November has traditionally been a time of arrivals in Whistler: the snow arrives in the valley (we hope) and new faces arrive for the upcoming season.
Over the past week you may have seen some (or been one) of these new residents throughout town getting their scavenger hunt passports stamped, attending classes at Meadow Park Sports Centre or playing board games at the Whistler Public Library.
All of these activities are part of Connect Whistler, a weeklong Whistler introduction put on by Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) and community partners. Though the name may not sound familiar, the idea behind it should be. After all, WCSS has been officially welcoming new arrivals to Whistler for over a decade.
The first Whistler Welcome Week was put on in November 2003 by WCSS youth outreach workers Tessa McLoughlin and Greg McDonnell. The week was designed to resemble “a healthier version of a university frosh week” and offered five alcohol-free events attended by over 1,300 people.
Some events, such as a volunteer fair and scavenger hunt, familiarized attendees with services and businesses available in Whistler. There was also a snowboard film screening and the Moist Pool Party held at Meadow Park. The week’s festivities culminated in Saturday’s Community Welcome Dinner.
Held at the conference centre, the Community Welcome Dinner sat new residents and old at a table together to share a meal provided by some of the town’s top chefs. Whistler’s then-Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and his wife got to know eight young Australians the first year, discussing travel and the upcoming season.
The following year, the dinner was renamed in honour of Jill Ackhurst, a long-time community member and chair of the WCSS board of directors who died in 2003.
With the support of community partners such as LUNA, Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler and the RMOW, most of these events would remain Welcome Week staples over the next 12 years.
Other events were also added, ranging from a community rummage sale to workshops on tenants’ rights.
In 2016, WCSS announced a rebranding of Welcome Week. The scavenger hunt, which used to be a single afternoon’s activity, has been reformed as a week-long opportunity to find and get familiar with local businesses and services, including the new WCSS building, the Re-Use-It Centre, the Whistler Library and even the Whistler Museum, with the incentive of some pretty great prizes.
Participants are also offered a chance to try out classes at Meadow Park, devour Rotary pancakes and ensure a good winter season by taking a plunge in Lost Lake.
Last night the Whistler Museum hosted Feeding the Spirit, the last in a long list of Connect Whistler events. Thank you to everyone who joined up and we hope you learned something about Whistler’s history (if not, we’re open daily!).
A huge thank you to Creekside Market for their ongoing support of Feeding the Spirit, as well as all the local businesses that generously provide prizes.