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Parksville History: film about 1997 sandcastle riot

A lot has changed since the original version of sandcastles on Parksville Beach event was ended by a riot. - Scan of a story in The NEWS
A lot has changed since the original version of sandcastles on Parksville Beach event was ended by a riot.
— image credit: Scan of a story in The NEWS

A 27-year-old former Parksville resident is making a documentary about the notorious 1997 sandcastle riot that changed the event forever.

Jordan Minkoff, a 2004 Ballenas Secondary graduate, said he’s been interested in making a film about the riot for the last three years.

“I can’t find a lot of information about it,” he told The NEWS from Vancouver Thursday. “Just the fact that there’s a story and it’s almost a myth makes it fun.”

According to The NEWS archives from July 1997, a riot broke out that summer at the annual sandcastle festival hosted at Parksville Beach where approximately 1,000 people reportedly rioted, vandalized and looted the downtown core.

Reports said 100 people were arrested, 16 of whom were from Parksville. The festival was canceled after the riot and when a new group formed to re-start the event it was considerably reconfigured as a more family-friendly event over many weeks instead of one hectic weekend.

Minkoff said he is working with an intimate crew consisting of just two others, all of whom stopped in Parksville to start filming during this year’s opening weekend of the reincarnated sandcastle competition (July 12-13).

Minkoff said he’s interviewed four people so far and is looking for people who want to be part of the documentary.

“I’m trying to find, ideally, people who were involved (in the riots),” he said. “I’d like to get all sides — like people who thought it was the craziest night of their life and others who didn’t lose any sleep over it. I want to talk to young dudes boasting about whatever they did that night and contrast it with other people’s stories.”

Minkoff said he moved to Parksville with his parents the year after the riot happened when he was in sixth grade, meaning he’s heard a lot of anecdotes about the night but he was not present.

“I can’t find a lot of information about the riot,” he said, adding he sometimes wonders if it even happened at all. “I’m trying to find out the truth about that night — I want to tell the story and hopefully people have different perspectives and it’s strange and funny and hopefully interesting and weird.”

Minkoff, who now tours  North America with his band Slam Dunk, said ever since he left Parksville nearly a decade ago he’s been intrigued with the sleepy, beach community.

“I lived in Parksville for about six years and when I left I was pretty fascinated with it,” he said.

“It was weird that there was a riot there over sandcastles. It sounded normal when I was there but now that I’ve left it sounds weird — especially when I tell other people about it.”

Minkoff said the whole project is in its infant stages and the direction of the film will depend on how interviewees recall the riot.

“I don’t want to bum anyone out by taking the piss out of the whole event,” he said. “I’ll do the interviews and see what people say — if people look back on it and laugh then I’ll go with that feeling, but if people say it was an awful night then we’ll go with that.”

Minkoff said he has experience making music videos and shorter films but this will be the first feature documentary he’s ever produced.

“I want to do a lot of cinematic, atmospheric stuff and create more of a feeling than what a traditional documentary does,” he said, adding there is a limited budget for the project. “So it might end up being quite strange and weird but hopefully creative.”

If you would like to be interviewed, or have any information or archives from the night of the July 1997 sandcastle riot in Parksville contact Minkoff at 778-686-4973 or e-mail jordanminkoff@gmail.com.

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