Do you have memories of winter carnivals past?

Vernon Winter Carnival will be creating a series of videos – engaging local residents to tell their stories of past Vernon Winter Carnivals – allowing us to share knowledge and past experiences to future generations, thereby engaging seniors in the community through the mentoring of others. The videos will be edited and shared with the community through social media and possibly featured in schools and at an event during Vernon Winter Carnival 2023. This project is funded through the Government of Canada – New Horizons Seniors Program.

The video interviews will be conducted in mid-late August with a focus on three main questions:
  1. Tell us your memories of Vernon Winter Carnival…
  2. How has VWC impacted our community
  3. What would you like to share to our future generations about the importance of community events like Vernon Winter Carnival?
Residents wishing to be interviewed should meet the following requirements:
  • Over the age of 60
  • Lived in Vernon for at least 10 years
  • Must sign a media release allowing VWC to use their interview and image for promotional purposes
  • Must be available in August to be interviewed
  • Must have a strong, positive, connection to Vernon Winter Carnival and the Vernon Community
If you or someone you know might be interested in participating contact the Winter Carnival Society today by emailing INFO@VERNONWINTERCARNIVAL.COM or calling 250-545-2236.​

In the meantime, take a trip back in past to the 1964 Vernon Winter Carnival. 

First Stop: Winter Carnival Parade

We’re not sure what those Vikings from the Revelstoke float are doing would go over very well today, that spider float is a bit horrifying, and at least one small child is not impressed! Nonetheless, it’s a charming and entertaining journey back to a parade of the past.

Next Stop: Silver Star Mountain

This appears to be a slalom competition. We’re fairly certain those were the alpine downhill skis of the day, but it looks like people are competing downhill on Nordic cross-country skis — and admirably so! 

 

 

Vernon Winter Carnival chairman George Melvin presenting the silver plate and trophy to the new Queen Silver Star, Rhondda Oliver (Biggs), in 1961.

The Vernon Winter Carnival is always new

One thing you can be sure about with the Vernon Winter Carnival is that each year will bring something new. However, in 1961, everything was new, since that was the year the annual event began.

From radio coverage captured by CJIB (now 107.5 FM) and preserved in the Vernon Archives, we are able to relive the exciting moment the Carnival’s first ever Queen Silver Star was crowned.

Royalty and Dignitaries

As the coverage begins, announcer Jack Pollard states that the crowd of two-to-three thousand gathered on Barnard (30th) Avenue is awaiting the arrival of the Vice Regal Party, composed of Lieutenant Governor George Pearkes, Mrs. Pearkes, Lieutenant Colonel David Kinloch, and Mrs. Kinloch. Once the dignitaries arrive, they gather near a large ice palace, which was carved on the main drag for the occasion, with the Queen Silver Star participants and the visiting royalty. Queens from Trail, Summerland, Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver, Port Alberni, Salmon Arm, and Lumby travelled to Vernon for the occasion.

Vernon: A Winter Playground

Peter Seaton, the president of the Vernon Board of Trade, then says that the occasion marks the “final lap in a long hard race to make Vernon and Silver Star a winter playground … The Carnival is going to be to Vernon like a drink to a man in the desert.” The crowd cheers, some standing around the palace, others watching from the roofs of nearby businesses or parked cars.

Queen Silver Star I accepts her crown

The RCMP clears a path through the crowd to the sounds of the McIntosh Girls’ Pipe Band. The Vernon Girls’ Trumpet Band then escorts a car carrying the new Queen Silver Star to the ice palace. The young lady emerges, and is revealed to be Miss Rhondda Oliver (later Biggs). She is helped up the palace’s stairs by two six-year-old pages. They neatly arrange the long train of her blue and white robe as she takes her place on the throne. Her princesses, Sharon Magee and Joyce Moilliet, stand on either side.  

Mayor Frank Becker and Miss Vernon Barbara Wolsey then place the crown on Rhondda’s head. As she gives her acceptance speech, a bonfire of Christmas trees on the hill behind the ice palace blazes to life. Mayor Becker wishes her a happy reign, before reading congratulatory telegrams from Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and M.P. Stewart Fleming. Lieutenant Governor Pearkes then declares that the first ever Vernon Winter Carnival has officially begun.

More than 60 years later, the 2022 Vernon Winter Carnival is set to begin on February 4.

To the Max 80’s Party – Virtual Edition

As part of Carnival, the Museum will be hosting “To the Max 80’s Party – Virtual Edition.”

