Set for Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30, this year’s Sandpiper Festival offers plenty to see and do, with a wide variety of events for all ages. And with the event this year running in conjunction with a regional New Brunswick Day celebration, hosted by the provincial government, there is even more on tap for visitors and residents alike to enjoy.
“It’s going to be a good year,” said Macx MacNichol, a longtime member of the festival’s organizing committee.
MacNichol said the festival is unique in the Maritimes because of its origins of being based around the thousands of sandpipers that migrate to Johnson’s Mills every summer.
“It highlights the migration,” he said. “It’s an event that is built around that, it’s something real. But at the same time, we’ve added some touches of humour in there as well.”
Visitors to the festival can take a shuttle down to Johnson’s Mills, for instance, and take in the glorious sight of the massive flocks of shorebirds fluttering along the beach and “see how unique the birds are,” and then return to the village to have their pictures taken with Shep, a giant sandpiper statue, or ask questions about what’s in the sandpiper chowder.
Saturday is jam-packed with events, starting off with a pancake breakfast at Keillor House from 7:30-10:30 a.m.
Then, anticipated to be one of the highlights of this year’s festival, a new art exhibit, organized by the Dorchester Art Society, will open its doors. MacNichol said the event will feature the work of 13 artists from Southeast New Brunswick, ranging from a stone carver to a photographer to a painter and more.
“It’s a variety, there’s lots of pieces to come and see.”
The exhibit will celebrate the natural beauty and history of the region, with Sackville’s Donna Rawlins Sharpe serving as the featured artist. It will run at the Dorchester Veterans Community Centre on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A fibre arts display at the Anglican Church Hall will get under way at 9 a.m. and will run until 5 p.m., and then again on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Live musical entertainment at the park will get under way starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and running throughout the day, featuring entertainers such as Jim Blewett & the Swingin’ Cats, Dominique Dupuis, the Divorcees and more.
With larger crowds anticipated for the events, MacNichol said the central location for many of the activities this year will be at Richard Park rather than the village square.
A variety of children’s activities will be happening throughout the day, including games, face painting, bouncy castles, and more. Vendors and artisans will also be on hand at the park, displaying their wares.
For visitors wanting to learn more about the semi-palmated sandpipers and other birds in the area, free shuttle tours to the Nature Conservancy Centre will be taking place throughout the day, starting at 11 a.m. at Richard Park.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dorchester’s Masonic Lodge will host an open house. Visitors will learn about the history of the fraternity through artefacts and displays.
The provincially-hosted New Brunswick Day celebration will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. at Richard Park, with a special ceremony welcoming a number of dignitaries, and featuring performances by the Wolastoq Drummers and by Freya Milliken singing ‘Land of New Brunswick/Terre du Nouveau-Brunswick.’ New Brunswick Day cake will also be served. Dorchester was one of four communities chosen by the provincial government to be the site of these early New Brunswick Day celebrations in recognition of Canada 150.
“Everyone is invited to come out to these New Brunswick Day activities,” said MacNichol.
A heritage fair at the Keillor House Museum from noon-4 p.m. will allow visitors to try their hand at traditional skills, talk to artisans, watch demonstrations and shop for artisan products.
Other activities on Saturday include the launch of a walking tour at 3:30 p.m. at Richard Park and a blues concert at Shepody House that night.
Sunday’s events continue with the art exhibit, the fibre arts display, and the shuttle tours to Johnson’s Mills, as well as guided tours at Keillor House and St. James Church Museum.
A ‘Canada 150 Made in Canada’ tea and talk with local historian Cheryl Feindel will take place from 2-4 p.m. at the Veterans Community Centre. Feindel will offer a talk on items throughout history that were invented in Canada.