Frequently Asked Questions

What is the story of the Powell Street Festival Society?
In 1977, the Japanese Canadian centennial year, the Powell Street Festival was initiated by the Japanese Canadian Volunteers Association (Tonari Gumi). PSF celebrates the history of Japanese Canadians in the area through an event similar to the festivals, or matsuri, of Japan. In the spirit of the neighbourhood, PSF has something for everyone. In addition to being a platform for Japanese Canadian arts performers to showcase their talents, the festival engages the broader community through fun cultural activities, volunteer opportunities, and of course, delicious Japanese food.

How does the celebration of Japanese Canadian arts and culture help the community?
Community is one of Powell Street Festival Society’s five core values. We thrive on and encourage community engagement, collaboration, and accessibility. That is why we offer space to Downtown Eastside Organizations among our community booths at the festival. In addition, The Advocacy and Outreach committee participates in Downtown Eastside community-building efforts all year long, including workshops, free lunches, and artistic collaborations.

What is the difference between the Powell Street Festival Society and the annual Powell Street Festival?
The Powell Street Festival Society’s (PSFS) mission is to cultivate Japanese Canadian arts and culture to connect communities. Our main activity is producing the Powell Street Festival (PSF) in Vancouver’s historic Japanese Canadian neighbourhood, Paueru Gai. PSF is an annual free, two-day celebration of Japanese Canadian arts and culture. However, we also host and support year-round programs, which support the Powell Street area neighbourhood and Downtown Eastside.

What is the significance of Oppenheimer Park/Powell Street?
The Powell Street area was once a vibrant Japanese Canadian community beginning in 1877 when the first groups of Japanese immigrants to Canada started what would eventually become a uniquely Japanese Canadian community around the Hastings Mill and Waterfront in today’s Downtown Eastside. Located on the traditional unceded territories of the Squamish, Musquem, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, the area came to be known as Paueru Gai (or Powell Street Grounds). Oppenheimer Park was at the centre of this hub and was the home base of the famous Japanese Asahi Baseball team.

During the Second World War, Japanese Canadians were interned and had their homes and businesses seized. The Powell Street Festival is a homecoming of sorts for Japanese Canadians to celebrate their rich history in the neighbourhood and is also a chance for people of all backgrounds to become educated and join in the celebration.

What do you do for the rest of the year after the festival ends?
The Powell Street Festival Society partners with and promotes events within the Japanese Canadian community, such as film screenings, literary events, and concerts. Please explore our past programs to get a sense of the types of events and program we host.

Why should I come to the Powell Street Festival?
There is something for everyone at the Powell Street Festival! From live music, theatre, dance, film, participatory installations, and children’s activities, the festival offers FREE fun for people of all ages.

What can I expect at the Powell Street Festival this year?
Details on this year’s Powell Street Festival performers and activities will be unveiled every July.

Why don’t you charge an entry fee? How do you raise money for the Powell Street Festival?
The Powell Street Festival strives to foster inclusivity, therefore it is essential that admission remains free. PSF raises money for the festival via support from donors, funders and sponsors.

How do I become a member of the Powell Street Festival Society?
A lifetime membership to the Powell Street Festival Society costs just $12! Lifetime members can Top-Up their membership each year for an additional $12 and receive discounts at local businesses and on festival merchandise. To become a member, visit the membership page to sign up online, or, download and print out this Membership Form and mail it to us with your membership fee.

If I donate to the Powell Street Festival Society, where does my money go?
PSFS is 97% volunteer run. Your donations go directly into the production of the festival as well as off-season events and initiatives, such as the DTES Community Care Programs, PowellStFest Community Kitchen program, Asahi Tribute Game, and much more. See our 2020 Annual Report for additional details.

Are there any other ways to support the Powell Street Festival Society?
Year round volunteer opportunities are available, including general office, events, graphic design, Programming Committee, Advocacy Committee, Fundraising Committee, and Board of Directors.

When does the festival begin and end each day?
The live in-person festival is typically 11:30 am to 7:00 pm. However, in 2020 and 2021, the PSF pivoted as a result of Covid-19. For 2020, the festival hosted a 5-hour live Telethon. In 2021, the festival is hosted throughout the month of July, with live online and in-person events, as well as on-demand content!

Can I bring my pet?

Dogs are welcome at Oppenheimer Park, but must be kept on leash. We encourage guests bringing pets to the festival to bring water to keep their pets hydrated. Please note that pets (apart from service dogs) are not permitted in festival venues such as the Japanese Language School and Hall, the Vancouver Buddhist Temple, and the Firehall Arts Centre.

How can I perform? Be a merchant? Sell crafts?
Applications for participation open in January and close in March. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated.

Where can I find information about the festival?
Our website is always the best place to find information about the festival. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed about year-round programs and events, as well as festival news.