More people went through the gates of the historic town of Barkerville this summer compared to last year.
Stewart Cawood, the Manager of Public Programming and Media, goes over the 2023 numbers.
“In the end we had 35 thousand people come through the gate, which was about 4 thousand more than we had last summer. Obviously we want to see our numbers go even higher than that. One of our banner years was back up to 65 thousand before the days of the pandemic, but definitely seeing growth from last year to this year is a really positive sign for our attendance going into the future.”
Cawood says they hope to just building towards those pre-COVID numbers.
“I think we just keep dong what we’re doing, being fiscally responsible with our opening dates and what we can afford, but also just making sure we’re offering high quality programming, offering really fun and exciting special events throughout the summer and making sure we’re getting the word out there. We’re all really hoping that tourism in general across British Columbia is continuing to recover back to what we saw before the pandemic, so hopefully this year is just another year in that regrowth.”
Cawood says this year’s numbers likely would have been higher without such a busy wildfire season.
“The week that we had really bad smoke here, we definitely saw a huge dive in our numbers, so it definitely has an effect on it, so that is something that we’re going to have to keep monitoring as we move forward. Hopefully this isn’t a new normal, but if it is we’re just going to have to continue to plan for it and hope for the best, plan for the worst.”
He says one of the highlights this year was their Indigenous Peoples celebration on August 19th and 20th.
“It was very well attended, and this year we were able to expand it into the weekend. We had all sorts of cultural experiences happening each day, and an artists market in our welcome center. People had a great time while they were there, and it was definitely an enriching experience for those of who were a part of it.”
Cawood says they closed off the season this year with a very successful Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.
“It was our 23rd annual. We celebrated a little earlier than the normal festivals that the Chinese community engages in. It was a little later in September, but we wanted to be able to share the experience with guests and we saw a really good turnout that day. There were lion dances, dragon dances and really high quality entertainment at the Theatre Royal showcasing Chinese culture.”
Attendance at the Theatre Royal was also up this year.
“Our daily house average last year was around 80 and this year was closer to a hundred. Certainly there were some days where we didn’t have a hundred people in the house, but we had really good crowds. People who were giving us rave reviews about what they saw in the theatre, and people just seemed really happy with it.”
Cawood says while the season is over, people can still come out to Barkerville.
He says their walk-in gate is always open throughout the year.
“You can come for a stroll through the town and see all the heritage buildings, read the signs any time of the year. We are also in the process of taking a look at what special events we can offer and we hope to have some positive news about that soon.”
–Files by George Henderson, My Cariboo Now