It’s that time of the year again, when local residents and visitors alike head out to Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens for the annual Labor Day weekend Artisans’ Festival. This year the dates are Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
For the past 17 years, the Artisans’ Festival has become one of the highlights of the outdoor festival season in the Comox Valley. Bringing together some of the very best artisans, artists and craftspeople in a unique setting makes the festival one of those events that finds its way onto the “bucket-list” calendar.
While the over 24 acres of pathways, ponds and fountains are a draw unto themselves, when you add nearly 80 artisans, a host of musicians playing at different locations, some food and refreshments, the gardens become a destination that will appeal to a variety of interests.
Once visitors pass through the arbor gate, they enter a very different world where shopping for unique treasures becomes an experience. A quick review of the exhibitors’ list reveals that there is something for everyone. From high-quality glass, pottery and jewelry to works of art created out of stone metal and wood, the artisans come from communities just around the corner to up and down Vancouver Island.
In addition to the artisans, there are a number of musicians who help round out the festival experience. From the unique sounds of perennial favorites like Anela Kahaimoe, Bruce and Judy Wing, and David Somers, to the classical guitars of Fred Siliani and Brad Prevadoros. Adding to the list will be the soothing sounds of Tracy Canil who will be wandering the Woodland Gardens playing her flute and new this year will be the lively music of the Scott Lyle Trio. Rounding off the list and back again will be The Great Plains duo featuring Saskia & Darrel, whose folk music will get your toes tapping.
But what is a festival without food so there is even a food court to tempt your palate. From the ever-popular AJs Island Grill to the Red Hot Street Dogs and new this year from Farm to Fire Pizza, whose wood-fired oven adds to the overall experience. Eating in the great outdoors at Woodland Gardens goes far beyond marshmallows on a stick.
With the festival being the focal point of the weekend, visitors are encouraged to take in all that the gardens have to offer. There are quiet pathways that lead through the forest down to the babbling waters of Kitty Coleman Creek or visitors can head off to the labyrinth where they can find a little bit of serenity and harmony. Or just simply take a breather and relax on one of the many driftwood benches that can be found throughout the gardens.
One thing to remember as you take in the gardens is that they are the creation of one man, his family and friends who have tilled the soil, planted thousands of flowers, shrubs and strategically placed fountains and unique garden features so that all can enjoy nature in a more natural setting.
The Woodland Gardens are just a 15-minute drive north of Courtenay off the Old Island Highway. Festival hours are Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for 65+ seniors, $3 for children 5 to 12 and for those under 5 admission is free. For further information about the festival call 250-338-6901 or visit the Woodland Gardens’ website at www.woodlandgardens.ca