Hot Oak Bay Tea Party a weekend hit

Parking complaints down, tea cup race participants up at 54th annual festival

Four-year-old Stella McGrath delights to the tot-sized train at the Oak Bay Tea Party midway Saturday. Stella shared the ride with cousin Carson Prpich

Four-year-old Stella McGrath delights to the tot-sized train at the Oak Bay Tea Party midway Saturday. Stella shared the ride with cousin Carson Prpich

Oak Bay Police describe last weekend’s Tea Party at Willows park as a “non-event” which correlates nicely with the organizer’s “fabulous.”

“The whole weekend was a non-event as far as we were concerned,” said Deputy Chief Kent Thom. “We had just over a half-dozen parking complaints we had to deal with.”

A new approach this year included having a municipal bylaw officer working, where in previous years an Oak Bay Police administration staffer would have to work with people picking up vehicles officers had towed to the police station.

“We used to have to remove vehicles that were parked not in compliance with no parking signs and stuff like that,” Thom said.

“Saturday, our busiest day for parking complaints, we had a bylaw enforcement guy dealing with those. That allowed our police officers to deal with a little bit more urgent police matters,”

The family focus for the rides helped keep things simple. “It’s a midway that’s focused on families and they shut it down when they should,” Thom said. “Things are pretty well dissipated by 9 p.m., that’s a reasonable hour.”

Respectful crowds buoyed by great food and a hearty tea cup race among other entertainment provided for a full and lively Tea Party for 15-year board secretary Sandy Germain, who took over as chair Oak Bay Tea Party Society this year.

“You can’t beat the weather we had, the beach was packed and the grass was packed. We have such a great group of a volunteers that pull everything together every time,” she said. “We have volunteers who have been on the board and volunteering for longer than me and there’s a reason we do it. We get to see all the people have a great time enjoying the hard work that went in to it. Plus look at the venue we have to work with. There’s not a bad seat in the place.”

As expected, the mayor’s tea cup challenge to marching band leaders added buzz to Sunday festivities as the groups brought their good-natured competitive spirit to the shore.

“That was the highlight,” Germain said, noting Reynolds secondary brought a drum corp and signs cheering on their bandleader Dave Flello.

“Nobody tipped – I couldn’t believe it. I thought with four of them out there, for sure you’re going to have one that goes in.”

Last year Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen lost to an Oak Bay firefighter, finishing second of two. This year he lost to Oak Bay High bandleader Jeff Weaver.

“The mayor came in second. He was second of four so he really feels he’s moving up,” Germain said with a laugh. “(Weaver) had that (rowing) down pat. He says he’s going to put the trophy in his office at Oak Bay High.”

Spectrum Community School’s Jamie Davis suffered after his oars came out and “he flailed” the rest of the way, Germain said of the last-place finisher.

“David Flello, he was very gracious and waited for him and they ran up the beach together and rang the bell,” she said. “I think they had a good time and they were all really happy they didn’t end up in the drink because as hot as it was the water is still pretty cool.”

She credits work done by Oak Bay as adding to the 54th annual event as well. “Another highlight was the incredible new baron of beef pit – it was just amazing. They worked so hard on it and the result was just spectacular,” Germain said Monday morning while tidying the last of party remnants at Willows. “These guys work so hard over the weekend and they just keep everything going and clean.”

Then there was recycling guru Noreen Taylor.

“She’s just a one-woman force to be reckoned with and she does an amazing job of diverting from the landfill, she’s great.”