Estonians near and far to gather in Whistler this summer 

Summer 2015 gets another event after busiest summer on record last year

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WWW.LEP2015.COM - european flair Estonian dancers, dressed in traditional garb, pose by the rings at Whistler Olympic Plaza. More than 100 performers will gather in Whistler this summer.
  • Photo courtesy of www.lep2015.com
  • european flair Estonian dancers, dressed in traditional garb, pose by the rings at Whistler Olympic Plaza. More than 100 performers will gather in Whistler this summer.

Whistler's summer lineup of events is getting an injection of Northern European flair in 2015 with the West Coast Estonian Days festival.

This is not a typical Whistler event.

For five days, from August 5 to 9, Whistler will showcase a little taste of the small country with its 1.3 million people nestled by the Baltic Sea — dancing, music, traditional dress and food and more.

More than 1,000 people will attend, filling up more than 1,100 room nights.

And one of its organizers, who lives in Whistler, said it could be a prototype for more festivals of its kind, urging council to look at the possibilities.

"This is a model for a new direction perhaps for Whistler," said Harry Jaako, the vice chairman of the festival's executive committee while presenting to council at its Jan. 27 meeting.

"This is the type of thing that I would encourage you to have a look at."

He asked council to not only endorse the festival, but also asked for the chance to work with the municipality's Festivals, Events & Animation department for help with banners, busking regulations and ways to entice the public to join in.

Jaako explained this is the oldest Estonian Festival outside of Estonia, dating back to 1953. It rotates every two years between San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. This year is Vancouver's year to host and Whistler has been chosen as the host venue.

More than 100 performers will be in the resort — opera singers, ballet and folk dancers, bands, ensembles and more.

The festival draws people from around the world. The bulk of the attendees, however, come from the west coast of North America.

"These are people coming to a destination cultural festival," said Jaako, who gave each council member a small loaf of traditional Estonian rye bread, baked by his wife Barb from starter that came from the presidential palace.

The West Coast Estonian Days festival will fall at the same time as the opening weekend of Crankworx amid a busy summer events schedule. Last summer was the busiest summer on record in Whistler.

"We will have staff put this through the usual review and someone will be in touch shortly," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

Jaako said he has been working informally with staff for the past year, and was looking forward to further conversations in light of his formal request for assistance.

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