5 reasons to love Kitsilano Showboat on its 80th anniversary

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

Kitsilano Showboat opens for its 2015 summer season on Monday (June 22), with 30 nights of free entertainment through to August 15.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the amateur theatre, and there’s good reason to catch a show.

Quite simply, Kitsilano Showboat is one of Vancouver’s most charming summer traditions. Even though I grew up in East Van, my family trekked over to the West side a few times every summer for a picnic dinner leading up to the show.

Later, when I lived in Kitsilano, I would wander down on weekday evenings to catch a few acts. From teenage tap dancers to senior jazz musicians, eight-year-old pop-stars-in-the-making to big bands, there was always something to enjoy.

Here are five reasons why I love Kitsilano showboat–and why you will too.

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

The whole community is on-stage

Kistsilano Showboat was founded in 1935 as a community project and a place where entertainers could display their talents. I love the diversity of people I see on stage: real Vancouverites who dance the tango in their spare time, play the violin in a community orchestra, or sing in the school choir.

It’s always so cute to see the kids who toddle out of dance school and brave stage-fright. It’s also gratifying to watch adults who are still connected to their ethnic heritage through activities like Scottish dancing or Scandinavian folk dancing.

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

The view is spectacular

Even if a particular night’s programming doesn’t interest you, there’s always the view to fall back on. In fact, the setting is a large part of the appeal. The audience sits on risers overlooking the stage, with Kitsilano pool and the ocean directly behind it.

Over the course of the evening, you can watch the lap swimmers taper off in the pool as the sun slowly drops in the sky. Often it’s a blockbuster sunset, with the ocean and mountains as a backdrop.

It’s a nostalgic tradition

Like me, many Vancouverites grew up attending showboat–or performing in it. You come to recognize certain acts over the years, and certain people. Which brings me to…

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

Kitsilano Showboat | Facebook photo

It’s a labour of love

Showboat is run by volunteers — very dedicated ones, at that. For years Bea Leinbach was a familiar facing running the show; her son Barry Leinbach continued her efforts with a similar passion.

“Captain Bea” passed away on October 3, 2014, at the age of 93. But the summer tradition she loved lives on.

It’s free, and easy to come and go

Although volunteers gently solicit donations at several points in the evening, there’s no admission charge to Kitsilano Showboat.

Seating is casual in the bleachers — you can come and go as you please, and stay for as little or as long as you like.

Need a bite? Hop up and get one at the nearby concession. Want to stretch your legs? Take a walk along Kits Beach and then return to enjoy the show.

Kitsilano Showboat runs every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday starting at 7 p.m. Shows are weather permitting; check the website for a performance schedule and the Facebook page for updates.

You can follow Carolyn Ali on Twitter @carolynali.

Is Kitsilano Showboat part of your summer tradition? Leave a comment below.

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4 Responses to 5 reasons to love Kitsilano Showboat on its 80th anniversary

  1. Pat Muckle

    I dance the Scottish flings there in the 50’s & 60’s, by the great dance teacher Ellen Gallagher. wonderful fun and great memories.

  2. Joanne Ogilvie

    Happy 80th Birthday Kitsilano Showboat!
    You are a sweet memory of my childhood. Now my son also will have these sweet memories, I hope that the tradition continues forever!

  3. Elaine Evans

    Did I see “the Beach Boys” here,
    in 1960’s ?

  4. We loved the Kitsilano Showboat,
    and often attended with our Dad,
    William (Bill) Hilton who acted as
    treasurer for many years. A collection
    basket was passed, no pressure, but
    for those who wanted to share some
    change it helped with the otherwise
    free evenings of entertainment.
    Thanks for the memories of this
    wonderful tradition! A Toast to the
    next 80!