Tag Archives: Joan Richoz

A Bizarre Fundraiser

There are many options when it comes to holiday shopping in Whistler and, for many, craft fairs and markets are looked forward to as an opportunity to fine something unique while supporting local artists. For many years, the best known craft market in Whistler was the Bizarre Bazaar.

Ten years before the first Bizarre Bazaar was organized by the Whistler Community Arts Council (now called Arts Whistler) in 1987, the Alta Lake Community Club (ALCC) began hosting their annual Fall Fair fundraiser for the Club where local artists could sell handmade crafts among other activities. The first Fall Fair in 1977 was held in the gym of Myrtle Philip School and was so successful that it made a profit in its first year. By 1985, the Fall Fair had grown large enough that it moved into the recently opened Conference Centre.

Christmas decorations are sold at the Alta Lake Community Club’s Fall Fair in 1984. Some tables at the Bizarre Bazaar would have looked similar. Whistler Question Collection, 1984

Like the Fall Fair, the Bizarre Bazaar began in the Myrtle Philip School gym as a fundraiser, this one to support the Whistler Children’s Art Festival. At the time, the Arts Council was still young (Arts Whistler celebrated their 40th year of operations this year), had no office space, and was run by a group of dedicated and hands-on board members and volunteers, including Gail Rybar who coordinated the first Bizarre Bazaar in 1987.

Held on December 5, 1987 the first Bizarre Bazaar included sales of local arts, crafts and food, a raffle, live entertainment from flautist Dorothy Halton and Celtic harpist Theodore Gabriel, lunch and dinner, a “beverage garden,” children’s craft workshops with Pene Domries, and photos with Santa. Like the Fall Fair of the ALCC, the first year of the Bizarre Bazaar was reportedly a success and raised enough money to fund the Children’s Art Festival in 1988. According to long time Arts Council board member Joan Richoz, however, the first year was not without its challenges.

Gail Rybar, organizer of the first Bizarre Bazaar in 1987. Whistler Question Collection, Bonny Makarewicz, 1993

Looking back over 25 years of Bizarre Bazaars in 2013, Richoz recalled that the volunteer organizers had to put long hours and a lot of effort into the first market. They had borrowed tables from the Delta Mountain Inn (now the Hilton) and, though the hotel was located not far from the school had to transport the tables over snowbanks. A heavy snow on December 4 meant that some vendors from outside of Whistler were not able to make it, while others left the market early in order to make it home. Volunteers set up stalls and workshops and even made chili so that everyone working the market would have dinner to eat.

In the following years, the Bizarre Bazaar grew and also came to include a bake sale fundraiser for the Whistler Museum & Archives Society. Museum volunteers including Florence Petersen, Joan Deeks, Lil Goldsmid, Isobel MacLaurin, Kathy Macalister, Shirley Langtry, Viv Jennings, Darlyne Christian and more would spend weeks ahead of the market baking in order to raise money for the organization. Other community groups also got involved, with the Girl Guides running activities, the Whistler Community Services Society operating the food concession, the Whistler Public Library selling tickets to their own annual fundraiser, and both the Whistler Singers and the Whistler Children’s Chorus performing seasonal numbers.

When a new Myrtle Philip Community School opened on Lorimer Road in 1992, the Bizarre Bazaar moved with it and continued to run out of the school gym until 1996 when it moved into the Conference Centre. In the 2000s, the market continued to expand and change, moving to a weekend in November, partnering with Bratz Biz (a youth artisan market for local young entrepreneurs) in 2006, occasionally switching location to the Westin Resort, and changing its name to the Arts Whistler Holiday Market.

Mary Jones inspects one of the delicate and exquisitely crafted small wood boxes by Mountenay of Squamish at the 1994 Bizarre Bazaar. Whistler Question Collection, Bonny Makarewicz, 1994

This winter, though there is no Bizarre Bazaar or Arts Whistler Holiday Market, Bratz Biz and the Whistler Artisan Market will be taking place in the Upper Village on November 26 & 27. If you’re in search of archival images of Whistler, we will be at the Whistler Artisan Market and can’t wait to see you there!

Completing the Library

This is the third and final instalment of a brief history of the Whistler Public Library. Find Part One here and Part Two here.

When the Whistler Public Library (WPL) opened January 1995 in its portable location on Main Street, it more than doubled its space and was able to expand its collection and services. By the end of the year, visits had also more than doubled to 50,000 and the Whistler Public Library Association (WPLA) was already looking ahead to a new location.

WPL offered patrons more than the opportunity to borrow books. The new library had two public access computers that, for a charge, could be used for Internet access and word-processing. Patrons could also take home cassettes, CDs, videos, and magazines and the library continued to offer popular programs such as storytimes and summer reading club. The increased usage of the library and constantly growing collection meant that WPL grew out of its temporary space quickly.

Patrons check out a display at the entrance to the Whistler Public Library after moving to the portables doubled the available space. Whistler Question Collection, 1996.

