3 min

Street fair with vision

Davie Village BIA turns brainstorming into a party

Credit: Xtra! West files

It looks like the Davie Village is going to get its street fair, after all. It may be a few weeks late for Pride, but the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA) is throwing its own party Sat Sep 11, and everyone is invited.

Organizers are planning to close Bute St on each side of Davie St from 10 am to 4 pm, erect a stage, ask Bill Monroe to MC, invite performers such as Kim Kuzma (who has already accepted), encourage merchants and restaurants to display their wares on the sidewalk, and generally do their best to foster a festive atmosphere.

But the inaugural Davie Day will be more than just a party, its organizers promise. It will also be an opportunity to think about the Village’s past and re-envision its future.

For the last two years, BIA members have been discussing the future of the Village and brainstorming possibilities for its enhancement. Now, says president Randy Atkinson, it’s time to open that brainstorming up to the general public, and he’s encouraging all Villagers to attend. And he’s particularly interested in involving the gay community.

The gay community is “critical, fundamental” to this re-envisioning process, Atkinson says.

Former city planner and BIA consultant Alan Herbert agrees. The Davie Village is the “capital” of gay Vancouver, he says. “Every single gay individual in the Lower Mainland has a strong stake in the Davie Village,” whether they live in it or not.

Like Atkinson, Herbert is encouraging all gays and lesbians who live in the Village and play in the Village to participate in its re-envisioning-“because this is their heart.”

And the only way to get people to participate in the process is to turn it into a party and “throw it open and make sure everyone is invited,” Atkinson smiles.

How will the organizers share their vision ideas in the middle of a potentially bustling street festival? There will be a special vision tent on the northwest corner of Bute and Davie Sts, event planner Clarke Wright points out. It will be called the Charette tent, named after the old university book chariots which were said to carry ideas.

The tent will host regular presentations throughout the day where Herbert and others will share some of the ideas the BIA has already come up with. But nothing is “set in stone,” Atkinson quickly notes. This is just a vision-sharing exercise, open to community feedback.

After the presentations, organizers want to open the discussion to the crowd. They’re even hoping to bring illustrators in to capture audience suggestions and add them to the BIA’s growing collection.

Some of the ideas already in that collection include: re-introducing dramatic neon signs onto the street (“Flashier? A little more fabulous?” Atkinson asks); widening the Village’s sidewalks; and entrenching the gay community’s history into those sidewalks. That last suggestion is Atkinson’s “pet project,” he smiles. He got the idea from the books engraved near the tree bases at Library Square. Why not “literally entrench our community” here, he asks.

It all comes down to the Davie Village’s unique character and purpose, he continues. What makes the Village unique? “We are a commercial district that is home to the gay community,” he says, adding that he wants to enhance that uniqueness, not blend into the rest of the city.

Davie Villagers do not want “the uniformity of a US mall,” Atkinson emphasizes. They do not want to become another Robson St. They want a village.

And Atkinson wants to give it to them.

He also wants them to know their history. That’s why, in addition to all the other festivities planned, he and his fellow BIAers have invited talespinners to walk around sharing aspects of the Village’s history with the crowd.

Did you know, for example, that the Davie Village is named after BC’s first gay premier? Wright asks. It’s true, he says: The Honourable Alexander Edmund Batson Davie served first as BC’s attorney general from 1883-1887 and then as its premier from 1887-1889. After he died suddenly in office, Davie’s colleagues started a social club here in his honour and successfully petitioned to name the street after him, too.

“It gives me pride as a gay man,” Wright smiles.

Atkinson agrees. “We’ve got some history,” he says. “We’ve got some roots here.”

* The first-ever Davie Day will take place on Davie St, between Burrard and Jervis Sts, with a special emphasis on Bute St (which will be closed for a block on each side of Davie St), Sat Sep 11, from 10 am-4 pm.