Tag Archives: Canada Day
In September 1988 an article written by Joanna MacDonald about a performance by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra appeared in The Vancouver Sun. This might not seem noteworthy or appear to have anything to do with Whistler’s history except that the concert written about took place 1850m above sea level on Blackcomb Mountain.
This was not a typical concert for the VSO, nor was it a typical year. From January to July of 1988 the organization’s growing deficit had halted VSO performances. In July, after creditors had forgiven the deficit and financial assistance was acquired by the symphony, the VSO began a series of outdoor concerts. Their summer performances included concerts at Ambleside, English Bay and Granville Island, but none of these required transporting a $500,000 sound system, a 14-tonne stage and two tonnes of instruments up a mountain.
The weather made the stage on Blackcomb Mountain an interesting venue to perform on. The VSO had though about the implications of wind and low temperatures, but didn’t expect 32 degree heat at the top of the mountain. While the musicians were under cover and didn’t get too hot (despite wearing formal dress) audience members were encouraged to bring hats and sun screens.
Concertgoers on the mountain sat on hay spread around a 1.4-hectare site within an alpine meadow, a ver different arrangement than the Orpheum Theatre, the VSO’s usual venue. According to Nancy Spooner, a VSO spokesman, “One family had the full red and white checkered tablecloth and a wine bucket with glasses. There were families with grandparents and kids, and people were wearing everything from bathing suits to hiking gear. Some people even brought up some mountain bikes and went riding before the concert.” 5,238 people were recorded as attending the performance.
The VSO continued to perform annually on top of the mountain, first on Blackcomb Mountain and then switching to Whistler Mountain. In 1998 their concert on Whistler was postponed as the mountain was closed for the summer due to the construction of the new Roundhouse Lodge. This postponement lasted fourteen years.
In 2012, after an absence of over a decade, the VSO returned to perform in Whistler. Instead of the top of a mountain, performances took place in Olympic Plaza over a weekend in late July. In 2014 the VSO began performances on Canada Day and announced the creation of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute at Whistler, both of which have continued each summer.
Unlike the first performance in 1988, today’s VSO performances in Whistler are not held in an alpine meadow and the audience does not pay to attend. In other ways, however, the concerts are still very similar. The VSO still attracts of crowd of thousands and a mix of visitors and residents. Groups still bring picnics, families attend with kids and grandparents, people wear bathing suits and hiking gear, and quite a few people look like they just got off their bikes.
Canada Day was an absolute blast in the village and at the museum!
This year, the theme for the parade was Earth, Wind Fire and Water. In true museum style, we decided to attack the parade theme by blending it with a little bit of history. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the PGE Railway to Whistler; thus, we decided to build a cardboard train as our float. Oh sure, no problem, a cardboard train to fit five humans, no big deal! Not quite. Original design flaws and general limitations made for an intensive week of construction. Alas, we prevailed and our tireless efforts certainly paid off after seeing the enthusiasm from children and adults alike.
The Canada Day parade was also a great opportunity for us to talk about the actual PGE (Pacific Great Eastern) Railway, which is a remarkable piece of Whistler’s history. As you could imagine, it was no easy feat traveling to Whistler over 100 years ago before the train. In fact, before the railway laid its tracks to Whistler, it would take three days–two of which on foot–to make the trip from Vancouver.
This three-day journey consisted of taking a steamship from Vancouver to Squamish, followed by a horse-drawn buggy a few miles north to Brackendale, until finally renting packhorses and walking the rest of the way along the Pemberton Trail. Let’s just say the population of Whistler (known as Alta Lake at the time) was much, much smaller then.
Cue the PGE Railway in triumph! Backed by the provincial government, the PGE was underway in 1912. Contractors Foley, Welsh & Stewart were hired to build the track from Squamish to Prince George. A ribbon of land 100 feet wide plus 15 feet for sidetrack was cleared. The PGE was open and running by October 11, 1914, making Whistler much more accessible.
A very interesting thing to note about the PGE is its inapt acronym. The railway could not really be considered pacific, great, or eastern. This baffling cipher allowed the company to acquire many unofficial names, such as Please Go Easy, Past God’s Endurance and Prince George Eventually.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the PGE Railway to Whistler, Sarah Drewery (Executive Director) will continue featuring stories of the train in her weekly Question Newspaper article throughout the year. Stay tuned!
We at the Museum take the Canada Day Parade seriously. Last year, we won a prize for ‘Best Interpretation of Parade Theme’, and this year we were thinking further along the interpretive theme. We spent several weeks trying to brainstorm a costume that would integrate this year’s theme, ‘Celebrating Whistler’s Multiculturalism’, and a historical theme to represent the Museum.
Last year our entry was popular due to some borderline nudity, which garnered laughs from the crowd. (Read about last year’s entry here)
After much thought, we decided that our multiculturalism is thanks in large part to the many visitors we have in Whistler each year. All of those visitors send their memories of Whistler home via postcards. So we collected a few postcards from our collection, as well as some we created specifically, and turned them into giant postcard costumes. That’s right; we dressed up as giant postcards.