Tease your bangs, pull on your leg warmers, and grab the kiddos for an 80’s style sing-and-dance along with Kiki the Eco Elf. This family-friendly virtual event will feature music, dancing and prizes for best dressed, all from the comfort of your own home. Tickets are $20 and on-demand video access will be available for the entirety of the Winter Carnival! For more details, please click here

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

the first winter carnival

 

February 8, 2021

The 61st Vernon Winter Carnival has official kicked off!

Businesses around town are decorated with cowboys, horses, and the Carnival signature colours of blue-and-white.

Beautifully carved ice sculptures line the roadways in Polson Park, and several organizations are preparing to host Wild Western-themed virtual events.

Prior to the 1960s, when the Winter Carnival as we know it began, Vernon already celebrated the winter season with style. Long before Jopo, Jopette, and Queen Silver Star, there was a highland shepherdess, a minstrel, and a Russian nihilist on a frozen Kalamalka Lake.

In February of 1893, Long Lake, as Kalamalka Lake was then known, boasted a most spectacular scene; a fancy dress carnival, allegedly the first affair of its kind in the Province. 

 

Some of the participants in Vernon’s first winter carnival, held on Long Lake in February of 1893

Thanks to exceptionally cold weather that year, the event’s organizers were able to clear out a large skating rink in the middle of the lake, with plenty of room for the costumed skaters who were transported to the venue by horse-drawn sleigh.

As they skated around the rink, a jockey milled with a flower girl and Little Red Riding Hood, while a book agent attempted to sell the Canadian Stock Book to a clown and a gentleman of Henry II’s period. The costumes were judged, and Ida Birnie was recognized as the best-dressed lady for her portrayal of a highland shepherdess, while best-dressed gentleman went to S.A. Shatford in his Uncle Sam costume.

After the judging, the skating continued, complete with a two-mile race between some of the boys and young men. The crowd was loath to leave the frozen lake even as the sun began to set, although the ladies who had been standing behind the refreshment booth all day were probably ready to head home and get their feet warmed up.

The following day, this same group of church ladies hosted a follow-up event at Cameron’s Hall in order to use up some of the plentiful refreshments that had been gathered for the Long Lake festival. That evening, community members arrived once again in their costumes for yet more revelry. The evening passed quite happily, with dancing, music, and recitations, in spite of the stir caused among the church ladies by the appearance of one F.W. Byshe, who was dressed as none other than Satan himself, complete with horns and a tail.

Join us from home on Tuesday, February 9th, at 7 PM for more tales about the Vernon area during the Wild West era at the GVMA’s Winter Carnival Virtual Event Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

magical Ice Park & Palaces of the past

 

February 1, 2021

The 61st Vernon Winter Carnival – Western Canada’s largest winter carnival – is about to begin…

…in ways different from every Carnival hosted since the first in 1961!

This year’s theme is “Wild West” and it will be a new frontier to explore the Carnival through virtual events and in small, safe groups due to public health and safety guidelines.

This year will be the first for a Drive-Through Ice Park at Vernon’s Polson Park.

The Ice Park will follow a long history of ice structures, palaces, sculptures, and  carving competitions.

 

Vernon Winter Carnival Ice Palace 

The first Ice Palace  debuted on Barnard Avenue (now 30th Avenue) during the Carnival’s inaugural year, 1961. The following year, the Ice Palace moved to Polson Park, where it provided a sparkling venue for the coronation of that year’s royalty and was a major attraction for visitors.

Huge blocks of ice were tinted in shades of blue and green, and framed by two massive ice columns. The columns, with their lights and pennants, reached a height of forty feet! Visitors were invited to fill the seats of Polson Park’s grandstand for an excellent view of the coronation, while a concession provided hot coffee to warm up cold hands.

In 1966, the Palace was built for the first time in the (then-new) Civic Plaza.

The first ice sculpture contest was held in 1971. Students of all ages, under the direction of art teachers from local junior and secondary schools, were provided with a block of ice, chisels, and mallets, and allowed to let their imaginations run wild.

In 1974, the Inland Natural Gas Company upped the ante by offering prize money for the best sculptures, while all participants received a celebratory scoop of NOCA’s blue and white Carnival Ice Cream. 

This well-loved tradition was not always easy to realize. On January 26th of 1977, the Vernon News reported that a pipe had leaked and filled the local Inland Ice Man plant with ammonia. Engineer Gus Joachim was overcome by fumes that could be smelled as far away as half a mile into the city’s downtown core, and sent to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital to recover.

