – to name just a few. This coming year marks the 150th anniversary of May Day events in the city – the longest running May Day celebration in the Commonwealth – and the association feels it is important to help bring more public awareness to this long-standing tradition.

“So many residents are passionate about May Day – it has survived a long time and should remain a focus in our city,” said Lili, adding that such events can help people feel a strong and abiding connection to their community and create a sense of place that is unique.

Penny McIvor, the incoming president for 2020, and Becci Dewinetz, who will serve as president for the associations 50th anniversary in 2021, are equally passionate about the value of the Hyack Festival Association. Both have been longtime association members and volunteers, and are excited to plan ahead for the coming years.

Penny notes that next year’s theme will be Jewels of the Royal City – among those jewels being the 150th anniversary of May Day. In 2021, Becci says the theme will be Decades of Dedication, to help honour the hundreds of volunteers who have made the organization a success over its 50-year history. It will be a special year as it also marks Becci’s 40th anniversary serving as a member with the association, since her reign as Miss New Westminster in 1981.

All three women say that the practical role of the association – to organize and coordinate festivals and celebrations – is part of a much bigger, and more important, goal: helping residents connect with each other, their community, and their history.

“Our events really are a way to join each other in celebrating,” said Lili. “They make you smile and bring family and friends together in a brighter atmosphere than you can find anywhere else. And the best part about each of our Hyack festivals is that they are free to everyone of all ages, genders, and nationalities. This is truly what makes our Royal City shine bright.” Without its volunteers, past and present, the association would not be able to carry out all of the incredible work it does.

“We are always in need of as many volunteers as will join us,” said Lili. “Our volunteers are the backbone of our organization and we encourage and welcome them all.”

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