Squamish Soccer Fest is back.
After two long pandemic years without it, the adult soccer tournament, which typically takes place April of every year, is making a celebrated return.
The Squamish Soccer Association event is set to welcome 67 teams to Brennan Park fields on April 9 and 10.
"The people want to go back to play and want to go to tournaments,” said the association's Jose Oreamuno on being pleasantly surprised at the number of teams signed up.
Pre-pandemic, the event drew about 70 teams, but this year's number shows folks are ready to get back to the game and tournaments they love, he added.
COVID-19 protocols will be in place, though Oreamuno said he was happy to say the handshake will be back.
And new teams are joining the fray.
"They are coming from North Vancouver from Richmond, from the Sunshine Coast.. and we have three teams coming from Kamloops. So we are quite happy," he said.
The weekend is a boon for the local economy, he said, noting that players come and stay and spend locally.
The association has learned to give local fast-food restaurants a heads up about the festival because so many visitors hit them up that one year there was a shortage, Oreamuno said with a laugh.
One team said they might not be able to come because they couldn't find anywhere to stay, but now they are going to be camping, he said.
The association has put on the festival for 15 years and Oreamuno says he hopes it gets back to being the family-focused event it has been.
At its height, there could be 1,500 people on the fields, he recalled.
"There are teams that just played, teams that are going to be playing and families and kids — and so it's a big community event."
He said he noticed more adults coming to play without their families in years past, but he would like to reverse that to see it be a family-focused event.
Ideally, he would like Squamish youth soccer to be involved with activities for kids.
"And then that way, when the parents come here to play soccer, the kids have something to do as well," he said. "The whole idea of soccer is, it's a family thing."
He noted that with Soccer Fest, the association is able to build up funds — through registration fees, beer garden profits and concession revenue — to undertake soccer-related community projects.
The turf field, he noted, was funded by the festival.
It won't be easy, but he said there is a chance to fund a second turf field.
The Squamish Lions Club is going to run the concession this year.
As usual, there's a dress-up competition in the beer garden. The prize is 50% off next year's registration.
Games start at 8:30 a.m. on both days and go until about 5 p.m.
Organizers could really use some help setting up for the festival Friday and taking everything down on Sunday. Friday, meet at 4:30 p.m. at the Brennan Park fields to lend a hand.
Find more details at the Squamish Soccer Fest Facebook page.