Managing the Williams Lake Stampede Campground the last four years has meant Della and Mark Boothby get to spend half the year in her hometown and half the year in his hometown, just outside Calgary, Alta.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” said Della, who was born and raised in Williams Lake.
She said her parents Audrey and Maurice Burke live in the family home in Williams Lake, where Della lived since the age of four. Della’s three brothers and sister live locally as well and she has lots of cousins.
“My mom was a Kinvig, she grew up on the Pioneer Ranch in Miocene,” Della said.
While growing up she attended Marie Sharpe Elementary School and said she runs into one of her elementary teachers Mrs. Purdy once in awhile.
“I just had tea with my old neighbour from when I was little and I’m still in touch on Facebook with all my old buddies from school.”
She also attended Williams Lake Junior High and graduated from Columneetza Secondary School . She left in 1979, lived in Kelowna, Whitehorse and then Alberta.
Mark and Della have not been married for very long.
They could have met 40 years ago at the wedding of mutual friends in Williams Lake, but Mark wasn’t able to make it.
“We missed that opportunity, but we caught up later on,” Mark said, adding those friends introduced them to each other.
Describing themselves as semi-retired, the Boothbys said they purchased a motorhome and toured for a year. The position opened up at the campground, they applied and didn’t get it at first, but when the person who got it didn’t stay they were hired.
“It’s great because I’d rather keep busy than sit around and visit all day so this has worked out very well for us,” Mark said.
Generally they start April 1 and stay until mid-October.
This season has unfolded differently due to COVID-19, and in the beginning the campground was only open for first responders and crews needed in the community.
By June 1 it opened to regular camping, and many of the campers are people working in the area.
Last weekend was quieter than normal because the Stampede was cancelled.
“It felt empty,” Della said. “We missed the campers.”
This year is quite different, Mark said.
“We are not a destination type campground, but normally we get Americans going north and south, and we get a lot of Europeans going east and west. But this year it’s just people trying to get out, mostly from B.C.”
There have been a few Americans en route home to Alaska.
Recently Della connected with all the people that had reservations for Stampede weekend 2020 to re-book for 2021.
“She got a lot of really nice comments back about how they miss the Stampede and miss the people and the place,” Mark said.
A big focus for the Boothbys is keeping the campground clean and green. This year they cannot offer the wash houses, with showers, laundry and washrooms, because of COVID-19 so all units must be self-contained.
There is no tenting this year either.
When the 2017 wildfires started, they were away at a wedding, and could not get back into town so the Stampede Association campground directors looked after everything.
“It was very full with campers and animals until everyone had to evacuate,” Mark recalled.
Della said her parents, like many other seniors in the community, did not want to leave.
“My sister had to pack them all up and she and my nephew hauled them out to Sicamous. My dad has a sister and niece that live there so they went to stay with them.”
Looking out from the deck of the office, Della said she remembers when the Stampede Grounds were pretty basic and First Nations families camped above the grounds all along the hillside.
“It’s nice because Mark and I both grew up in Western towns,” she added.