During the past nearly three decades, what started off as a small event to celebrate the youth of Stó:lō Nation has grown to a nearly valley-wide festival for all children. On July 11, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the Stó:lō Nation will be hosting its 26th annual Children’s Festival.
|A little boy enjoys himself in 2017’s Sto:lo Children’s Festival. (submitted)|
“This year’s theme is Harry Potter,” said Brianna Nakagawa, events administrator for the Stó:lō Service Agency, which organizes the yearly event.
Started in 1992 for the nation’s children, Nakagawa says the Festival was “a way to get everyone together and celebrate” their successes and accomplishments. Due to its success and popularity, the Festival was eventually opened to children across the Fraser Valley.
“We’ve really expanded over the past few years,” said Nakagawa. “We have kids from Agassiz, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Surrey already registered. Last year we had about 1,200 kids, so we’re expecting (a large turnout) this year.
“This year we’ll have face painting … a slahal tournament … a craft station, and the train will be running … as the Stó:lō Express because of our theme.“
“(Slahal) is a game with sticks,” explained in Michael Suedfeld, who works with the Stó:lō Nation’s communication’s department. “It’s hard to describe: it’s a team game trying to outwit the other players psychologically. It’s very mental but it’s a lot of fun to watch because there’s lots of singing and other stuff going on.”
“There will also be a talent show called Stó:lō’s Got Talent,” said Nakagawa. “It is geared towards First Nations, but ages up to 15 are allowed to participate. It’s either singing, or playing an instrument, or dancing. If they have the courage to go up on stage, we’ll welcome them with open arms.”
There will also be a bouncy castle and food vendors handing out yummy samples such as bannock, poutine, ice cream, and fish bites.
However, as it’s run by a services agency, Nakagawa explains that an important part of the Festival is also the display of services offered, of which there are many.
“For the most part, the Stó:lō Service Agency is a service provider for indigenous people, but they have now expanded so it’s not just for First Nations anymore.”
This means, “where we can, our services are available to the general public depending on the program’s funding and its parameters,” added Suedfeld.
To make the day as interactive as possible, all children who attend the Festival will be given event passports; for every booth or activity they interact with—be it the craft station or ice cream vendor—they’ll receive a signature in their passport, and once its complete, they can turn it it for a prize and have their name entered into a draw for family-friendly door prizes.
In addition to their passports, like their Hogwarts counterparts, children attending the Festival will be sorted into Stó:lō-based houses based on nature’s four main elements: Sqéweqs—the raven—for air; Spá:th—the bear— for ground; Syó:qwem—the sun—for fire; and Sthéqi—salmon—for water.
There will even be T-shirts for sale representing each of the houses that were designed by participants of the Nations Creations program. The shirts are $15 for children sizes, $20 for adults, and $5 from the sale of every shirt will go back to the Stó:lō Service Agency’s Christmas hamper program.
Normally the program’s artists get to keep their royalties, explained Suedfeld, but this year, the artists generously donated their designs to the event.
“We just want everyone to come out and enjoy (the Children’s Festival),” said Nakagawa. “It’s great to get together as a community.”
This year’s event will be held on the Stó:lō Nation’s Coqualeetza grounds, located at 7201 Vedder Road in Chilliwack.