Sunday features waterfront restrictions for boaters.

Sunday features waterfront restrictions for boaters.

Willows welcomes 54th annual Tea Party

The 54th annual Oak Bay
Tea Party fills Willows Park
with community festivities and entertainment this weekend

When two large floating tea cups were discovered in storage elsewhere in the city, there was little question as to their rightful place.

The Mayor’s Floating Teacup Race is, after all, one of the long-standing highlights of Oak Bay Tea Party festivities at Willows Park. So with four large Fibreglas teacups ready to ply local waters, this year’s competition could make a real splash.

Enter the three of the city’s top band teachers – all Tea Party Parade regulars – who will climb aboard to take on Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen in the teacup challenge, Sunday at 3 p.m. at Willows Beach.

“All four (teacups) went to Oak Bay High and they were completely repainted and refurbished,” says Tea Party chair Sandy Germain, in her 16th year with the 54th annual Oak Bay Tea Party, but her first at the helm.

Knowing how competitive the school bands are in the parade, Germain issued the challenge to Oak Bay High’s Jeff Weaver, Spectrum Community School’s Jamie Davis, and Reynolds Secondary’s Dave Flello.

“We have this great parade and the bands are so competitive, so why don’t we get their band leaders in the teacups? I’m hoping the kids will come out and wear their colours and support their band teacher.”

Germain then upped the ante with a social media challenge to students which quickly picked up traction. She expects good-natured “trash talking” to follow soon.

Official festivities get under way Saturday at 7 a.m. with a weekend full of activities for the whole family.

For thrill seekers, the fun begins Friday night when the midway is open from 4 to 9 p.m., Germain says.

Both Saturday and Sunday kick off bright and early with a pancake breakfast, hosted this year by the Esquimalt Lions. “This will be their first year so they’re quite excited to be a part of it,” Germain says.

Try your hand at paddling with kayak rides Saturday afternoon, when from noon to 4 p.m., Brian Henry and the staff of Ocean River Sports bring their kayaks to Willows Beach. All it takes is a donation to the Oak Bay Castaway Wanderers Rugby Club’s youth program.

Ocean River Sports, which last year opened a “paddle shack” at Oak Bay Marina, also brings their Discovery Shuttle, offering short tours to nearby islands, Germain says.

The dance floor is back by popular demand on Saturday and Sunday, the perfect place to kick up your heels to the music of  the Oak Bay High Concert Band, Knacker’s Yard, Vic High Rhythm and Blues, The Rig-a-Jig Band, Commodores Big Band and others.

The Ladies’ Nail Driving Competition, sponsored by Castle Building Centre, has been around as long as the Tea Party itself and is a favourite of many party-goers.

Joining the event as a judge this year is Jordan Hagel, son of Castle owners Frank and Vicki Hagel, Germain says. The popular event can draw 60 or more entrants, who compete in heats of eight until the final round. With free entry, competition gets underway Sunday at 4 p.m.

“There’s really a lot of people who come out to participate and there’s always a lot of spectators,” Germain says.

For boaters, RCMP Marine Patrol asks boaters to observe Safety Zone restrictions around Willows Beach during the Sunday afternoon airshow, June 5 between 12 and 4 p.m.

RCMP Marine Patrol and Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society will be on the water to enforce these restrictions.

While the Mad Hatter Fun Run will not take place this year, it will return next year, organized by Mena Westhaver and the Sole Sisters.

Looking forward to next year, all interested in helping with the 2017 festivities are invited to contact organizers at

oakbayteaparty@gmail.com, with planning getting under way as soon as the last bag of cotton candy is finished.

Find links to more information, including road closures and parking restrictions, on the Tea Party website, oakbayteaparty.com.