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The band 54-40. (Globe files/Globe files)
The band 54-40. (Globe files/Globe files)

Vancouver's 125th birthday celebrations announced Add to ...

A 54-40 concert broke out at a Vancouver City Hall news conference Thursday morning.

The venerable Vancouver rock band was on hand to help Mayor Gregor Robertson announce plans for Birthday Live, an all-ages bash to mark the city's 125th birthday that will feature street hockey, art installations, live dance and music performances and a 256-square-foot birthday cake.

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On April 6, Jack Poole Plaza will play host to the first of two major events in the year-long anniversary celebration. (Details for the second - a multi-stage, multi-site summer party in Stanley Park - will be announced in May.)

Launched at the opening of the PuSH International Performing Arts Festival in January, Vancouver 125 will feature dozens of events over the next many months, and showcase the city's deep cultural traditions and diversity, Mr. Robertson said.

Echoing those sentiments was Robert Kerr, producing artistic director for Vancouver 125 civic events.

"It's an opportunity to consider our roots, revel in the present, and imagine what the future might hold," he said.

The festivities will kick off at 2:30 p.m. with a street hockey tournament featuring teams from the city's youth at risk programs. Performances by the percussion ensemble Uzume Taiko, Vancouver-based indie band Bend Sinister, Dene singer/songwriter Leela Gilday, multimedia performance artists and dance troupe mmHoP, and the Vancouver Bach Choir will carry the party on into the evening.

Asked what he was most looking forward to, Mr. Kerr said it was like having to choose between his favourite children. But he admitted he was particularly excited to see Time Drifts - a large-scale video and light installation by Berlin-based artist Philipp Geist - and main-stage headliners 54-40.

Releasing its 13th album, Lost in the City, in April, 54-40 is also celebrating an anniversary this year.

"They've maintained an edge and relevancy for 30 years," said Mr. Kerr. "To experience them in concert is to experience how their songs have touched and continue to touch us."

"We've tried to reflect the different Vancouver experiences," said lead singer Neil Osborne after a short performance for the media. " I Go Blind was written in a sleazy apartment on Commercial Drive. So many of these songs were written and recorded here. We've got a lot of Vancouver stories to tell."

The budget for Vancouver 125 events is about $6-million, said Mr. Robertson. A third of that will come from the federal government, and $1-million from corporate donations. The city will make up the difference.

The Birthday Live official ceremonies will feature leaders of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, as well as local and national dignitaries

As for the very big cake, it will be made by the Vancouver Community College's baking and pastry department, and dished out by VCC students after the Olympic cauldron - "one humongous birthday candle," as Mr. Kerr put it - is lit. The flavour remains a secret.

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