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More than 150 Ways to Celebrate in BC



by Cathryn Atkinson


This year, British Columbia has a lot to celebrate – historically speaking.


When Sir James Douglas issued the proclamation that established BC as a Crown colony at Fort Langley, on November 19, 1858, he had little idea his words would lead to the western-most province of Canada.  In 2008, BC150 is being celebrated with over 1,000 affiliated events around the province, all showing off its unique history, its people and their stories, its breathtaking wilderness, and the many attractions that bring visitors from all over the world.


Here are a sampling of events slated for this summer and fall, with occasions designed to bring out families and adventurers in celebration of 15 decades of exceptionally diverse BC history.


Take Me to the River


The 200th anniversary of explorer Simon Fraser's epic trek down the magnificent river that bears his name is also in 2008. The Fraser River runs 1,250 kilometres (820 miles) from the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver, and those wanting to pay homage to his achievement will have the opportunity of a lifetime with their own Fraser River journey, Rivermania, a flagship event of BC150.


The son of Scottish highlanders, Fraser led a party of 21 voyageurs in four canoes on a month-long expedition in June, 1808, in search of a route to the ocean from the British Columbian interior on behalf of the North West Company of fur traders.


Starting just north of the settlement he founded, Fort George (now Prince George), Fraser was awed by the majesty of the "Great River," as he called it, and frightened by its dangers:


"I have ... never seen anything equal to this country. We have to pass where no human being should venture," he wrote.


When Fraser's team finally reached the mouth of the Great River, at the site now known as Vancouver, they were set upon by the Musqueam and Kwantlen peoples and turned back without exploring "the gulph" they spotted which is now known as the Strait of Georgia.


Rivermania is an adventurous 36-day trip following Fraser's watery trail that is also filled with community events celebrating the province's birthday, the region’s rich First Nations cultures and the river's importance as the main artery of central and southern BC.


Starting at Prince George, on August 24, flotillas of boats will travel along the river at each of the 18 stages of the event. The journey has frequent stops in riverside communities including Quesnel, Williams Lake, Lillooet, Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, and New Westminster, reaching the final destination of Steveston on September 28, which is also BC Rivers Day. There are dozens of community and First Nations festivities planned at cities and towns along the route. 


Of course, visitors on the river this summer will have a much smoother ride than that of Simon Fraser and his compatriots, with opportunities to book seats for the trip with the many boating companies taking part in Rivermania.


Tourists can choose the length of their vacation excursion; whether it is just one or a multi-day river package, there is an experience for everyone, according to Jennifer Rhyne of Vancouver, Coast & Mountains Tourism. There will be transportation shuttles going up river, so for those travelling a segment, say, from Prince George to Quesnel, participants can park their cars in Quesnel, travel to Prince George in the morning and then ride the river back down to their starting point.


"Rivermania is very new and very different. I think it will be an exciting experience because you ride the Fraser River by raft, canoes, by jet boats; there are all kinds of different river transportation to take," says Rhyne. "It's about celebrating history, of which First Nations peoples are the root, and also the Fraser, the fact that it is the core of our province and history was made there."

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