The group that runs the Royal Oak Burial Park offers the annual Summer So(u)lstice event this Saturday afternoon for many reasons.
Of course, the chance to visit the burial site of loved ones is one reason.
But many people don’t realize the burial park is a non-profit, community-owned organization. Or that most of the 134-acre site that flows down from the southern tip of the Cordova Bay ridge is hidden from view.
Now in its seventh year, the So(u)lstice event is consistently growing, said Royal Oak Burial Park executive director Stephen Olson.
“It can take a while for people to get their head around the fact So(u)lstice is an event in a cemetery,” Olson said. “We do it in a positive way, you don’t always have to be at a funeral to visit the cemetery.”
The idea is to create a social setting featuring music, poets, history and, naturally, an opportunity to remember departed friends and family, he added.
The afternoon entertainment runs from 1 to 4 p.m., with a focus on history.
Historian, genealogist and longtime newspaper man Dave Obee is launching the second edition of Royal Oak Burial Park: A History and Guide. The book has nearly doubled in size, and Obee will be leading guided tours throughout the afternoon. Obee will have signed copies of the book available.
Acapella women’s choral group Ensemble Laude will hold three performances, with music from the funeral processional Homegoing Brass Band from Vancouver, harpist Gwyneth Evans, and woodwind duo Erin Onyschtschuk and Dominic Thibault.
Yvonne Blomer, Poet Laureate for the City of Victoria, will join the park’s resident poets Wendy Morton and Rhonda Ganz to transform visitor’s memories into poems. The poets will be equipped with cloth handkerchiefs to offer if there are tears.
Burial park staff will also be on hand throughout the day to help visitors locate sites of ancestors.
Visitors can also create unique floral tributes, messages and parchment memory flags.
“I was inspired to create Summer So(u)lstice as a way for the public to remember their dead in a beautiful and friendly social setting, where we can support each other and acknowledge death as a natural part of life,” says local artist Paula Jardine, who initiated the event seven years ago.
The park offers a new Woodlands green burial area, the mausoleum, the new Little Spirits Garden, dedicated to infant loss, and its expansion plans for a new interment area to be added in 2017.
Summer So(u)lstice is free, suitable for all ages, and wheelchair accessible. Light refreshments will be served.
For more information about Summer So(u)lstice or Royal Oak Burial Park visit: www.robp.ca.
The Royal Oak Burial Park board of directors was created in 1922 to develop, operate and maintain the cemetery on behalf of the City of Victoria and the District of Saanich.