Every year on the first weekend in July the Port Moody community throws a big party. The annual Golden Spike Days Festival has been in Rocky Point Park for 34 years now, commemorating the arrival of the first cross-country train in Port Moody on July 4, 1886. At the time, Port Moody was the Western terminus of the CPR, the great railroad uniting Canada. By celebrating on the first weekend in July, the event marks both Canada Day and the anniversary of a pivotal event in local history.
As history would have it, Port Moody did not end up being the Western terminus for long. Within a year the line was extended to Vancouver and Port Moody faded in regional and national prominence. But there is still a cairn in Port Moody commemorating the ‘Completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway’, and that brief period when Port Moody was the last link on a great chain lives on in the community’s consciousness.
Today’s Golden Spike Days Festival retains some historical flavour. The ever-popular Golden Spike Can Can Dancers (motto: For chicks who like to kick it!) perform shows every day of the festival and spike-driving competitions let festival-goers try their own hand at railroad building. Yukon Dan teaches gold panning to anyone who wants to give it a try. And right next door Port Moody Station Museum operates special programs throughout the event, commemorating local history and celebrating all things ‘train’.
Beyond the history, Golden Spike is mostly about family fun. Our family attends every year for the petting zoo, paper hat-making, children’s rides, boat-building from Port Metro Vancouver, balloons, mascots, face-painting and children’s entertainment. Local politicians and businesses set up tents, and you can pay $2 for a chance to dunk one of Port Moody Secondary’s cheerleaders. Just outside the gates there are bike trials and bike jumping demos, and we stop on our way out to watch and have a cone from Rocky Point Ice Cream. There’s lots of classic fair food to choose from, including Rocky Point Park’s permanent food vendor Pajo’s. It’s no PNE, but there are mini donuts and cotton candy all the same.
This year there were some new events at Golden Spike. We weren’t able to check them out, because we are rolling with a 23-month-old who is cute but not so good at sitting still. On July 1 and 3 festival attendees had a chance to cruise Burrard Inlet on an ecological boat tour, learning about our local sea life and watching seal pups. And in honour of Canadian Naval Centennial an Open House tour of the facilities at Pacific Coast Terminals was available for families on July 3 along with an option to visit HMCS Nanaimo 702 and Patrol Craft Training Caribou to learn what it is like to be a sailor.
I may be biased, as a local resident, but I think that the Golden Spike Days Festival is one of the best local events going. We haven’t missed one since 2005. The free activities and the admission by donation make it affordable, and the kid-friendly feel is fun for everyone. It’s definitely worth checking out if you happen to be nearby on the first weekend in July. Watch the video my husband Jon made and see for yourself:
This post was written by Amber Strocel, who contributes to TheV3H.com, a blog that highlights news and events in and around Port Moody and the Tri-Cities. You can also catch up with Amber’s musings on life and parenting at Strocel.com.