About Ladner Bandfest
In the winter of 2004, the idea of an event was put into motion. What if there was a festival of bands organized that invited adult community bands to an afternoon of music performed outdoors in the park and accessible to the public and participating musicians?
Curt Jantzen, conductor of Delta Music Makers, saw his vision start to take form and with his contacts in the music community around the Lower Mainland, he was able to assemble a group of musicians and volunteers who shared in the excitement of this new event. He then teamed up with Brian Ellis, bass clarinetist with Delta Music Makers, to arrange a meeting with Delta's Mayor, Lois Jackson, and 'pitch' the idea. They received wholehearted support and it was agreed to do a trial run in June 2004 with three bands - Delta Music Makers, Richmond Legion Band, and Park City Band.
June 12, 2005 was the inaugural Ladner Bandfest with eight bands playing on two stages on the Sunday afternoon. Word spread and in 2006, the Bandfest had eleven bands vying for a spot.
2007 was a landmark year – 17 bands applied to perform at the Bandfest and the committee was faced with the decision to expand to a two day format. This was accomplished with cooperation of Delta Parks and Recreation allowing us to keep stages and equipment on site overnight and host all 17 bands over two days. In spite of inclement weather on the Saturday, all bands turned up and played.
2008 saw the enrolment drop back to 11 bands and as a result, Sunday was the only performance date. The highlight of this event was the brand new mobile Showstage provided by the Corporation of the City of Delta. The crew from the city had to turn up very early that morning, as they had never assembled the mobile stage in its full format prior to our event!
The Fifth Ladner Bandfest came back strong in 2009. Twenty bands registered for the two day format, including Nanaimo Concert Band from Vancouver Island and Orcas Island Community Band from Washington State. We were also honoured to welcome Dal Richards to the podium to speak to us about community music and lead two bands as a guest conductor.
Since that year the Bandfest has hosted 20 – 21 bands during the two day event. Although not all bands can come for every Bandfest, 3 bands have managed to attend every year and 13 bands have played 5 times or more. These bands are drawn from a pool of 32 bands that have played over the years. It has proven popular with amateur musicians everywhere because it is the only place where the bands can hear each other. A community band, by definition, performs in its own area, so it is rare that two or more groups come together. Although the bands don’t play together, many members play in more than one band and you may notice these musicians becoming “quick-change” artists as they change uniforms (and sometimes instruments) as they dash from one stage to the next.
In 2015 we enjoyed our biggest year! Record crowds enjoyed 24 great performances, including the world famous Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy.
The year 2016 brought new challenges as Kinhouse, which was our green room and instrument storage from year one, was demolished to make way for construction of the organization REACH’s new building. We were able to use the grounds, but had to reorient ourselves as we shifted the show stage location and used a high school portable as well as the adjoining library space for our green rooms and secure instrument storage. The show carried on and once again the final band on Sunday was Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy. There was an exceptionally large crowd on a very hot afternoon.
More surprises in 2017 as the drainage upgrades at Memorial Park combined with a renewed adjoining water park meant the entire park was not available for Ladner Bandfest. The City of Delta went out of their way to find a workable location and the 13th Annual Ladner Bandfest took place in front of City Hall. One stage was right at the entrance to the building and the show stage erected on the walkway entrance in front. The nearby recreation centre and swimming pool shared a meeting room where the green room and secure storage was set up. A few wet feet as some managed changing or walking through the swimmers change rooms, but outside access to stroll across a park area beside a duck pond took the musicians to the stage area. Not ideal, but everyone was understanding and another successful weekend of music took place.
The year 2018 took us back to Memorial Park where we accessed space at the REACH building for use as a green room, secure storage and change area. After some glitches we decided to approach 2019 differently and go across the street to the community centre where a large room became the green room. The area was spacious and although across the street most musicians were able to manage. We had 20 bands that year and felt we were able to manage comfortably with the new set up.
Of course 2020 went ahead as far as registration of bands, forming a schedule, organizing space, stages, tents, sponsors, etc. and then everything came to a halt with what no one anticipated … the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everything went on hold then for 2020 as well as 2021. Those bands scheduled for 2020 had their spaces held for whenever Ladner Bandfest could return.