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July 14, 2014

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CUPE celebrates as Islands Folk Festival turns 30

DUNCAN—Next weekend’s Islands Folk Festival (July 18-20) will be a special one for CUPE members in the Cowichan Valley as the community-based event turns 30 this year. Held annually on the third weekend of July at Providence Farm in Duncan, the IFF draws about 3,000 people—many of whom camp onsite. Thanks to its committed core of more than 300 volunteers, led by a team of coordinators who start work in February, the festival is exactly the kind of “Strong Communities” event CUPE BC has always been proud to support.

Seeing the success of the Water Watch program at the Vancouver Island Music Fest, Michèle Favarger of CUPE’s Vancouver Island District Council brought the program to the Islands Folk Festival six years ago. This year the VIDC and CUPE BC, along with the Cowichan Valley Local CUPE 358, continue to support this initiative – keeping people hydrated while getting rid of plastic water bottles and stressing the importance of keeping public water public.

From its humble beginnings four years ago of two pumps with three “carboys” (large plastic water bottles on hand-pulled carts), the program has expanded to 20 pumps, 36 carboys, a refrigeration trailer, a golf cart and a regular distribution schedule for 18 locations on the 400-acre venue at Providence Farm. Last year, CUPE was more visible than ever.

In the fall of 2012, when the provincial government moved the gaming grant distribution back by six months, the future of the non-profit 2013 IFF festival was in jeopardy. When Favarger shared her concern at a VIDC meeting, CUPE National rep Ian McLean contacted Ron Salvati, president of CUPE 358.

“Looking to promote community support and engagement, Local 358 saw this as a perfect fit and stepped in with a generous contribution. By sponsoring the Heritage Stage (one of six at the Festival), they allowed the event to bridge its financial gap,” says McLean.

“CUPE 358 also provided their water distribution cart, which became a festival favorite. Placed next to the CUPE event wagon and located in the main concert bowl, it gave CUPE high visibility to all festival participants.”

In addition to VIDC and other CUPE banners on site, the B.C. Division’s community events trailer became a gathering place for festival goers, who enjoyed receiving free union swag. At this year’s festival, the events trailer will once again house the official first aid station, ably staffed by well-trained first-aid attendants.

Half of this year’s water crew will be CUPE volunteers, with Favarger continuing as coordinator and Victoria local CUPE 374 members Danny Bell, Natalie West, Mary Kucera and Steve Hoffman all joining the team, along with CUPE 358’s Salvati as well as CUPE regional vice-president and CUPE 3479 president Michelle Waite.

Weekend passes to the IFF are still available at


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