Grooving to the big, soulful sounds of the Kirby Sewell Band and the jubilant gospel tunes of Ruthie Foster during Nanaimo’s Summertime Blues Festival will certainly put you in the mood to explore more of Nanaimo, its neighbourhoods and backyard.
There’s a reason people from all over the Pacific Northwest and even as far as New Mexico come for the four-day festival held in Maffeo Sutton Park – this year from Aug. 24 to 27.
The golden days of late summer are ripe for exploring the bounty of farmer’s markets or honey farms, and enjoying down time on a patio at a local restaurants or café, which can also mean stumbling upon a slice of the local music scene.
Coffee and the blues just seem to go together like ice cream and summer days. Head to Buzz Coffee House, an open and airy space where you can chill out over an Americano or latte made with beans from B.C. roasters Moja Coffee. The café also serves breakfast sandwiches and snacks, smoothies, and non-caffeinated beverages. If you time it right, you could end up enjoying some live music; the café regularly brings in indie bands from around B.C. and across Canada.
Perhaps one of the weekend’s musicians has inspired you to pick up that guitar again? Then you should check out Arbutus Music to shop for your next Fender or Gibson, or even a mandolin. The shop and staff specialize in selling consignment and vintage instruments. They also regularly hold music workshops and offer lessons for people of all ages.
Before the bands hit the stage on Sunday afternoon, head to Cedars Farmers’ Market on Yellow Point Road, just minutes from Nanaimo. You’ll find more than 70 vendors selling hand-made and locally grown goodies on a grassy expanse, next to one of Nanaimo’s most beloved pubs (a great place for lunch). Stock up on everything from honey to hand soap and fresh produce harvested in and around Nanaimo. Fittingly, there’s always a live band or solo musician serenading shoppers.
Walk across the lawn from the market and over to one of Vancouver Island’s favourite, family-owned neighbourhood English pubs. (It was actually B.C.’s first neighbourhood pub, after the government changed bar laws in the early ’70s.) Enjoy lunch in a pretty park-like setting at a picnic table or inside the authentic post-and-brick Tudor-styled structure, built by John Nash, originally from Sussex, England. You’ll be surrounded by authentic pub memorabilia while enjoying what the Crow & Gate is famed for – generous and delicious portions of classic pub grub with a West Coast flare. Be sure to sample one of the seasonal pours on tap – often from Vancouver Island craft brewers.
While at the Cedar Farmers’ Market, you may have crossed paths with the products of Frederich’s Honey. Why not go right to the source with a visit to Fredrich’s Honey – a real working bee operation. It’s just down the road from the market. You might catch one of the beekeeping owners harvesting honey, or discover some cool new honey-based products.