By JEREMY HEIGHTON
Kamloops North Shore BIA
THE SMOKE BILLOWED across the city like an acrid blanket of opaque doom. For days all you could see was a semi-lit scene straight out of a dystopian novel or film. Should we wait for the zombies to attack?
In reality, it was wildfire smoke. When over 500 wildfires burn, smoke is sure to follow. Last year, the smoke cleared in time for Overlanders day. This year, not so much.
As of Saturday, we still hoped for the clearing skies to be realized. Patti and I were out marking the tent sites, stage and games. By 11 p.m., the skies were still socked in; the inky darkness epitomized a sense of foreboding. As I went to bed, I had an uneasy feeling. I tossed and turned; having that kind of sleep where you open you eyes for an unknown reason and watch the minutes click ever so slowly by, seemingly defying the concept of time itself, almost never changing.
Finally around 4 a.m. I rose quietly and got dressed. “may as well face this” I thought as I climbed the stairs and opened the door. It was a sad greyish-brown haze that hung in seemingly billowing waves.
“That’s it,” I thought to myself.
In reality, I had hoped we would be moving forward, the skies would have cleared and all would be good. I spent the prior day looking at the “facts” about the event; six months of planning, 1,008 Staff hours, 725 calls or visits with participants and sponsors, thousands of dollars in real costs, all the media that went into promoting, and then there was the human element.
We have a real and deep desire to create and connect our community, to celebrate who we are, where we come from and where we are going. Does this mean we failed?
I weighed all of that against one simple element.
It’s a clear choice, right? It is and yet….. that feeling like we are failing our community if we don’t go forward is there; that emotional response to all the work, all of the team’s amazing and positive work.
There it is. We wanted to succeed so badly.
Reluctantly I flipped open my computer and posted this notice:
I was overwhelmed by the response.
Thank you for all your words of encouragement. In the face of a real heavy feeling of failing our community, you came to support us and give us your endorsement. Your words reinforce the amazing community we live in. They gave my team a tremendous lift.
I learned early on in my professional career that it is a sign of strength to face the hard choices, make the hard decisions and then to share why you did so. I learned that some may judge your decisions, others endorse, but all will respect a decision based on a clear understanding of why it was made.
So, my decision came down to one thought. We celebrate our community and all of its facets: As health is a key facet of community wellness, the health of our citizens is the only factor that needed to be considered.
It was a tough and clear decision.
Jeremy Heighton is executive director of the Kamloops North Shore BIA.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Overlanders Day has been rescheduled to Sept. 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Brock Park.