Pemberton Barn Dance turns 10 on July 23 

Twelve-hundred expected to participate in annual community fundraiser

What: The Pemberton Roothouse Rock Barn Dance

Where: Copperdome Roothouse (Pemberton Meadows Road)

When: Saturday, July 23, 8 p.m.-2 a.m.

Tickets: $30

At the first Pemberton Barn Dance people lined up to buy their beer out of a canoe in the back of a pickup truck. One canoe full of suds proved to be about right for the mostly local crowd of 115.

This year, upwards of 1,200 people will spur on their inner cowboy on Saturday, July 23 at what will mark year 10 for the annual event. What started out as a single purpose event has evolved into a $40,000 fundraiser supporting three community organizations.

And while many of those wearing Stetson hats and Boulet boots will be coming from outside Pemberton, organizer Jan Kennitt expects that many locals will be two-stepping the night away. For at its core, the Barn Dance is a community event, initially formed to fund an essential community service: the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce.

When Kennitt opened her women’s clothing store, The Pemberton Trading Company, in 1994, she was dismayed that there was no business organization. Despite the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce forming in the late ’20s, interest had waned and the organization had folded. Along with Shirley Henry and Judy Bourhis, Kennitt resurrected the chamber. The women decided that the first order of business should be opening the info centre that is still in operation at the junction of Highway 99 and Portage Road.

"We needed to get going and revitalize the community. We didn’t qualify for any government grants or any of that. So we thought a really good idea would be to hold a barn dance as a fundraiser," explains Kennitt.

The first folks forked over $8 apiece to dance the night away at Doug Gilmore’s farm. While she doesn’t remember the name of the band, she remembers that one canoe full of beer wasn’t quite enough to quench the kind of thirst Pemberton in July can create.

"It seems to me that Rich Miller had to do a beer run at midnight –dodging the police – even though it was a small number of people, we had a lot of beer drinkers," laughs Kennitt.

Along with Miller and Henry, Kennitt ran the Barn Dance for a couple of years until the event became a victim of its own success.

"Eventually we had to move up the valley because the police wouldn’t allow us to be this close to town," she says of the first location at the turnoff to Pemberton Meadows Road. "The parking started to become an issue."

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