Above: ???? Molly Barrieau

By Arts Editor Cheryl Folland

CBC’s Hometown Hockey event, February 25-26, was an excellent way to kick off Nanaimo’s spring and summer outdoor event season. Though the weather was a little chilly at the start, cold had no impact on community engagement. Many businesses had food and drink specials for the duration of the event.

There was a noticeable traffic increase, both on foot and vehicular, in Nanaimo’s downtown core. Pedestrians of all ages crowded the streets sporting their favourite hockey gear, ranging from Nanaimo’s own Clippers to NHL favourites.

The City of Nanaimo employees worked hard in the days prior, giving flower beds and beaches a much needed facelift. Garbage, debris and litter were cleared away. New flowers were planted, sidewalks pressure washed, and zero waste stations set up. Nanaimo would be on television and needed to put its best foot forward, and it did.

???? Molly Barrieau

???? Molly Barrieau

The Nanaimo Food Bank, which brings food security to those who otherwise would have to choose between housing and food with its food recovery program, worked in conjunction with WildPlay sponsoring a zipline. The line was over an hour long as people young and old waited, with monetary or non-perishable food donation in hand, for a chance at the ride stretching across the water at Maffeo Sutton Park.

With multi-faceted events held on the Scotiabank mainstage, there was something for everyone over the weekend regardless of their level of passion for hockey. Live music by the Island’s own Lovecoast, interviews, children’s entertainers, contests, and games, the two days were jampacked with entertainment. Children with painted faces donned their gear to play floor hockey on a makeshift rink, sponsored by McDonald’s McCafe. A pond sized ice rink was available for the week leading up to the event, and the duration of the weekend, for community skating. Quality Foods, an Island owned and operated grocery chain, sponsored the concession with affordable and delicious treats. Hometown Hockey brought the city together, making it connect with its small town roots.

Speaking with Shelby Milholm, of the Canucks Autism Network, it was obvious how events like these impact community spirit. “Everyone we’ve spoken with [this weekend] has been cheerful and curious about what we do,” Milholm said, “this is more engagement than we’ve had at any other community events in the past year.” The Canucks Autism Network, based out of Vancouver, BC, has programs available in Nanaimo, Duncun, Shawnigan Lake, and Victoria. For more information about programs and how to get involved, contact them at canucksautismnetwork.ca/vancouverisland.