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Hyack Festival Association

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The Hyack Festival Association
1971 – Present

New Westminster has a rich history dating back to 1859 when it was selected as the first capital of the new colony of British Columbia and officially named by Queen Victoria after her favourite part of London. The official naming by the Queen gave New Westminster its nickname ‘The Royal City” and recognition for being the first city in Western Canada. Probably for that reason, a custom was begun in early days which has survived right up to the present time …… a 21-gun salute to the Monarch on Victoria Day each year. And therein lies a story.

It seems that New Westminster’s volunteer firemen were a lively lot back in the 1860’s. They called themselves the Hyack Fire Company – “Hyack” being a Chinook word which meant ‘hurry up”. Up until 1870, the Army had fired the yearly salute to the Queen, but their cannon was no longer available, and the salute was about to be abandoned.

The Hyack Fire Company members, many former Royal Engineers came to the rescue. One of the volunteers recalled having seen gun powder being put between two anvils and fired off. Blacksmith and later Mayor Thomas Ovens, one of the original Hyacks, donated two of his anvils and after many bruises and burns, the experimenters succeeded in perfecting a method of producing controlled explosions. That ceremony has endured to this day as the first Hyack Anvil Battery Salute. This unique 21- anvil firing, the only one of its kind in the world, is performed once a year only, at noon on Victoria Day.

Since 1971, the New Westminster Hyack Festival Association has organized a wide range of major family oriented events and programs to help preserve the city’s history and traditions: and to foster positive community spirit. This year’s theme, “Laugh Out Loud In New west” with the hash tag #LOLInNewWest this theme reflects the rich heritage of our community and its ability to accept challenges, change, be inclusive and have fun.

In partnership with the City of New Westminster, and supported by our many community sponsors and stakeholders, we produce high quality events with both regional and international appeal. Topping the list is the renowned Hyack Festival Week celebrations with a proud 44-year history. Festival Week culminates with the highly recognized Hyack International Parade, a family oriented event which brings together more than 150 entrants, thousands of individual participants and tens of thousands of spectators lining the streets… many from throughout BC and the Pacific Northwest. People come from far and wide. The tourism, marketing and economic benefit to the community and our local businesses for the City of New Westminster reaches into the millions of dollars and the goodwill is immeasurable.

As members of Northwest Festival Hosting Association, our Hyack float travels within the region to participate in community parades including Seattle, Tacoma, Marysville, Wenatchee, and Leavenworth as well as locally, in Cloverdale, Port Moody, Vancouver Santa Claus Parade, and both the Steveston and the Vancouver Canada Day Parades. Our appearances help promote the City of New Westminster to the hundreds of thousands of people who line the parade routes as well as the millions of viewers watching on major Canadian and US television stations. Our Award winning Hyack Float is recognized and featured annually in numerous publications. Another one of our contributions to the City is as organizers of the New Westminster Hyack Ambassador Program. Each year, between six – ten wonderful young ladies learn public speaking, deportment and community representation. They participate in all major civic functions and travel to represent our City and Festival Association in other community parades and festivals.

Hyack Festival is proud to be the recipient of numerous community spirit and volunteer awards including recognition from the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce, various business groups and the newspaper people’s choice awards.. Our Royal City benefits from the international relations development, sharing of best practices and building of community friendships. These help to create vibrant communities and a better world!

In 2015, we celebrate our 44thanniversary! Everyone takes great pride in this accomplishment and we are deeply grateful to each and every one of our thousands of volunteers and participants, without whom, our success could not have been possible. Thank you all! As New Westminster’s premier community event planning organization, we look forward to continuing to work closely with the City of New Westminster and our many sponsors on exciting new opportunities. As the Hyack Festival Association heads towards our 50th anniversary, we strive to grow and increase the visibility of the Hyack Festival Association within the City, across the Lower Mainland and the Pacific Northwest in the true spirit of cooperation and community volunteerism.