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Can All Sooke Day be resurrected?

Third story in a three-part series
The double springboard chop was a crowd favourite during All Sooke Day celebrations. (Contributed - Sooke Region Museum)

When it comes to talking about resurrecting All Sooke Day from the dead, the song remains the same.

“Personally, I’d like to see something happen,” said Dean Haldane, president of the Sooke Community Association, the event’s historic organizing body.

“I’ve spoken to other directors who feel the same way as well. I was born and bred in Sooke; it’s a part of Sooke residents’ lives.”

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The starting point would be to form a committee to start a serious discussion on how to achieve that, Haldane said, although that hasn’t happened yet.

All Sooke Day formed a plank in mayoral candidate Mick Rhodes’ platform in the municipal election, showing it remains on the minds of many.

Although he enjoyed the logging competition, Rhodes said his favourite part of the day was the salmon barbecue.

“I’m taken aback every summer that this old-time Sooke tradition has never been revived,” he said. “Reviving All Sooke Day would remind us of the great community we live in, and we could also honour all the volunteer organizations whose exceptional work enriches our lives.”

Al Beddows, a long-time member of the Sooke Lions Club, said the organization is interested in seeing something like All Sooke Day brought back that celebrates the community.

“The problem is we must reinvent what we’re celebrating,” he said. “A lot of Sooke and All Sooke Day used to be about logging and fishing, and both of those have been scaled way back, compared to even 20 years ago.

“To move forward, one organization, group or person needs to take the lead, with several organizations like the Lions club, the Sooke Community Association, the Sooke Fall Fair people, Rotary, and the chamber of commerce working collaboratively to see what we can put together.”

The Lions Club has a history of organizing events like the RCMP Musical Ride and the annual Canada’s Day celebrations.

Beddows would like to see the Canada Day event scaled back to more of a family picnic celebration.

“We could make All Sooke Day a food and entertainment day,” he said.

“We have a lot of local breweries and distilleries that may want to play a role in something like that. The salmon dinner used to be a big draw, but a lot of the fish were donated by local fishermen. Keeping things at a reasonable cost is always a concern.”

Britt Santowski, executive director of the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce, said not having All Sooke Day is a great loss.

“From the chamber’s perspective, the economic impact the event had on all businesses was significant,” she said. “It used to bring 10,000 to 20,000 people out to Sooke over a weekend. I would love to see it return. The question is, will we have it as a volunteer event, or will it be paid staff?”

Although Sooke has a reputation as a volunteer capital, Santowski believes having a paid staff to oversee the event would be a better way to go to ensure deliverables and meet a certain standard.

Another factor to consider is the impact the pandemic had on local volunteers.

“It really sapped the energy from a lot of people, and the current economic situation has made it even more difficult to volunteer,” she added.


Much of this feature’s research information can be found in The Sooke Story - The History and the Heartbeat. The Sooke Region Museum provided additional assistance.

The book was originally published in 1999 by the History Book Committee, with contributions from Linda Bristol, Liz Johnson, Elida Peers, Elinor McClimon, Audrey Wilson, Joan O’Donnell, Fred Rudd, Joyce Linell, Ken Shepherd, Mae Linell, Terry Malone, Evelyn Stolth, Tuck Vowles, Sally Bullen, Pete Wilford, Kenney Nickerson, Rose Dumont, Ray Vowles, and Adele Lewis.

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