WATCH: Victoria festival guru and pumpkin art creator John Vickers is leaving town. Tess van Straaten reports.
After almost three decades on the west coast, Victoria festival king John Vickers is packing up and moving on.
“I’m very excited about the Toronto opportunity and life goes forward,” says Vickers, who is moving to Ontario this week.
Vickers says he received a once-in-a-lifetime job offer that he just couldn’t turn down.
“Behind the scenes, I’ve had a 30-year career in electronic security industry and I’ve been extended a national opportunity in Toronto and I thought the timing was great,” Vickers says.
Vickers was the driving force behind three popular festivals. He started the Victoria International Buskers Festival in 2011, bringing thousands of people to the B.C. capital before the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) launched its own festival this year, shutting Vickers out.
Vickers also created the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival, which saw colourful creations on downtown pavements for five years, and the Victoria International Kite Festival, which ran for three years.
“All of these events were free and accessible to all economic backgrounds in the community,” says Vickers. “It’s been such a pleasure over the years to do the events and I feel like I’ve come to know an awful lot of people,”
Vickers is perhaps most famous for Pumpkin Art, which he started 20 years ago. It’s since grown into a massive Halloween display, with hundreds of unique carvings, at Oak Bay Municipal Hall.
“It’s hugely popular and the community loves the event so we see people come back year after year as well as new faces every year,” says Heather Leary of the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association, which runs the event. “He’s really created a huge legacy.”
But Vickers, who chaired the Amalgamation Yes campaign, has also been a very outspoken critic of local government.
“Someone said to me the other day, for a guy who lives downtown in an apartment with his dog, you’ve sure caused some ripples in Victoria!” Vickers laughs. “There have definitely been ups and downs.”
Vickers says it was the busker festival blow that made him more open to the new job offer.
And while the Chalk Art Festival is no more, a new chalk art event will take place at Uptown Mall in Saanich at the end of August.
Vickers is now hoping someone will step up to take over the Kite Festival so it can continue and Pumpkin Art will live on, thanks to the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association ? a lasting legacy that Vickers hopes will inspire others.