Mountain Galleries embraces the Games 

Wacko plans jam-packed Olympic schedule, featuring daily receptions, art giveaways, artmobile and lots of celebrating

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Some businesses are readying to jump headfirst into the Olympics, at all costs.

Wendy Wacko is owner and director of Mountain Galleries. She launched the business 20 years ago in Jasper, Alberta, which is home to their warehouse and original studio. She opened a gallery location here in Whistler almost six years ago. Nestled into the heart of the Upper Village, in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the 1,600 square-foot gallery shows and promotes a range of Canadian artwork year-round, both through studio sales and its artist-in-residence program.

"A lot of local Whistler people said, 'oh, galleries come and go, you'll last a year.' And I said, 'I don't think so! I love Whistler - forget it!'" Wacko said with a laugh.

Wacko will be making Whistler her home base as of the end of December, setting up shop in "Chateau Wacko," a huge four-bedroom home in Nicklaus North that they've rented for the duration of the winter season, including the Olympics. There, she'll play host to a roster of artists and clients, and perhaps some Olympic athletes, as well.

"We've got dinner parties arranged for different groups - government officials, media, clients - and we're just going to have a lot of fun!"

Fun seems to be the name of the game for Wacko and the rest of the staff at Mountain Galleries.

"We're just going all out!" Wacko said. "The Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I don't want to miss a minute of it."

But she isn't expecting to make a lot of money in the process.

"I've heard everything from 'you're going to be down 10 to 20 per cent...' so we've stopped worrying about that and we're hoping just to have a normal winter.

"Quite frankly, how business is, I'm not so worried about, but it's certainly an opportunity to raise the profile of Mountain Galleries."

Wacko did a bit of research into what other galleries in Olympic towns did for previous Games, but wasn't happy with what she found.

"I was discouraged. I felt that they didn't get it! The attitude was too self-centred. It has nothing to do with 'what are we going to get out of it,' it's 'what can we put into it to make this Olympics the best ever!' For me - I'm 58 - it's a once in a lifetime thing!"

Now, she's doubled the number of Whistler staff, and will have seven people working for February and March, who will help run the gallery and host parties at "Chateau Wacko."

A former ski racer, Wacko always dreamed of competing in the Olympics someday. But by the age of 18, she realized that her goal wasn't attainable.

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