Caribbean Fest moving to Albion Fairgrounds

Two-day event draws thousands, needs more space and more parking

Caribbean Fest is moving from downtown to Albion flats.

Caribbean Fest is moving from downtown to Albion flats.

The 15th annual Caribbean Festival will have a new home this year.

The Albion Fairgrounds will host to the two-day event, Aug. 1-2, taking its estimated 15,000 visitors out of Memorial Peace Park and the downtown core.

Deddy Geese, organizer of the event, said the festival has outgrown Memorial Peace Park, citing a lack of parking and difficulty accommodating the growing number of vendors who want to attend the event.

“With the ongoing development of downtown, we lost pretty much all of our available parking over the last few years. The logistics were getting too difficult,” said Geese.

In past years, the festival used both the former Target parking lot and spaces now being used by Club 16.

“So, really, there’s a spot in the middle of downtown and you have no parking available and we can’t get our vendors in their, logistically.”

Geese is not concerned about the festival’s continued viability now that it’s leaving the downtown.

Festival organizers discussed concerns with the city, but Geese understands there was little that could be done.

Ineke Boekhorst, executive director of the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association, is sad to see the Caribbean Festival relocate.

“For the businesses downtown, it’s going to be a big shock not having the Caribbean Festival there for two days.”

Boekhorst had been involved with the Caribbean Festival since its inception, but because of her role with the BIA, had to step aside this year. She understands parking is an issue for some festival goers, who like to find a spot as close to the venue as possible, but a recent study shows Maple Ridge has about 6,000 spaces available in its downtown.

“The problem is people want to park right there, at the festival, and that gets a little complicated,” said Boekhorst. “So, really, the parking issue is really a consumer issue.”

She said the BIA is working on new events to help offset the loss of the Caribbean Festival.

Geese said Albion has ample parking only minutes from the event’s two main stages and enough room for the 60 to 70 street vendors expected at this year’s show.

Geese also confirmed a TransLink bus will operate on both days of the festival, running every two hours from  8 a.m. to 7 p.m. from the downtown station to Planet Ice.

He also said recent events at the fairgrounds, such as the Renaissance Festival, also encouraged RV parking, something he thinks will appeal to people attending the Caribbean Festival.

“The infrastructure is just so much better.”