Every year, on the eve of the new year, many of us “just can’t believe it’s already over,” feel like summer was just yesterday, or are honestly happy the year is coming to an end — 2020 definitely feels like all of those wrapped together.
This year has been especially hard. We were in lockdown just as the summer weather kicked in, and then came the rain when we were finally to go out and have some fun. Very rarely do our news stories not have references to COVID-19, coronavirus or the pandemic.
Today is Dec. 31. A day where we can wish the previous year a hearty farewell and hope the next one is better — much better. Without further ado, a send off of the year 2020. A year that consistently felt like a kick in the stomach for a lot of us — and then another kick while we were down. But, we got through it, and we’ll survive many more.
This year’s Year in Review focuses on the good news (and sometimes intriguing) to come out during some of our worst times. Goodbye, 2020.
Sona Music held its music recitals at the Star Lake Community Centre, giving the public a chance to see the students show off their musical talents. This was the second recital instructor Brendan Benoit, had held with his music company. The students played music from Hank Williams, Queen, Neil Young, Beethoven and everything in between.
Mike Wiegele’s Heli-Skiing celebrated their 50th year in the business. While the relaunch of the Powder 8 World Championships was cancelled, they did announce an online film release of “Call me Crazy — The Legend of Mike Wiegele,” a story of how a young Austrian with little more than a dream and love for skiing became one of the most influential ski pioneers in Canada.
Silas Coghlan was Clearwater’s first baby of the year and was born to proud parents Sam and Brooke, on Jan. 1 at 5:40 p.m. He was also the second baby born in Kamloops at the Royal Inland Hospital for 2020. Silas was seven pounds, 15 ounces, and is the Coughlan’s second child.
The District of Clearwater received $100,000 in grant money from B.C.’s Community Support Grants Program to help with the transition of services and supports to Vavenby mill workers and their families after the mill shut down in 2019.
Blue River Elementary students and their teacher Josh Brown joined MWHS guides on Saddle Mountain for the anual Kids Snowcat Program. “We believe strongly in giving kids the chance to ski,” said Mike Wiegele. “And to offer them a high level of training is very special, as most of our guides are professional teachers, coaches and guides.”
Local author Ian Hamilton topped Clearwater’s most popular adult fiction library book, with his books The Water Rat of Wanchai and The Dragon Head of Hong Kong. Delia Owens’ book Where the Crawdads Sing and Lee Child’s Die Trying were also on the library’s list of most borrowed adult fiction.
The Clearwater Hockey Days/Winterfest kicked off at the North Thompson Sportsplex with a tournament hosted by the Novice Icehawks. The tournament involved two Clearwater teams and Kamloops brought out four teams to the event. Williams Lake had one team in the tournament and Valemount brought out another two. The Novice players sure brought their enthusiasm and spirit of hockey to the ice.
The Clearwater Ski Hill joined in the Winterfest fun, reducing their lift tickets and rentals. The concession was also open, serving up burgers and fries, as well as hot chooclate. “Anytime the ski hill is open and the community is here, it’s always a good day,” said Shelley Sim, ski hill club vice president. “It’s really something. It’s just terrific.”
Kris Olson, owner of Wild Flour Cafe, organized a taco night to raise funds for organizations dealing with the wildfire crisis in Australia. “I felt like folks in the North Thompson Valley, with its history of forest fires, could be sympathetic to the needs to Australia right now. Somehow it feels reminiscent of the past, and like a foreshadow of worse times to come,” she said. They raised over $500 to donate to Vets Without Borders Australian Bushfire Crisis.
Clearwater’s New Year’s babies recieved quilts made by the Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. Morgan Heather Walker was the first baby girl born in Clearwater, arriving Jan. 18, weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces, to parents Jessica and Graham Walker. Sam and Brooke Coghlan were the parents of the first baby boy, Silas River Coghlan.
Council voted in favour of a new cannabis shop in Clearwater. Owner Ben Minci said the vote came as a relief after nearly a year of going through the application process.”I think it’ll be good for the community because I know a lot of older people who are curious about the product and they wouldn’t be the type of people to go to some random person selling it on the street,” he said.
