Another ‘Excellent’ Seafest

The official count isn’t in yet, but more than 300 people turned out for this year’s Seafest. This is the annual celebration and fundraiser of the Cortes Island Seafood Association, which was held in Squirrel Cove again this year. 

“We come back every year. This is our 10th time. We love it every year. It’s awesome. There’s amazing food and amazing people and weather’s gorgeous,” exclaimed Jason Thompson. “One thing that stuck out for us was there was only a lineup on one side this year. In the past, it’s been both sides, and there was always a little bit of confusion, and, ‘oh, I didn’t get that’. So people would come in  and get their food, and you’d look at them going, ‘get out of my way,’  but no, it’s beautiful. It’s run really nice, and the music’s perfect.”

The podcast opens and closes with short clips of ‘He Said, She Said’ playing ‘Four Strong Winds’ on the Seafest stage

Thaddeus Conrad from Med-Man Brand believes markets like this are ‘extremely important for the community. It’s an opportunity for me to meet people from around the world, and show everyone from around the world the island love.’”

As the line-up extended almost back to the Squirrel Cove Store parking lot, it seemed like a good idea to start out by circulating among the vendors. 

Seafest is being held at the Squirrel Cove General Store, and owner/manager Curt Cunningham proclaimed, “Today’s excellent. It’s like a regular summer day with lots of love on Cortes. Everyone’s happy; everyone’s good; SeaFest is going very well. I’m really happy for them. We’ve got a good turnout and the weather’s agreeable.” 

Cortes Currents: I see you have a hamburger stand out front. 

Curt Cunningham: “I’m really happy they’re going to be here all summer. And so far everyone loves the food.”

There were two dozen or so people lined up in front of ‘Canadian, Eh! Takeout,’ but I caught up with Hennie later. She lives on a sailboat anchored in Squirrel Cove for the summer. 

 “I make everything from scratch. All the buns, pita breads, homemade Nanaimo bars, homemade Saskatoon Berry pies,  homemade butter tarts, and all the breads are homemade right here in the trailer. The meats I get from Gunter’s Meats.  I make my own donair meat, I make my own hamburgers with all the spices in it.  Sausage rolls, hand cut fries, everything is made from scratch,” she explained. 

The official opening of ‘Canadian, Eh!’ will be next Saturday and Scotty Martin, the organizer, has promised to tell me more later this week.  

Howie Roman and the Cortes Radio booth have been a fixture at events like this since at least 2016. 

“I enjoy seeing the radio station get some money, that’s always a good thing, but it’s really our only chance to hear what people think about what we’re doing. We get lots of compliments, lots of criticisms, and lots of suggestions. Of course, if anybody walks up to me and says, ‘you really need to have such and such a show,’ the immediate answer is ‘so when are you going to start?’ It’s just a chance to meet people. I also am a Jewish guy from New York and it’s fun to hustle.” 

Our local MP Rachel Blaney also had a booth, where she could hear what the local population had to say about the way our country is being run.   

Neither Gina from the Cortes Island Museum, or local baker Barb Buffington wanted to be interviewed, but they did consent to having pictures taken.   

Cortes Island tattoo artist Kim Marks was displaying some of her other wares,  “I’ve been here for almost a decade, visiting for longer. I’ve been living on the water in the Gorge Harbour for eight and a half years. I’m selling the things that keep me busy . So I have my clothing line, Salty Grave Ocean Crew and I have my copper jewelry formed and adorned and I got some crystals.” 

There were several members of organizer Julia Rendall’s clan present, including her granddaughter Lavinia who I found tending a steaming pot of shellfish. 

Lavinia Rendall: “I come here every year.  It’s kind of a tradition to show up, but this is my second time working.” 

Cortes Currents: What exactly are you doing right now? 

Lavinia Rendall: “I’m steaming clams and then passing them over to Brian here. They get tossed in a sweet chilli sauce.”

As I was wandering along the line-up, seeking people who might want to comment, I came across her father, Will Rendall.

Cortes Currents: “Okay, this isn’t your first Seafest?” 

Will Rendall: “No, I’ve been to a couple.  I played in a band actually, the first one I was at,  probably 15 years ago, when it was here.” 

Cortes Currents: Has it changed much? 

Will Rendall: “Well, I don’t recognize anyone anymore, but I’ve only been to probably two or three and the last one was at the Gorge.  My mom, Julia Rendall, is actually organizing this one and my daughter is cooking, Everyone’s cooking over there.” 

He pointed to Squirrel Cove’s inner harbour, “I grew up back in there, in the bay, in the float house back in the late 70s through the 80s.”  

Julia and her first husband had a floating bakery there.

Will Rendall: “it’s kind of nice to be back, actually.  I don’t come over here very often, though I only live on Quadra.” 

Cortes Currents: Have you got any other observations you want to make? 

Will Rendall: “The food line up’s almost getting to the point where I might get in it soon, because it was almost here to few minutes ago.”

Cortes Currents also spoke with Julia’s niece Claire Allen, who is visiting from England. She was serving at one of the cooking stations.

My next interview was a volunteer who strayed outside of the cook tent. 

Craig: “My name’s Craig, I’m from Nanaimo.” 

Cortes Currents: “And you’re one of the cooks?”

Craig: “My girlfriend’s part of the crew here, so I got voluntold.”

Cortes Currents: Is she an oyster farmer? 

Craig: “Friends of the oyster farmer. I know she’s done some for a while, but she actually lives on the next island over.” 

Cortes Currents: Which island’s that? 

Craig: “Quadra.” 

Cortes Currents: What do you think of Cortes? 

Craig: “Very beautiful place, nice marina,  next time it’s better to park a boat out there and come in.”  

Cortes Currents: Have you tried the oysters? 

Craig: “Not yet. I’m too busy and by the looks of the lineup, there won’t be enough left.” 

A number of people undoubtedly agreed with him and this being Canada, took less than they would have otherwise. The result: there were leftovers when the festival closed down. 

This was the second time that professional musician Michael Keith has played at Seafest, “I really love it down here. I’d love to see this area do better. It seems like a forgotten part of the island with everything else going on, but I wish there were events like this happening every weekend during the summer here. It’s such a great location.” 

Two of the people waiting in line consented to leave their opinions. 

 Lori: “My name is Lori and this is my first official Seafest.  I was reluctant to come in the past because I was worried about parking. There’s no shoulders on the roads, so how are we going to get up? I also don’t like crowds.  So I neglected to come, but this has been a very pleasant experience. It’s nice and open. Everybody’s relaxed and not what you really normally think of as a crowd. It’s a beautiful venue. All the vendors are very nice and polite and as always the Cortesians are welcoming and friendly.” 

Cortes Currents: I think there’s about 300 people here, and I have no idea where you’re parked.  

Lori: “I parked at Klahoose, at my sister in law’s.  So I really cheated this year, just to make sure I could come. I can see that it’s a really big draw, that a lot of people that  I’m hearing are saying that they make sure that they come on this particular  long weekend, so that they can attend.  I’m a little surprised that there aren’t more venders along the road there, but overall, I give it two thumbs up.”

Katie Welch: “It’s a beautiful celebration in an  unbelievably majestic spot.”  

Cortes Currents: Where do you come from? 

Katie Welch: “I live half time in Kamloops and half time on Cortes Island. I’m building a house here.” 

Cortes Currents: Do you plan to move here full time?

Katie Welch: “Yes, as soon as possible – maybe two years.”  

Why do you want to live on Cortes?

Katie Welch: “it’s a  beautiful spot, but it’s an incredible community. And events like this are an example of what an amazing community it is.”

All photos by Roy L Hales

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