The people of Barkerville are its heart and soul

History Town 2014 (Past and Future) by vanstralen

This evening my husband and I and our five year-old twin daughters went to the Lung Duck Tong, Barkerville’s renowned Chinese food restaurant. We had been invited as part of an appreciation dinner for everyone who had been part of last weekend’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, our annual celebration of our National Historic Site’s Chinese cultural heritage. We dined on world class cuisine while we socialized with merchants, interpreters, members of the curatorial team, and numerous volunteers. It was so nice to just get together and eat, drink and be merry with a group of people we see every day, but with whom we do not often have a chance to sit down and laugh and chat; to just be loose and relaxed away from the pressures of our daily responsibilities.

It has been a challenging season. The Cariboo has thrown us a few obstacles this year. Barkerville opened this past spring in the shadow of some of the highest snowbanks we’ve ever seen in May. A constant stream of run-off carved mini-creeks down our main street, and an ongoing labour dispute greatly impacted our celebrated school program. June arrived and brought with it the worst plague of bugs we have had in quite some time. Many of our novice interpreters were aghast at the swarms of no-see-ums, mosquitos and horseflies that are so uncommon to their other, mostly coastal existence. July ushered in intense heat and forest fires, and rain so biblical that we feared our buildings might actually float away. August has continued to stifle with its heat, choke with its smoke, and present personal and medical crises to our staff that remind us why the phrase “the show must go on” was invented.

And yet, we still wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.

As we laughed together tonight at film footage of the traditional Chinese Lion Dance that was performed last Saturday by a combination of experienced dancers and apprentice Barkerville employees and associates who gamely volunteered to learn and rehearse the dances for months, I was reminded afresh of what is so special about a summer in our heritage town. As images of the lion dancers flashed across the screen I gazed across the room to the twelve year-old girl who spent multiple weeks learning the steps and nuances, and who will forever be able to say she was once a baby lion for visitors from across the world who watched her dance that day.

At times, working in Barkerville feels like walking uphill with pockets full of lead weights… but those moments are always overshadowed by the sheer force of new and unique experiences. There are days when living in the past gets old (if you’ll pardon the pun) and yet those days pale in comparison to the days when you find yourself in a furious exchange of ideas and historical concepts with that chance visitor who makes you think hard about the history we interpret.

Whenever the going gets too tough, we get nights like tonight. Tonight I ate some of the best food in the Cariboo (possibly in BC) and I allowed myself to glance around the restaurant and savour the sight of people who put the heart and soul into our town.

– Danette Boucher

The above one-panel cartoon (originally published August 23, 2014) by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the fifteenth of twenty weekly entries that were logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2014 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and the Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing some of the quirkier advantages to living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!