Barn Dance figures up 25 per cent over last year 

Success attributed to increased marketing and volunteers

Cindy Filipenko

Local restaurants were slammed, accommodations were full and other Pemberton businesses felt the impact of hundreds of visitors flooding to the area for the 11 th Annual Barn Dance.

By 9 p.m. on Saturday, the new Pony Espresso had to close its doors, having run out of a number of key ingredients. Earlier that day, staff over at the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, decked out in bandanas and cowboy hat, were feeling the effects of being swept off their feet. In addition, the Pemberton Valley Lodge, which had been block booked for a wedding, filled up the rest of their 15 rooms with barn dance attendees before having to turn away an additional 10 guests.

"It pays to book early even in Pemberton!" quipped David MacKenzie, general manager of the lodge.

While firm figures have not been released, the crowd was estimated at 1,200 with profits anticipated to be 25 per cent higher than last year. (Ticket prices were between $25 and $30 depending on when they were purchased.)

This is good news for local service organizations. The Lions club, Chamber of Commerce, Legion and, new this year, The Rotary Club, all share equally in proceeds from the event.

Thirty per cent of the proceeds are placed in a GIC in anticipation of 2010, when the barn dance and Winterfest will be amalgamated. The chamber made the decision to do this three years ago. Prior to Saturday the account had $8,000.

Chamber president Paul Selina attributes this year’s increased numbers largely to the Rotary Club’s efforts in marketing the dance.

The dance also donates to the Pemberton Soccer Association for clean up and the Pemberton Fire Department for traffic control.

While clearly pleased with the positive financial effect of the event, Selina says its other effects are equally important.

"The event is not all about making money though. As you realize there are other spin-offs for the local economy. It’s a perfect event to get all our organizations working together and as my trip to Heber City made me realize, boy will we need them come 2010," said the chamber president.

Heber City is a community that leveraged its proximity to Salt Lake to host a variety of community events to capitalize on Olympic tourism during the 2002 Winter Games.

This year marked Selina’s first year in charge of the event.

"I was not nervous, as I have been fortunate to serve my apprenticeship under the watchful eye of the very talented Jan Kennett. Jan has successfully mastered and molded the event for the past several years."

That success is evident in the few incidents that occur as a result.

According to RCMP Cpl. Paul Vadik, there were no arrests made and only two 24-hour roadside suspensions. The only onsite incident related to Pemberton mascot Potato Jack. A visitor took offense to the seven-foot spud’s presence and began pushing the tall tuber. The culprit was removed before he could mash the potato. The RCMP officer described both the event and the security to be "excellent".

"Several members of Genesis, our security company, told me, that they had loved working the event, ‘There seems to be no generation gap here and the people are great.’" said Selina.

The chamber president attributes much of the event’s success to the more than 100 volunteers who make the event, many of whom he describes as "serial volunteers" who work tirelessly for weeks before the event and then multi-tasked successfully throughout the night.

"When there is so much positive energy poured into an event, how can it fail? How can that feeling of euphoria not be transmitted to those who attend?" he asked.

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