O CANADA! Barkerville averages a thousand visitors per day during ninety-six hour “true patriot love-in”

Nearly four thousand visitors from far and wide rushed into the action on William’s Creek this past week during four days of nationalistic revelry that took place at BC’s Gold Rush Town.

The partygoers came from 17 Canadian regions, several US states, South America, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, central Europe, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Asia and the South Pacific.

Things kicked off July 1st as Barkerville hosted its 142nd annual Dominion Day festivities in grand Victorian style.  Although Canada is in fact 143 years old this year, Barkerville held the very first birthday party for the new country 142 years ago – on July 1st, 1868 – as a way of marking the one-year anniversary of Confederation. 

Opening ceremonies for the 2010 BC Provincial Heritage Fair at 11 a.m. were followed at noon by the doling out of more than 800 pieces of a giant, maple-leaf-emblazoned birthday cake supplied by Barkerville’s own Goldfield Bakery.  The cake, four feet by eight feet in length and weighing close to one hundred pounds, took eight people to carry and was completely devoured by the jubilant crowd in less than an hour.

A parade of Barkerville’s costumed interpretive staff assembled next at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church and proceeded to march up the town’s Main Street, led by the Quesnel Pipes and Drums and several members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dressed in time-honoured Red Serge.

The July 1st highlights included traditional 19th-century games and races for both children and adults all afternoon, including a Men’s Hammer Toss, Ladies’ Egg in Spoon Race, the ever-popular children’s broad jump, and a Greasy Pole Climb. 

After the games, Newman & Wright Theatre Company, operators of Barkerville’s legendary Theatre Royal, entertained the masses with a rousing “Gold Rush Revue” of historical song and dance. 

By dusk, the party had moved inside Barkerville’s House Hotel and continued into the wee hours with more dancing and live music.  A late-night fireworks extravaganza rounded out the evening, and despite the day’s erratic weather the radiating energy that the assemblage displayed was in no way dampened.

“Our thanks go to the Quesnel branch of Scotiabank, the 2010 Dominion Day sponsor, for helping continue Barkerville’s July 1st legacy in such a magnificent fashion,” said James Douglas, Barkerville’s Marketing and Communications Officer.  “Their generous and heartfelt support of our Dominion Day activities made the event the huge success that it was.”

Douglas pointed out that the attendance figures for this July 2nd were nearly double those for last year, adding that the numbers held up well throughout the weekend.

“Considering the world’s current economic climate, that’s a pretty significant accomplishment – one that we hope to continue through quality community partnerships like these,” he said.

With nearly four thousand international visitors over four days this past week, it appears as though Barkerville’s “community” is as large and diverse as it was during the town’s first Dominion Day party 142 years ago, at the height of the great Cariboo Gold Rush.