Next week 1,800 elders will descend on Williams Lake for the 40th BC Elders Gathering.
“It will be all about people coming together, sharing culture and honouring our elders,” said Darwin Stump, youth advocate and events co-ordinator for the gathering and host community Tletinqox.
Hotel rooms in Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Quesnel are booked for the event, Stump said, noting the local economy will be booming.
Things kick off Monday, July 11, with the opening at noon of tent city above the Stampede Grounds and the two arts and craft venues.
Admission to tent city is free and Stump said the entertainment there will showcase First Nations culture, with lahal games and cultural activities.
“We encourage the public to come down and see the tent city,” he added.
Because of an overwhelming response from First Nations artisans for the arts and craft fair, two venues will be set up to accommodate them.
One will be at the curling rink with more than 40 artisans and the other one at Signal Point Convention Centre with 12 artisans registered so far.
Admission to the arts and craft fairs is $2 for the public and free to elders registered for the gathering.
“On Wednesday, July 13, we will be closing the curling rink from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. for registered elders only,” Stump said.
Monday evening will feature a Wild Wild West Rodeo at the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds beginning at 5 p.m.
The grand opening takes place Tuesday, July 12, at 9 a.m. at the Cariboo Memorial Complex.
The opening and closing ceremony on Thursday, July 14, at 1 p.m. are closed to the public, but both events will be televised with a live feed at Boitanio Park.
There are several workshops for the registered elders being held at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus, Stump said, noting many businesses have come forward to support a small health fair and trade show as well.
Stump said the gathering is being been made possible because of the efforts of 225 volunteers, plus the Salvation Army and Lions Club, who are making meals to feed the elders.
He also said many sponsors have stepped up to the plate.
“It is great to see the businesses and companies we as Tletinqox do business with giving back to us.”
He also praised the support coming from the Williams Lake Indian Band and Alkali Lake Indian Band.
“We are holding the gathering on Shuswap territory and they have really stepped up to help us. The Alkali Lake Indian Band is sending its staff to volunteer for the entire week.”
Through the gathering, the protocols of the Shuswap will be respected, he added.
The organizing committee has hired St. John’s Ambulance to be on site, a security company for the curling rink, and will have volunteer safety officers throughout the gathering working alongside the RCMP.
“We wish all our elders safe travels,” Stump said.
“This is huge for Williams Lake. We won’t see the Elders Gathering here again for years and years.”
There will also be a live webcast of the entire event.