Hundreds of First Nations elders will arrive in Williams Lake to celebrate the 40th annual Elders Gathering taking place from July 11 to 14.
Sponsorship for the event has been coming in, said Darwin Stump, Tletinqox events co-ordinator and host community sponsor partnership chair, during a presentation to city council at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The budget for the event is $1 million of cash and in-kind support, Stump said.
A $100 registration fee charged to each of the elders goes to the BC Elders Society to pay for the catering company, which Stump noted is coming from Vancouver.
“There is no one in this city that can handle that kind of contract so we’ve hired out in Vancouver. That bill is going to be over $175,000.”
However, he said, there are some smaller catering contracts going to local businesses for meetings and feeding volunteers.
So far the event has received a $1,600 reimbursement from the Cariboo Regional District for the $14,000 cost of using the recreation complex, said Stump as he officially asked city council for financial or in-kind support.
Mayor Walt Cobb said the city has also agreed to provide behind the scenes in-kind support such has labour for moving barricades and cones, and putting up signage, and covering other logistics.
The gathering kicks off Monday, July 11 with a Wild Wild West Rodeo at the Stampede Grounds that will be free to the public.
“We are going to have the Indian Relay Race,” Stump said.
It will be the first time the race — where participants ride a horse without a saddle — will be held in Canada.
“They are just getting started in the States,” he added.
All the tables for the arts and crafts sale at the curling rink are sold out and a second site at Signal Point Gaming Centre conference room is halfway sold out.
A totem pole being carved at Tletinqox (Anaham) will be completed in time for installation in Williams Lake before the gathering, Stump said.
“It is not really about the gathering, it is about commemorating all First Nations in the area working together with the city,” Stump added, noting the totem pole committee hopes to meet with city council soon to discuss where the pole should be placed in Boitanio Park.
“I know there were some issues in the park with crime,” he said. “The totem pole is about respect and honour so we are hoping to bring that back to the park as well.”
The original tent city — where First Nations camped at the Stampede Grounds in the past — is being replicated for the gathering as well.
Stump said the entire event will be live web casted.
“It is very exciting,” Coun. Sue Zacharias said. “I think it is going to be an amazing event.”
Council made no decisions around offering financial or in-kind support during the meeting, but agreed to meet at a later date to discuss the request.
There are two more community meetings scheduled about the gathering — June 20 and July 7, starting at 10 a.m. at the Longhouse.
“Everyone is welcome to attend the meetings,” Stump said.