Seafest parade watchers saw the energy, the diversity and the precision but very little of those behind the scene that make it all happen.
Devlin Fernandes grew up in Toronto and watched the popular Santa Claus parade and the Pride parade, and also where she volunteered at the Toronto Film Festival and the Fringe Festival. But when she first came to Prince Rupert she was shocked that a city of 14,000 people could host such a large parade.
“Every year I’m so impressed by the number of people who are so excited and they’ve spent weeks thinking up their float idea and weeks decorating it,” she said.
Six years ago when she heard that Prince Rupert Special Events was looking for volunteers, as they always are, she signed up. This year, Fernandes was the parade coordinator and helped out with the waterfront events. She started her volunteer duties on Friday at 3 p.m. and wound things up at 11 p.m. on Sunday.
It’s crazy — she said with a smile — but it’s great. There are early mornings, late nights and some people give the volunteers a difficult time if they are stopped from going through the barricades.
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“There are elements of any activity or any volunteer work that can get tedious but at the end its all worth it. I love the behind the scenes work of making sure all the details are taken care of so that people can come and get to enjoy it,” she said.
When she first moved to the North Coast in 2007 to work with the B.C. Forest Service, she used volunteering as a way to get to know her new community.
“I find here, people are really open and happy to include you if you want to learn or you’re willing to contribute,” she said with her gentle voice and an easy smile.
Devlin Fernandes was the parade coordinator for this year’s Seafest. PHUONG NYUGEN/CONTRIBUTED
Her full time job is at Ecotrust, which works with the fishing industry and aims to connect communities with resources to establish better livelihoods for residents. During university, Fernandes tree-planted in regions across the country to pay for school. She witnessed cedars coming from Haida Gwaii, pine trees from northern Alberta and spruce from northern Ontario and yet mills were shutting down and people weren’t getting processing jobs.
“There just seemed to be a real disconnect to the fact that there’s all this wealth in the resources there and the community is not capturing it,” she said.
She took her Masters in forest conservation at the University of Toronto and then she was drawn back to the beauty of the West Coast.
Her first move to connect with the community was to get involved with the Rainbow Warriors dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors and supporters. Through the team she met other like-minded volunteers and Joy Sundin of the Prince Rupert Special Events Society.
There are four big events a year that the society prepares for and beyond that to add more altruism to her plate, Fernandes joined the library board two years ago to support reading in the community.
“I love libraries. I think they serve such a valuable place in the community and they’re free. You can access information. You have people there that are always there to help you. It’s one of the few places that are warm and dry,” she said.
If you don’t love reading, she said it’s because you haven’t read the right books.
Fernandes is also known for her baking. Whenever there’s a dessert auction or a bake sale she gets calls from her friends. She also bakes for the library auction every year.
For close friends she bakes luxurious wedding cakes as her gift to the bride and groom.
Last year was her biggest year with four cakes. One of the cakes was two-tiered with a gluten-free flour-less top adorned with fresh strawberries and the bottom was a three-layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and cream cheese mousse.
She baked half the cake in Prince Rupert, the other half in Queen Charlotte City and then took it up the dirt road to North Beach for the wedding.
Just another small, but telling, example of the lengths Fernandes will go to bring happiness to others.