Ready for some fun in Function Junction? 

FUNction Block Party to celebrate locals, raise awareness on Aug. 27

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SEAN ST. DENIS/COURTESY OF ARTS WHISTLER - FRINGE FOCUS  The FUNction Block Party aims to fill the void left by the its predecessor, hosted by Arts Whistler and last held in 2013.
  • Photo by Sean St. Denis/courtesy of Arts Whistler
  • FRINGE FOCUS The FUNction Block Party aims to fill the void left by the its predecessor, hosted by Arts Whistler and last held in 2013.

While Whistler Village continues to welcome record numbers of visitors year after year, this August, the focus will shift back to the fringe.

The FUNction Block Party is tentatively scheduled for Sunday, August 27 in Function Junction.

What can the community expect?

"Lots of animation — we just want the community spirit to run through the veins of these streets," said event organizer Chantelle Dean.

"We want everybody to know that it is a safe place for people to come, bring their bikes, their dogs, their kids, their community spirit, and celebrate the locals that make this place run."

Dean hopes the event will fill the void left by the now-defunct Function Junction Block Party, hosted by Arts Whistler and last held in 2013.

While final details are still being hammered out, the plan is to close Millar Creek Road and fill it with entertainment, a flea market, food truck stations, DIY stations (featuring things like arts and crafts workshops or re-use-it "creation competitions") a beer garden and more.

Organizers are in the process of reaching out to businesses and residents in the area to get unanimous support for the event.

If a full road closure isn't possible, the event will likely take place on a smaller scale, Dean said.

"We also don't want to make it so big that it doesn't take," she said.

"We want to make sure that it has some space to grow for next year and years to come."

Full details and updates will be available at www.fjwhistlerassoc.com.

A comprehensive parking and flagging plan is in the works, but visitors will be encouraged to ride their bikes or walk to Function if possible.

As the neighbourhood transforms from light industrial to a mix of retail and more, the festival will be an opportunity to invite Whistler locals down to see all Function has to offer, said Lance Eymundson, owner of Home Hardware.

"I think that some of the long-term locals are feeling that sort of loss of community in Whistler with everything that's happening, and as much as we all benefit from the tourism and so forth — that's what we're all here for — it's also nice to celebrate the community itself once in awhile," Eymundson said.

"I've been here for a long time and it's interesting to see how Whistler changes, and there's more changes coming. We just want people to recognize the fact that there is still a small local contingent, and we want to celebrate that and get people out and give back to the community that supports us."

But along with celebrating locals, the FUNction Block Party has another goal: establishing a Function Junction Association that will serve the neighbourhood's evolving interests — namely, safety, infrastructure and a long-term vision for Function Junction.

Stakeholders in the area, Dean included, have been pushing for a Function Junction sidewalk strategy since 2013.

"The underlying current of the event is really to establish an association that takes the wants and wishes of the community and helps evolve them in a thoughtful and meaningful and effective manner with the resort partners that need to hear the messages," Dean said.

"The few of us that are on the Function Junction Association now are going to be recruiting new members, we're going to have an awareness vision board so people from the community can actually voice their thoughts and their opinions, their visions for this place, all in one medium here, and really get that dialogue started again."

When the issue of safety in Function Junction was last raised in the wake of the most recent municipal budget in March, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she had spoken with municipal Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey about two projects for the area — a sidewalk initiative and a sub-area planning project that includes Function, Nesters and Mons — both tentatively scheduled for next year.

Though there is no update on either at this point, the community will likely hear more about both throughout the next budget cycle, Wilhelm-Morden said.

But the mayor doesn't necessarily agree that Whistler is losing its sense of localism.

"Not at all," she said. "Just the other day (I was) in the Canada Day parade, for example, and I mean, how local is that? I think we've got a very strong sense of community in this town."

But as the pressures of growth continue to mount, the importance of emphasizing Whistler's local roots has never been greater.

"I believe it's integral for our identity," Dean said. "We're seeing more and more people vacate the area in mass proportions, and from a local standpoint, there's less desire to participate in local events... there's nothing for people to grasp onto anymore.

"I think the more we do for our locals, the more that we preserve the integrity of Whistler, the more heart strings we're going to keep tied into the community here."

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