Tourism Wells Gray was the recipient of provincial funding aimed at helping to further develop tourism opportunities and bring new visitors to the area. “Tourism Wells Gray has been one of many local voices advocating for additional funding supports to our community in light of the mill closure,” said Stephanie Molina, executive director of TWG.
Vavenby Fire Department member and artist Doris Scarff painted two murals on the inside walls of the fire hall. She said she felt honoured by the request from the volunteer fire chief, Phillip Weber. The one wall has a fire engine with a building on fire behind it, with crews working. It took about 20 hours to complete. The other had the theme Lest We Forget.
The Clearwater Rotary held their annual Fishing Derby on a frozen Dutch Lake. Thirty-seven optimistic fisher-people spent the morning with baited lines dropped through holes into the water below. Eight of them managed to catch a fish.
A few hockey moms and martial art instructors got together during their children’s hockey practices to teach other moms how to fight. The Clearwater Healthy Living Program’s Moms Fight Club was born. It grew to include any teenage and adult woman interested in getting active, giving them the opporunity to dabble in martial arts wihtout having to sign up for a full course.
Canfor committed to creating a $200,000 legacy fund with the District of Clearwater to be used at the district’s discretion, while also providing $150,000 over five years to the United Way and $500,000 in funding to the Wells Gray Community Forest. Mayor Merlin Blackwell said the legacy fund will be used to offset the loss in property taxes that the Vavenby mill would have brought in over the next five years or so, meaning the DOC doesn’t have to increase taxes as a direct result of the mill closure.
The 2020 Ladies Bonspiel was a big success. Sixty curlers took part in the event over three days. Curlers came from all over, including 100 Mile House, Kamloops, Jasper, Vernon and Hinton to join the local Clearwater curlers in friendly games, wild dancing and a delicious dinner.
Students at Raft River Elementary learned some engineering skills as they were tasked with designing and building prototypes for an outdoor learning area during the school’s annual Maker Day. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to feel empowered, to have a say in the world around them and know their opinions are valuable,” said Grade 3 teacher Elizabeth Shook.
The Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital Auxiliary celebrated their 50th year milestone, predating Clearwater having a hospital facility. The purpose of the auxiliary is to fundraise for patient care equipment. The Clearwater group has brought in more than $670,000 over the decades, donating as much as $117,000 in a single year. “It’s amazing when you think about what they started with,” said president Marilyn Collison, who’s been with the auxiliary for about 12 years.
The Clearwater Agriplex Society held a meeting in Blackpool and was looking for people interested in joining its board of directors or becoming committee members to form a society and establish an agriplex in Clearwater. The project was spearheaded by Lindsay Feddersen and Brenda Blair.
Vavenby Elementary held a talent show, which teacher Noah Woods hopes to make an annual event. Each student was required to hop up on stage, even if it was to say a quick “hello, goodbye,” which several did. Logan Klingbeil-Tutt started things off with a dance and then Sophie Foisy did a handstand and slowly arched it into a bridge. The show finished with everyone getting up to sing Dance Monkey.
The Raft Mountain Skating Club held its year-end performance. Head coach Chelsea Hindle said the general consensus from those watching was that it was the group’s best show yet. The themes for the show were inspired by the movies Aladdin and the Greatest Showman. “We’ve had a lot of compliments on it and people saying it’s one of the best shows they’ve seen so far from the skating club,” said Hindle.
A local group raised more than a thousand dollars for a man in need. Clearwater’s 100 People That Care came together at a meeting and raised about $1,200 in 20 minutes for Sheldon Mattenly, whose medical expenses were expected to be roughly $15,000. “This is a giving community and this is just one more example of that generous spirit,” said Shelley Sim who helped form 100 People That Care in Clearwater.
After the COVID-19 pandemic led more people to spend much of their time indoors, the District of Clearwater began to stream activities from their Community Recreation and Healthy Living program on Facebook for those in self-isolation. Leslie Groulx, CAO for the district, said the instructors are happy to lend their time because they want to help the community and keep people’s spirits up.
Canadians voted for a national lichen. Local co-curator of lichens at the University of British Columbia, Trevor Goward, was on the contest committee and came up with the official common names of the first and third place winners: the Startipped Reindeer (Cladonia stellaris) and Horsehaur Lichen (Bryoria sp.), respectively.