The lot on which the library portables were placed had been set aside for parking and the library was meant to move into a permanent location by 1999. The WPLA and staff expected to stay in the portables on Main Street for only three to five years. In October 1995, WPLA board members attended a Building Planning Workshop, followed by a community workshop in November. Anne Townley, then the chair of the WPLA, said it was important to gather comments from community members and library patrons as “the Whistler library should be tailored to Whistler needs.” As an example of one such need, Townley mentioned that many people lived in “cramped quarters” and may be coming to the library because they didn’t have any place at home in which they could read or work quietly. At the November meeting, the WPLA was told that, to the community, the library was a space for “research, socialization, relaxation and education” and a “cornerstone of the community.”

Despite early planning, fundraising efforts, and a lot of hard work, the library remained in the portables past the 1999 deadline. Plans for the building went through various changes before the groundbreaking ceremony in 2005. In 1996, the WPLA and Whistler Museum and Archives Society formed a Joint Building Committee and went so far as to present plans for a shared building to Council before parting ways in 2003. In 1997, the WPLA voted to become a municipal library. When millennium projects were announced in 1998, the municipality chose to make the library building its project, though it was delayed until after the completion of the community project (a new Whistler Skiers’ Chapel facility) to avoid direct competition. Finally, plans were confirmed and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in June 2005.

Stories were often told in the children’s area of the portable library building. Whistler Question Collection, 1995.

Changes were made not only to building plans over this time, but also to the library portables. By 2000, the combination of multiple leaks and carpeted floors led to complaints from library patrons of a slight smell of mildew, though it did not stop library usage from continuing to grow. In the summer of 2001, the Municipal Building Department added an additional layer of shelves on top of the present stacks and then added new shelves to the children’s area that winter. To hold their growing collection in preparation for a new building, the library purchased a storage container in 2002.

To familiarize the community with the new building, the building plans for painted onto the parking lot outside the portables and patrons were able to wander (or play tag) through the future spaces of the library. Delays and cost increases related to a boom in construction, however, meant that they were not able to see the physical spaces until 2008.

TThe parking lot in front of the library and museum portables was used to show the scale and layout of the new library building.. Photo: Whistler Public Library

January 6, 2008, marked the last day of library operations in the portables. On January 13, patrons took part in Books on the Move, where a long line of community members moved one book each onto shelves in the new building (the rest of the books were then moved by a professional moving company). Just days before the official opening and ribbon cutting on January 26, library staff were still cataloguing and shelving books while electricians finished working around them.

Just like in 1995, library usage increased by over 100% during its first year in the new (and current) building. The library continues to grow its collection and programs each year and adapt to meet community needs.

A Temporary Home

As discussed last week, the Whistler Public Library (WPL) opened its doors in the basement of Municipal Hall in the summer of 1986, less than a year after the Whistler Public Library Association (WPLA) was formed, thanks to the dedicated work of members of the WPLA, community groups, and volunteers. The library quickly became a well used facility within the community and began providing books, storytimes, school presentations, summer reading programs, and in time even a public access computer under the direction of librarian Joan Richoz.

It was widely understood even before the WPL opened in the basement that this would not be a permanent location. The WPLA had been granted a five-year lease of the space in 1986 and Richoz was told that the library should expect to be in the basement for three to five years. A building fund was started by the WPLA in 1989 but by 1991, as the end of their lease approached, the building committee reported that it would probably be another five years before a new building was ready. The library began operating on a month-to-month lease and then received a two-year lease for the basement space.

Assistant librarian Rob Ross demonstrates the closed sign, which would be seen more often – a shortfall in their operating budget meant that the library, which had been open seven days a week, began closing on Sundays in February 1991. Whistler Question Collection, 1991.

The library quickly outgrew its basement location, even after the Whistler Museum and Archives moved out of their part of the space in 1989. In 1990 WPL already had 1,157 registered borrowers, while Squamish had only 704 and Pemberton had 261, and Whistler was continuing to grow. Despite this increase in usership and dedicated fundraising efforts, the library struggled to secure enough funding for operations, sometimes having to dip into their building fund.

The question of where to put the library was met with various proposals, including office space in the newly constructed Marketplace and the high school planned for 1996. The municipality had set aside various sites for community use and in 1992 a lot on Main Street, referred to as Lot 21, was zoned for a library. In October 1992 there was talk of building a municipal cultural centre to house the library, museum and Whistler Arts Council as tenants on Lot 1 but in November the municipality committed funding to build an ice rink at Meadow Park instead. This was also when the idea of moving the library, along with the museum and Arts Council, into portables on Lot 21 came up.

In July 1994, having added as much shelving as possible to the basement space, the library was presented with three options, all of which were temporary measures involving portables. Staying in the basement was no longer an option, as it was needed for the growing Planning and Parks & Recreation departments, then housed in their own portables next to Municipal Hall. The library chose to move into the old Canada Post trailers that were to be moved to Lot 21. This move would double their space, shelving, and number of seats and allow the library to continue growing their collections and programs.

