Fans of the hit ABC TV show Once Upon A Time are already flocking in for Creation Entertainment’s three-day official convention in Vancouver this weekend (March 16 - 18, 2018). But many of them will also find time for an emotional side trip to Richmond’s waterfront Steveston Village.
Filming a Season 6 scene on Moncton Street | Photo credit: Tourism Richmond
As die-hard devotees of Emma Swan, Regina Mills and Rumplestiltskin know, the show’s first six seasons traced the lives of fairytale characters in the “real world” town of Storybrooke – with Steveston doubling as the filming location for the fictional Maine community.
But although the action has shifted to Seattle (still played by Vancouver-area locations) for the show’s seventh and final season, many fans – they’re known as “Oncers” – still see Steveston as the true heart of the story. And with the concluding episodes now in production, the Richmond destination is about to step into the spotlight again – in more ways than one.
Dark Swan Latte at Village Books & Coffee House | Photo credit: Tourism Richmond
“The fans are extremely loyal,” says Visitor Services and Engagement Manager Lori Gelz at the Tourism Richmond Visitor Centre, housed in a gabled Moncton Street heritage building that doubles as Storybrooke’s Post Office. “They’ll be flying in for the convention from around the world and across North America – and we’ll be very excited to see them all.”
The Oncers will wander Steveston’s key Storybrooke sights – 21 are plotted on a walking map available from the Visitor Centre – snapping their selfies at Steveston Coffee Co. (aka Storybrooke Coffee Co.), Romania Country Bread (or Storybrooke Country Bread) and the Nikka Fishing Marine building, which has a handsome CGI-added clock tower when it appears onscreen.
Granny's Diner, a.k.a. the Cannery Cafe Seafood House | Photo credit: Tourism Richmond
Many will also linger over the Visitor Centre’s official merchandise. Gelz says they’re offering great specials for fans until March 31, including Evil Queen Mirror Pins for $19.99 (regular price $64.99) and logo messenger bags for $39.99 (regular $64.99). There will also be free posters for those with their convention IDs or etickets, while stocks last.
Sweet-tooth Oncers will also drop into the nearby Candy Dish store. Among its kaleidoscopic array of colourful treats are lots of tempting Storybrooke-related goodies. Top-sellers include Snow White fudge and Evil Queen chocolate apples.
“We created these treats for a bit of fun,” says Ed Whitby, who co-owns the store with wife Shirley Hartwell, who has also added signed photos from some of the show’s stars to her store’s display. “People really love this show and the fans have been great for Steveston – you sometimes see them walking around in costume. One fan even moved here permanently,” Whitby adds.
Discover delicious Once Upon a Time themed treats at the Candy Dish | Photo credit: Tourism Richmond
Final curtain call
Some of the most dedicated Oncers may even fly in twice this month. Although the show’s concluding season has so far been set in Seattle and filmed in the Vancouver area, fans have long expressed a desire to see the epic tale return to its Storybrooke/Steveston roots. Their wish, it seems, may have been granted.
“We’ve heard a rumour they’ll be coming back to Steveston to film for the series finale,” says Gelz. “We think it will be sometime between March 21 and April 2 but we will announce the exact dates on our Real Storybrooke Facebook page as soon as we’re sure – we know fans will want to book flights and come and see the final filming.”
But the end of the popular show, which has been running since 2011 and has been screened in more than 150 countries, isn’t the end of Steveston’s Once Upon A Time fairytale, according to Gelz. “It’s been remarkable for us. And it’s exposed the village to a much wider audience. We know that many of these people will keep coming back here long after the show ends.”
Moncton Street at the end of a Season 6 film day | Photo credit: Tourism Richmond