English Bay Beach, also called First Beach, located along Beach Ave between Gilford St and Bidwell St, is the most populated beach area in Vancouver's downtown area. The Stanley Park Seawall, a popular running and biking route, runs along the east side of the beach.
Hugely popular during summer months, English Bay Beach is host to a number of public events. The Celebration of Light is a fireworks competition that is held for two weeks every summer (usually the last week in July and first week in August). While this competition often struggles to secure funding, it has successfully run since 1997 and is the largest off-shore fireworks display in the world. Each winter it is the host of Vancouvers' annual Polar Bear Swim and each summer the Vancouver Pride Parade and Festival is held on English Bay Beach.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, English Bay Beach was home to Vancouver's first official lifeguard, the legendary Joe Fortes, who taught hundreds of the city's early residents how to swim, and patrolled the beach from his cabin on its shore. Today, the waters of the bay are often dotted with hundreds of small pleasure boats, as well as huge freighters waiting at anchor to load cargoes at Vancouver's port.
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