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Summer Live brings the noise back to Stanley Park

Free three-day arts and music festival harkens back to park's 1970s be-ins

For the first time since the 1970s, a massive music festival is slated for Stanley Park when the city hosts Summer Live, July 8 to 10.

The free three-day festivities celebrate Vancouver's 125th anniversary of incorporation with more than 180 performances and activities, as programmed by the man who headed the Cultural Olympiad, Robert Kerr.

Kerr's particularly excited about Neko Case playing with The New Pornographers on the main stage Saturday night, the return of First Nations supergroup Beat Nation Live, who were recently in Paris, and Kokoro Dance.

Performances take place on three stages at Brockton Point, with Coast Salish canoe races in Coal Harbour, July 8.

"It's the first time that it's happened in Coal Harbour in over 50 years, so that's a pretty remarkable thing," Kerr said. "It really means a lot to Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-wau-tuth and the other nations down the coast because they lived, essentially, in Brockton Point. It was a gathering place."

Visual artist Sonny Assu's Coke-Salish banner, rendered in familiar white script on red, will welcome visitors to festival sites. Inspired by Japanese travelling shows called kamishibai, or paper theatre, Pangea Arts will tell stories with illustrated picture cards and a miniature wooden stage mounted on the back of a vintage bicycle with its Stories on Wheels. Tangible Interaction, in partnership with the New Forms Festival, will roll out its Zygote Interactive Balls--helium-filled beach-ball-type orbs that respond to human touch--and install seven two-foot tall geometric birds that light up and peck percussion boxes as people pass by in the bushes near trail exits.

Those who missed exploring the city with PodPlays during the PuSh Festival will be able to borrow an MP3 player and take a self-guided, 15-minute journey for free during Summer Live.

Joseph Wu, origami artist extraordinaire, will lead paper-folding workshops in the Kidzone, which will also feature kite and puppet making, while Wu's larger-than-life origami herons will float beneath the forest canopy alongside the Secret Lantern Society's flowing fabric streamers, placed to ruffle with the ocean breeze.

The multi-sensory extravaganza is a far cry from the be-ins held in the park in the early '70s and the first folk fest that took place there in 1978.

A dozen food cart vendors and festival stands will sling meals and snacks, and two tents will sell beer, coolers and wine. Margeret Specht, director of grants, awards and support programs in the city's cultural services department, notes smoking is prohibited in all city parks.

Depending on the weather, organizers expect up to 80,000 visitors over three days. The city is providing 1,500 free, secure bike parking spots and a free shuttle to the totem poles near Brockton Point from Waterfront Station every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Specht estimates Summer Live will cost $3.3 million, with one-third of the money coming from the federal Department of Canadian Heritage. The city's covering a little more than one-third of the cost and has been setting aside money for four years, $350,000 this year. The province and private sponsors also provided funds.

Vancouver celebrated its anniversary April 6, and Vancouver 125 events continue all year long. Specht said an advisory committee that represented artists, businesses and community groups decided the city should mount a big, free summertime event to celebrate its 125th.

The city wants to build on the success of civic celebrations seen during the Olympics, with particular attention to First Nations heritage, she said.

"Anniversaries are special moments, that point of reflecting back and looking forward and it's important for the city to celebrate those milestones," Kerr added. "To do it with arts and culture and food and participatory sports speaks to what are the really wonderful things about the city."

For more information about Summer Live, which also includes performances by Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, Veda Hille and the Dal Richards Orchestra, see CelebrateVancouver125.ca.

crossi@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi