Tag Archives: Expo Ernie

Expo 86 – Putting BC on the Map

Expo 86 is widely credited as turning Vancouver from a sleepy regional city into the international destination that is it today, while also increasing the awareness of surrounding areas including Whistler and Victoria.

Expo 86 was a big deal throughout BC. Here Expo Ernie, the Expo astronaut mascot, is being paraded through Whistler in March 1984. Whistler Question Collection.

In 1986, Vancouver threw a party and the world accepted the invite. The 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication, usually just called Expo 86, ran from May to October and had a visitation of over 22 million people, far exceeding original estimates. Many hopes for the region were pinned on Expo, which also far exceeded its initial budget. Full colour brochures were distributed extensively to encourage Expo visitors to travel to Whistler. According to the Whistler Question ahead of the opening of Expo on May 3 1986, the brochures were to be as ‘ubiquitous as the Gideon bible in Lower Mainland hotels and information centres this summer.’

Telemark Skiers, Luise and Pascal, and the Whistler Singers, during a performance of Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow during Expo 86. Expo 86 Collection.

World Expo is a long-running exhibition designed to highlight global achievements. Over 40 nations from around the world descended on Vancouver with their pavilions centred around the theme of transportation and communication.

Opening week of Expo saw over 55,000 people join the celebration in Vancouver, including hundreds of Whistlerites, and special guests the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana. In the first week a group of talented Whistler locals, including the Whistler Singers, performed Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow, a song, dance and comedy production created for Expo and performed in the BC Pavilion. They had previously performed the witty well-orchestrated theatre piece for the community at Rainbow Theatre in the lead up to Expo, finishing with a standing ovation.

Sandy Boyd, the ‘downhill comedian’ in Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow. Expo 86 Collection.

Despite the visitors flocking to Vancouver, Whistler did not initially receive the influx of guests that it had anticipated. At the beginning of July, two months into Expo, visitor numbers were down for Whistler when compared to May/June 1985. At this time, summers were already quiet, and this was not the world-stage premiere that Whistler had been hoping for. Additionally, visitors who booked accommodation in Whistler expecting to commute to Expo daily were often sadly mistaken, wiping their brows as they arrived after the long and windy drive. However, the nice weather eventually arrived and visitation picked up with August and September becoming the busiest summer months yet for Whistler.

While the visitor numbers were not dramatically different, the Expo in Vancouver brought a different clientele. The usual visitors from the Lower Mainland enjoyed the Expo atmosphere, playing host and tourist closer to home, while the guests visiting Whistler over the summer were coming from further away and staying longer. Traffic from the USA in particular increased. Studies commissioned at the time found that awareness of BC had increased more than 60% amongst people in California due to Expo.

Additionally, having Expo in Vancouver was pushing lots of conventions to Whistler because there was more accommodation. The Convention Centre had finally opened in June 1985 and many conferences made Whistler their home for the first time in 1986, including the Social Credit Party Leadership Convention, spreading the word throughout a population who might not otherwise visit.

The finale of Whistler – Let the Spirit Grow in the BC Pavilion, May 7 1986. Expo 86 Collection.

According to Drew Meredith, who became mayor in 1986 after Expo ended, until this time when people heard ‘Whistler’ they thought of pot-smoking hippies and a ski resort. Expo 86 changed that. “You had to get the right people and get the right message out, and I think Expo 86 did that. Expo was such a huge showcase of BC in the summertime. It was all killer whales, forests, mountains, and waterfalls. It was an amazing advertising campaign around the world.” Whistler went on to host another big party, the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2010, and today visitors come from all around the world in both summer and winter.

This Week in Photos: March 15

Not all weeks in the Whistler Question Collection have similar coverage.  Some weeks include only a handful of photos while others have hundreds.  For the most part, larger events mean more photos.

In March 1984 Whistler hosted its second successful World Cup Downhill.  This week in 1984 includes over 600 photographs –  though we’ve only included five in this post, all can be viewed here.

1980

89-year old Myrtle Philip cuts her birthday cake at her party.

The site of the Mountain Inn in the town centre showing the forms waiting for the work to start again.

MAN, DOG & MOUNTAIN – Patroller Bruce Watt with his rescue dog Radar at the top of Whistler.

1981

A year later – Myrtle Philip just before her 90th birthday.

More Sunshine shots – the Whistler Village businesses enjoy the outdoor crowds on yet another sunny weekend. Tapley’s…

… Stoney’s…

… and Russell’s.

1982

Kids are put through the hoops at Blackcomb Mountain ‘Kids Kamp’.

Ministry of Transport employee surveys traffic flow March 13 to help determine parking needs in Whistler.

Winners’ ribbons light up (L to R) Michael Hofmann, Laura Armstrong and Aaron Gross at the cake-decorating contest, one of the many carnival festivities at Myrtle Philip School Friday, March 12.

No, it’s not a tug-of-war – students at Myrtle Philip School team up to take John Crewman for a real ride during the dog-sled event during the winter carnival.

Another sunny weekend on the patio of Stoney’s.

Taking a break, and enjoying the spring air. Umberto Menghi still has a smile despite having one leg shackled in a cast. Umberto broke his leg while skiing.

1983

Megan Armstrong, Jim Parson and Sue Boyd, winners in Whistler Challenge Series. The question is who keeps the attractive wooden trophy?

Vancouver’s hottest R&B band. The Lincolns, will be rockin’ it up at Stumps lounge in the Delta Mountain Inn until March 19.

Every wonder why they’re called SANDwiches? Cliff Jennings chose a nice sunny lunch hour Friday, March 11 to try out the new sweeper attachment on this golf course vehicle. Several munchers were kind of choked up.

The new Heritage Canada sign by Charlie Doyle.

Who knew porcupine chew television lines?

Behind the counter and waiting to serve you at the Rainbow Grocer are new owners (L to R) Dale Trudgeon, Lynn Trudgeon and Earl Grey (missing and on meat run is Cal Schacter). The store, located at the Gulf Service Station, is open from 10 am until 7 pm each day and until 0 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Step in for fresh meats and seafoods and ask them about freezer packs.

1984

Several thousand people travelled from the gondola base to Whistler Village Sunday to see downhill winners Bill Johnson (US), Helmut Hoeflehner (Austria) and Pirmin Zurbriggen (Switzerland) receive their soapstone sculptured trophies.

Todd Brooker, along with the rest of the Canadian downhill team, visited Myrtle Philip School last Wednesday, and in between signing autographs Brooker gave a short speech.

A playful Expo Ernie floated high and mighty above all the excitement in the Village Square beer garden Thursday. After a magnificent Voodoo jet fly-past, Expo Ernie and hundreds of others paraded down to Mountain Square for the official opening ceremonies of the Molson World Downhill.

Standing room only was no exaggeration both Friday and Saturday night in the festival tent. Doug & The Slugs put on their best side for Winterfest – both nights sold out, and estimates are that 2,000 danced their way through the tent Saturday.

Just a few plates of antipasto were served for the 116 guests at Saturday’s Grand Ball in Myrtle Philip School. Diners paid $125 each for the five-course dinner, with proceeds going to help defray Winterfest Society expenses.