Just dressing up as giant postcards didn’t seem to convey the message we were going for – what we needed was a globe to create a strong visual of postcards circling around the world. As we didn’t have a globe on hand, we had to figure out how to make one. Most of us had done some paper mache projects as kids, but the idea of making a giant paper mache wear-able globe was somewhat daunting. We quickly nominated Jeff to wear the globe. We figured he would be keen to wear a giant orb without being able to use his arms for an hour (he was the only staff member who wasn’t at work that day).
As we’re a pretty small organization, we needed volunteers to bolster the ranks of our staff. Fortunately we had a little help from Allyn’s family (thanks to Verity, Jennifer, and Alison) and our lovely volunteers Nadia and Kris. We handed out postcards to the enthusiastic crowd, so that they could continue to share memories of Whistler around the globe. As it turns out, anything free goes over pretty well at parades. We managed to hand out hundreds of postcards! (For some photos of the parade in action, as well as a shot of a couple of postcards, check out this post on Whistler is Awesome).
We were disappointed that we didn’t win a prize in the parade this year, but congratulations to all those who did. Watch out for the museum’s entry next year – we’re sure to be a heavy weight contender for a prize!
A big thank you as well to In Biz Signs in Squamish, who helped with the postcard costumes!
Here’s how we made the globe:
1. We wired and taped three large hula hoops together (which we fortunately had sitting around from our events last summer.
2. We wrapped the hula hoops in chicken wire. We didn’t cover one section so we’d have a space for the globe’s legs.
3. We wrapped the chicken wire in plastic to fill in some of the holes.
4. We cut a hole in the top for the head.
5. We tried it on and adjusted any wires that poked through.
6. We shredded copies of The Question, The Pique, and old village maps.
7. We paper mached using a classic flour and water mixture. When it dried, the paper mache shrank a little bit, so the globe was not quite the round shape we’d envisioned.
8. We did a final layer of paper mache using toilet paper. We thought this would make a nice texture and would make the globe easier to paint. It absorbed so much water that it almost ruined the project. It did look cool, but to work properly it would be better to have the project hanging, or somewhere where the water couldn’t pool.
9. We spray painted the whole thing blue.
10. We tried our best to draw on the continents using chalk. It was difficult to get it accurate, but we were happy with the result.
11. We painted in the continents using tempera paint, and outlined them in white to make them pop.
12. We painted over the tempera with gloss to make it water resistant, and inserted little laminated flags into the globe with toothpicks.
13. Jeff rocked the globe costume at the Canada Day Parade!
We’ve been extremely busy at the museum of late, preparing for a number of events and new projects. We were especially excited for this year’s Canada Day Parade, a Whistler mid-summer staple. After some enthusiastic brainstorming, ever-changing plans, and frantic, last-minute costume gathering, we were able to put together what we thought was a pretty strong entry.
The theme for the parade, “Celebrating Whistler’s Vibrancy, Lifestyle and Achievements,” was perfectly suited for the museum. In our interpretation of the theme, we dressed up as a disparate cast of characters representing as many of the Whistler Valley’s different eras as we could. The approach was summed up by the banner “100 Years of Dreams,” which is also the title of a major festival occurring this August to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Myrtle and Alex Philip’s fateful first visit to Alta Lake.
Our motley crew consisted of Alex and Myrtle Philip from the 1910s (Don and Isobel Maclaurin), a (rather fashionable) trapper from the 1920s (Alix), a mountaineer from the 1930s (Jeff), a car from the 1950s (the MacLaurin’s beautiful 1953 MG convertible), a ski-area developer/business dude from the 1960s (Brad), a pseudo-nude Toad Hall frolicker from the 1970s (Sarah), a retro ski bunny from the 1980s/90s (Anna), and an Olympic torch runner from 2010 (Bridget).
The parade featured loads of great entries from local businesses and clubs, so we were excited and honoured to find out that the Museum was awarded “Best Interpretation of the Parade’s Theme”!
Sarah’s costume certainly got the most reaction from the crowd. From the front of our group I could hear a steady progression of people’s laughter–and sometimes shocked reactions–as we made our way along the route. We especially enjoyed a comment from a local fireman that was a little too PG-13 (though good-natured) to print here.
An unexpected highlight that not many parade viewers were privy to occurred at the very start of our route. The marching band was right in front of us, and had been playing some catchy renditions of pop classics like Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny.”
But just as the parade crossed Blackcomb Way and headed into the Library’s underground parking, they broke into a full-on cover of “Paint it Black.” The heavy reverb, especially from the drums and brass section, was out of this world. This marching band was metal! Our resident noise-nerd Brad described it as some of the coolest sound he had ever heard. Needless to say, we were pretty pumped by the time we returned above-ground to be welcomed by the crowds on Main Street.
Some added flare in my climbing outfit was my personal highlight. As a mountaineering history buff, I’ve dressed up like this before for costume parties and other events. This time, however, I had the added bonus of some authentic props. Little did I know that Don, a retired forester, was an active mountaineer as far back as the 1950s. He leant me his original ice axe and climbing pack, both now more than fifty years old! Thanks Don!
All in all we had a great time, and can’t wait to defend our title next year. Thanks to everyone who came out to cheer us on, and a special thanks goes to Don and Isobel MacLaurin for contributing their beautiful car, some great props, and, most of all, themselves! Happy Canada Day!