In lieu of any Winter Games this year, and in celebration of the BC Winter Games returning to the Peace River Region next year, I decided to take a look back thirty years to when Dawson Creek hosted the 10th Annual BC Winter Games in 1988. The archives has a variety of material related to this momentous event, including newspaper articles and clippings, photographs, negatives from the Peace River Block News and, thanks to the diligent work of our summer student last year, converted VHS footage of the games and events themselves. In order to go through all this material, I asked one of our volunteers, Marcheta Leoppky, former editor of the Peace River Block News, to step out of retirement for a day and travel back thirty years with me to explore what the archives has preserved about the 1988 BC Winter Games.
Premier Bill Vander Zalm pronounced the 1988 B.C. Winter Games Opening Ceremonies hosted by the City of Dawson Creek to be “the best ever”. Thirty years ago, on March 10th, 1988, the Memorial Arena was jammed packed as 660 performers led by Heidy Kux-Kardos entertained the crowd while husband Charles MC’d the 90 minute pre-opening extravaganza.
The whole town was involved in hosting the 10th Annual Winter Games, welcoming the guests as 18 (737) jets and 10 Greyhound buses brought the visitors and athletes to our northern town. Homeowners left their Christmas lights on to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere and local businesses and schools decorated their premises as the residents pulled out all the stops in a demonstration of true Northern Hospitality.
Dawson Creek Winter Games Society President, Al Westcott, commented on the festive atmosphere. He said there was an “energy in the air, a chemistry between the visitors and the local residents. It exceeded all of our expectations.”
Dawson Creek could well be proud of their efforts as 3,000 registered volunteers, organized by Operations Manager Gloria Benazic and eight assistants, took on many tasks such as helping cook over 30,000 meals at Northern Lights College and driving the 2,400 athletes to and from their venues to participate in 25 sporting events as varied as wheel-chair basketball and table tennis. Two of the events, broomball and ringette, were played in Chetwynd as even our neighbours to the west stepped up to assist the City by hosting these games at their Rec Centre.
Chinook winds had dashed the hopes of the Alpine and Cross Country skiers but their season wasn’t over as they went to Grande Prairie the following week to participate in the Alberta city’s competitions taking home first-place.
BCTV was on hand to cover all the 25 various competitions. To wind-up the three-day event, local resident Moon Mah with a special BCTV Volunteer Award for his contribution to the success of the Games. He exemplified the true spirit of the Games by being willing to do anything, for anyone from the time of the Torch lighting by Maxine House and Daryl Becotte in December until the actual Games held from March 10th to the 13th.
All in all, the Games proved the City had the willingness and ability to host an event of this magnitude and handled the “friendly invasion” in a way that we can all look back 30 years later and be very proud of a job well done.