Carpenters add the finishing touches to the outside of the portables after their move to Main Street, despite the apparent snow already in the valley. Whistler Question, 1994.

In December 1994, after the portables had been moved and refurbished by the Municipal Building Department and community members, the library shut down for a week and staff and volunteers moved furniture, books, magazines and more to the new location. The circulation desk, left over from the previous occupants, bore the colours of Canada Post and the new recycled space offered room for a children’s area and reading tables. Now ground level, Richoz told the Whistler Question, “We’ve got windows and view. It’s just fantastic,” and the first library patron Liz Stamper described it as “absolutely beautiful.”

The family who took out the most books was given the opportunity to cut the ribbon at the grand opening, a duty which was taken very seriously. Whistler Question Collection, 1995.

Unlike at the previous location, the grand opening of the new location occurred a month after rather than before WPL welcomed its first borrowers on Main Street. The opening in January 1995 attracted about 150 people, despite a lack of signage and large snow banks that hid the building, and featured a ribbon cutting and a silent auction to raise money to offset the cost of moving.

Despite the increase in space, this new location was also meant to be a temporary measure. In 1995, staff expected the library to remain in the portables for three to five years.

The Library in the Basement

Last month, when asked by the Whistler Public Library (WPL) if we had photos that they could share to celebrate their birthday, we noticed that the museum hasn’t written a whole lot about our neighbour, so we thought we’d take a look back at the early days of the WPL.

After the Keg building was moved to its current location on Blackcomb Way in 1981, most of the building was renovated to become the offices and meeting spaces of Municipal Hall. It was ready to be occupied by fall 1984 but there was still an unfinished lower level that the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) wasn’t planning to use. A large portion of this level was earmarked for the Whistler Health Care Centre, which had been operating out of portables, and it was proposed that the remaining space could be used for a library.

Library supporters had the chance to “sponsor” a book of their choice to be part of the library’s permanent collection at one of the Whistler Public Library Association’s fundraisers, supervised by WPLA Chair Heather Hull. Whistler Question Collection, 1986.

In December 1985, a petition was started to form the Whistler Public Library Association (WPLA) and with ten signatures the library was on its way to becoming reality. The Whistler Rotary Club (WRC) set up a book depository at the Chef and Baker building in Function Junction to collect donations and in January 1986 the province granted the WPLA legal status and $7,000 for start-up costs. The WPLA was able to have their first official board meeting and set up additional collection spots.

The WPLA shared their early progress at their first public meeting in February. This included fundraising plans, the need for volunteers to collect and sort books, and the results of a questionnaire attempting to determine what the residents of Whistler wanted to see in their library. According to the 100 people who completed the survey, Whistler wanted the National Geographic, more non-fiction books than fiction, and a mix of mystery, spy, science fiction and romance novels.

Provincial Secretary Grace McCarthy signs the first library card for the new Whistler Public Library with WPLA Chair Heather Hull. Whistler Question Collection, 1986.

By May 1986, over 2,000 books had been donated (though not all were in suitable lending condition) and $47,000 had been raised for the library, including a $10,000 grant from the RMOW and over $20,000 contributed by local groups such as the WRC and the Alta Lake Community Club. Book donations came from bookstores, Capilano College (texts about the hotel and restaurant trades) and accounting firms (books on bookkeeping, taxes and financial matters). According to librarian Joan Richoz, they hoped to open with 3,000 books on the shelves.

Perhaps the largest fundraiser was Whistler’s Night in April 1986, an auction/dinner/dancing/performance combination that raised over $15,000. Whistler’s Night was a community affair, as restaurant and hotel staff volunteered to cook and serve a seven-course meal, local groups showed off performances prepared for Expo 86, and the Whistler Fire Department ran the bar.

Vancouver: A Year in Motion is presented to librarian Joan Richoz by Star Sutherland, whose father Tom published the book, on the library’s first full day of operations. Whistler Question Collection, 1986.

On July 28, 1986, around 60 people attended an official opening of the library in the basement of Municipal Hall, which had been finished and furnished by the WRC. The library wasn’t actually quite ready to open to the public, as about half of the collection still needed to be catalogued and shelved, but the Social Credit Party was holding their convention in Whistler that weekend and both Provincial Secretary Grace McCarthy (the minister responsible for libraries) and local MLA John Reynolds were on hand to make speeches and unveil plaques. After July 28, the library shut down for another month and over twenty volunteers worked to finish cataloguing and shelving books.

The next opening, and the date celebrated by the WPL as their birthday, was August 27, 1986. The collection included 4,600 books that could be borrowed during the sixteen hours/week that the library was open. Borrowing privileges were free for children, students, and seniors while adults paid $8 for the year.

The Whistler Public Library began as an idea at the end of 1985 and in one year (with a lot of hard work by the WPLA and help from the community) had created a collection, opened a facility, and registered almost 400 card holders.