There will be no Oak Bay Tea Party in 2020. Organizers confirmed that the planning for the annual event is too complicated during the COVID-19 shutdown and the uncertainty surrounding the provincially mandated large gathering ban and social distancing.
“It is with a heavy heart that the society board agreed to cancel this year’s event,” said Sandy Germain chair of the Oak Bay Tea Party Society. “This is a decision the board hasn’t made lightly. At first we were sitting back and hoping, maybe we could postpone, but the writing is on the wall that the ban on large gatherings will be in place for some time.”
The 58th annual Tea Party and was scheduled for June 6 and 7.
“I recognize the need to suspend the event given the public health orders but I am still sorry to see it closed this year,” said Mayor Kevin Murdoch. “I’m even more sorry knowing all the money it raises for local causes. While many families will no doubt be disappointed, I know it will be back better than ever next year.”
“Service groups from around the region benefit from having the Tea Party provide a venue for fundraising,” Germain said. “We hope that people who are in a position to donate can and think about the community groups unable to raise money [during the pandemic]. Maybe you can’t donate now, but can commit to volunteer when we come out the other side of this.”
“Hands down, the Tea Party weekend is the biggest annual weekend for sales for the Oak Bay Kiwanis Tea Room. Its volunteers move thousands of hot dogs and fries and are run off their feet from opening until closing,” said Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay President, Gerry Adam.
Like many institutions, the Tea Room is experiencing its first closure since it opened in the 1940s and the fall out includes community groups that won’t receive grants from the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay in 2021.
“Income for the Tea Room increases [exponentially] to around $12,000 to $15,000 in gross sales, those two days alone, of which 100 per cent of the net goes go back into the community,” Adam said. “It will be quite a year this year for all service clubs that rely on public donations.”
And it’s not just Kiwanis, he noted.
“The Esquimalt Lions club’s pancake breakfasts and the Saanich Lions club’s corn on the cob are a hit at the Tea Party and they aren’t going to see that income,” Adam said. “We don’t sell peanuts or raffle tickets, and the Tea Room is one of our main sources of income.”
“It’s an irreplaceable event that draws residents from Greater Victoria and the Island and the ripple effects will be felt by the various service groups,” said Germain.
Thousands gather for the parade with Oak Bay High, Reynolds, Spectrum, and other high school marching bands, and throughout the weekend at Willows Park for the Shooting Star Amusements rides, the opening ceremony, live music all day, food trucks, the air show, the annual Mayor’s Floating Tea Cup race, and more.
Even the mention of the Tea Party sparks emotions and memories and that’s why Germain and the board are inviting the public to share stories, photos and memories for display on a new page on the Oak Bay Tea Party website and social media.
“The Tea Party is something special that is near and dear to people’s hearts and we want something there to point at for the 58th year so that this year is remembered and not just a black hole,” Germain said. “We don’t want the 58th Tea Party to be an empty spot, we want there to be a way to remember the event.”
To share photos, stories, and memories of the Oak Bay Tea Party send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the service clubs, the Oak Bay Tea Party Society is not-for-profit and provides donations to Oak Bay Sea Rescue, Big Brothers, Big Sisters (for which Royal Bank employees volunteer at the Tea Party), donations to school band programs for participating in the parade and providing entertainment on stage, St. John Ambulance and St. Luke’s Players, which supplies the Alice in Wonderland characters in the parade.
“There are so many businesses who have supported the Tea Party over the years by way of sponsorship and/or raffle prizes some of which are Oak Bay Beach Hotel, Oak Bay Marine Group, Castle Building Centres (owned by Frank and Vicki Hagel) have supplied the materials for the Ladies’ nail-driving competition and were going to host the third annual Castle Kids Corral which has a scavenger hunt and build-it birdhouses, all for free, The Penny Farthing Pub (Matt & Wendy MacNeil and Nancy Stewart, GM), Tetley Tea. The list goes on and I wish I could name everyone as the society appreciates all the support over the years,” Germain said. “On behalf of the society board, we thank everyone and we will see you for the 59th Tea Party in 2021.”