The Trinity Shared Ministry decorated the tree outside the church with crafted butterflies. “It was just kind of a thought and we did it, mostly for anyone who walks by, but also, a butterfly is kind of a symbol of Easter and rebirth, out of the darkness will come good, so it’s a pretty good church congregation choice,” said Mary Neathway, who helped come up with the idea.
Trans Mountain started to put shovels in the ground, so to speak, this month and the company began to set up the worker’s accommodation site. “We’re very aware that in Clearwater, it was impacted by the mill closure, and so we’re encouraging people that may have that equipment or capacity to make sure they let us know who they are and what kind of availability they have,” said Ali Hounsell, Trans Mountain spokesperson.
The B.C. Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program had a good year in 2019 in Clearwater, with more than $10,000 invested into the community as a result. The program offers $21-worth of coupons to low-income families with children, as well as to pregnant women and seniors each week. The coupons can then be spent at the market on items like fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, nuts and herbs.
Former Clearwater resident Edward “Fast Eddy” Dostaler wrote a book about his run for cancer and Alzheimer’s donations, which saw him trek from Victoria to Newfoundland and back again. The book is titled Iceberg: A run across Canada and back for Alzheimer’s and Breast Cancer. “It’s going to be a book about the entire run, but I really want to focus on the people who helped out,” said Dostaler.
The Easter bunny paid a visit to Vavenby to deliver baskets to all of the houses. He had a little help from the local fire department who gave him a lift around on the fire engines. The firefighter escort was a fill in for the annual Easter egg hunt, which could not take place because of COVID-19.
Former Clearwater resident Brenda Damen won a prestigious short story contest, coming out as number one out of 2,400 entries. She was announced as the winner of the CBC Short Story Prize for her work titled Gibson. It is a story about a young girl who has a violent home life and spends a lot of time in nature. Her adventures in the outdoors not only depict the beauty of the wilderness, but many of the harsh realities faced by wildlife as well.
The Cruisin’ Clearwater Mobile Car show exceeded expectations. The event, which also doubled as a fundraiser for the Clearwater and District Food Bank Society, saw about 110 vehicles and brought in roughly $6,525. “I was quite shocked by the amount of vehicles that showed up at the event,” said co-organizer Ryan Mackenzie. “It was awesome.”
The Government of British Columbia announced a restart on May 8, slowly bringing people out lockdown. This led Stephanie Molina, executive director for Tourism Wells Gray, to look at the silver linings, such as folks staying local and spending a bit more time in the parks and lakes in their community.
The Clearwater and District Food Bank announced they are doing well, thanks to volunteers and donations from the area’s citizens. This meant the food bank was able to meet the needs of their clients during the pandemic.
The Blue River Community Garden celebrated the construction of a screened-in gazebo, built by the Blue River Volunteer Fire Department who donated their time and expertise. The community garden began to raise funds after the idea of a mosquito-free zone was hatched.
The Clearwater and District Food Bank received a donation from a tree planting group. Dynamic Reforestation out of Williams Lake has a tree planting camp near Vavenby and donated $1,400 to the food bank in light of International Hunger Day, which takes place in May.
The North Thompson Communities Foundation succeeded in recieving a grant of $30,000 which was shared among various non-profit organizations throughout the North Thompson Valley. NTCF treasurer Cheryl Thomas said they had applied for $8,000 but received $30,000 instead.
A new market began in June, in the Brookfield parking lot near the old Safety Mart. Kathy Downey, who used to run Kathy’s Market Place, spearheaded the new market, after noticing there were a number of vendors in town whose products didn’t quite fit in the criteria to sell at the weekly farmers’ market.
Deanna Wood sadly had to shut down her floral business this month in response to the news her son, Reggie, had been diagnosed with Perthes. That didn’t stop the Clearwater community from rallying together and raising funds to support the upcoming surgery and expenses. Clearwater’s 100 People That Care raised over $6,000 for the family.
Clearwater resident Robson Beaudry graduated from Harvard Univeristy with a degree in Education Technology aftger receiving a scholarship that allowed him to travel and see much of the world.
Clearwater Fire Department held an appreciation celebration for three of its members. Dan Daase was presented with the 20 Year Service Award, Tim Meland, who started with the Clearwater Volunteer Fire Department in 1990, was wished a happy retirement and Jan Westendorp was congratulated on 35 years of the fire service.