This incident not only caused employees to be sick and out of work for several days, but also put a halt on the Winter Carnival’s ice sculpturing event that year. The plant’s manager John Jones had managed to produce enough ice for the Palace, but not enough for the sculptures.

Warm winters during the ‘70s and ‘80s meant that in some years, ice blocks could not be cut from natural sources like Swan Lake, since the ice was not hard enough to carve. Eager students waited on the weather to see if they could take part in the Ice Sculpture Contest in the Civic Plaza, now known as Spirit Square. 

In 2020, the Ice Palace and sculptures returned for the Vernon Winter Carnival’s momentous sixtieth year. The Winter Carnival committee will carry the spirit forward into this unprecedented year with the first ever Drive-Through Ice Park.

 

 

 

Click here to find out more about the GVMA’s Winter Carnival Virtual Event Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch… on Tuesday, February 9th.

WIld nights at the Kal

 

January 15, 2021

The Vernon Winter Carnival is beginning in just over two weeks, and for those of us who have been starved for a change—albeit a safe one—to our repetitive lockdown lives, it couldn’t come too soon.

This year’s Carnival theme of “Wild West” fits in quite well with our mandate here at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.

While this area was home to the Indigenous Syilx people for centuries, the place that came to be known as Vernon began as a small, sleepy “cow town”. 

 

The Kal Hotel, the year it opened in 1892

Many of the stories preserved within our walls tell of life back in its frontier days.

The hub of social activity in Vernon during this time was the Kalamalka, or Kal, Hotel. This impressive piece of architecture was built in 1892 by the Land and Development Company for a cost of $19,000. The new hotel was named in honour of local indigenous chief Kalamalka (this being the anglicized spelling and pronunciation). The hotel’s interior was complete with a billiard room, bar and ladies parlour, while the exterior boasted tennis courts and a vegetable garden.

In his book “Valley of Youth,” colourful local historian and photographer C.W. Holliday describes the Kal Hotel as the local social centre of Vernon, saying that “here one might meet celebrities and interesting people from all over the world.” One of the favourite places for locals and visitors alike to relax was the hotel’s cozy lounge, where they could gather around a large open fireplace and enjoy a favorite drink carried over from the bar on cold winter nights.

Despite the tendency for the hotel to be considered the go-to spot for “festive and convivial gatherings,” the wife of the hotel’s first manager, Mrs. Meaken, ran a tight ship. If she felt the evening’s proceedings were becoming too disorderly, she had the disturbing habit of appearing in the doorway of the billiard room dressed in her nightgown. “Gentlemen,” she would say sternly, “it is time to go to bed.” A gloomy silence would then descend over the room, as the men packed up and shuffled home. No one, it seems, ever refused her orders.

Another story recalls Mr. Meaken, who, unlike his wife, was said to be meek and mild, took full advantage of the Missus being out of town and had a little too much to drink. While under the influence, he had the brilliant idea of bringing a horse in from outside and riding it around the billiard table. One can only imagine what Mrs. Meaken would have thought if she had seen this spectacle.

Holliday is careful to add that although these stand-out moment’s in the hotel’s career naturally stick in his memory, most of the time the gatherings were quiet and composed, and this Wild Western hotel was exactly what it claimed to be—a comfortable family venue.

For more tales of Vernon’s “Wild West”, join us for the GVMA Winter Carnival event, Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Gwyn Evans

meanwhile, back at the RancH…

sharing history through community 

vernon winter carnival virtual event

 

MEANWHILE, BACK at the RANCH…   February 9, 2021 at 7 PM

Take a Virtual Trip back in time through the Wild West and ranchlands of the North Okanagan. Interpretive guides and special guests will tell tales of life back on the early ranches of the valley through streaming video, on-location film clips, and multi-media displays.

Learn more about the early relationships between the settlers and the Syilx Indigenous First Nation. Find out about the Syilx and settler women who made this place home, and the fur brigadiers, gold rushers, cowboys, and bank robbers who made this place wild.

Join us and special musical guest, Duane Marchand, for this virtual event!

Visit the Vernon Winter Carnival website for more info and tickets.

 

 

GET TICKETS TODAY!

 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 – Virtual Doors Open at 6:30 PM.
Register by 6:45 PM. Event begins at 7 PM sharp.  

WE RESPECTFULLY ACKNOWLEDGe

Greater Vernon Museum & Archives is located on the Ancestral, Traditional and Unceded Territory of the Okanagan Nation and the Syilx People.