Pemberton Barn Dance turns 10 on July 23 

Twelve-hundred expected to participate in annual community fundraiser

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The organizing group, which had expanded by this point, started to use different locations up the valley, hosting the event in various farms’ root houses – barn-like structures used to store seed potatoes after harvest.

Along with the venue, the participant demographic changed. On Saturday, the typical participant will be under 30. However, there’s still a loyal older locals following that includes many Whistler old-timers.

"Rick Clare (owner of Whistler One-Hour Photo and chair of Tourism Whistler) usually uses this as his staff party. He hires a minibus, brings all his staff and this is their annual summer bash; their blowout. I hope to see him again this year."

And while she clearly appreciates the support and enjoys the company of the old guard, Kennitt gets a kick out of the younger people who attend. She’s pleased that for some the event is becoming a destination weekend that benefits a variety of businesses in the community.

"Last year someone said they were driving something up for the dance from Vancouver and as they were driving up they saw all these girls in cowboy hats and thought, ‘They must be going to the barn dance.’ That just makes me feel good."

A young, alcohol-soaked crowd usually spells problems but The Barn Dance has a reputation of being relatively problem free. Kennitt points out that occasionally you’ll see some guy get testy over the attention another fellow is paying his girlfriend, but these incidents tend to get resolved without incident.

"In all of the years, I can only remember one fist fight," she notes.

Tolerance extends beyond the usual boy/girl drama. One of the early dances coincided with a gay camping event in Whistler. The night of the barn dance, there were two country dances in the region: one specifically gay, one not. A group of gay men arrived in Pemberton to show off their considerable two-stepping and line-dancing skills.

"There were quite a few gay guys that came out from Whistler thinking that this was the venue of the gay dance and it was really good. Everyone was fine except for one old guy up the valley who said, ‘Jan, I think we’re going to have to call this dance, ‘Fags and Farmers’. I told him that I didn’t think that would be too politically correct," says Kennitt with a raised eyebrow.

"What’s funny about this thing is that everyone seems to get along."

Barn Dance tickets are $30 and all proceeds go to benefit the Pemberton chapters of: Chamber of Commerce, Lion’s Club, Royal Canadian Legion and Volunteer Fire Department.

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