A typical afternoon at an early Lee Creek Harvest Festival. (Jim Cooperman photo)

A typical afternoon at an early Lee Creek Harvest Festival. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Column: The 1980s were the golden years for the Lee Creek Harvest Festival

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

By Jim Cooperman

Contributor

Part 2 of a two-part series.

It may have been the success of the early Lee Creek harvest festivals that inspired the upper community to dedicate one acre for a community centre, complete with a playing field.

The stage was skidded to the dedicated acre, where in 1983 many community members, who now included friends that lived nearby, began building a post and beam community centre. That year another very popular event was added to the summer season called the Lee Creek Prom, with the dancers enjoying a newly built floor under the stars.

What I would call the golden years of the festival were in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the audience sat on bleachers in front of the first section of the hall and there was a dressing room behind the stage. Unlike most community events elsewhere, the festival was free for all those who attended. Community members provided the funds to cover the cost of the feast and other expenses and they donated their time and materials.

Every spring there was a meeting/party, at which all of our names were put into a hat to draw and determine randomly who would be in each skit group. After a summer of skit rehearsals, the Monty Python inspired skits were quite imaginative and evoked much laughter. Some of the themes included hypnotism, a Pierre Trudeau canoe trip, Robin Hood, an airplane trip, a take-off of Rosemary’s Baby, the salmon run, a house full of talking furniture, and a Sam Spade detective that travels back to the time of the druids.

In addition to the skits that were performed by community members as well as visitors from other communities, there were solo or group filler acts, and one or more bands that played long into the night. The weekend would begin with a potluck and dress rehearsals on the Friday night, and volleyball, kid’s games, a parade, an occasional tacky fashion show and a feast before the show on Saturday night. Often, the nearby fields were filled with people camping in trucks, vans and tents.

Read more: Column: Remembering the famed Lee Creek Harvest Festival

Read more: WATCH: Shuswap man indulges hockey passion on – and in – an icy BC creek

For those who could stay up all night, there was the infamous “Ed Show” around the fire early Sunday morning where our resident amateur comedian and his sidekick, Ed, told off-colour jokes. Sunday evening was dedicated to the awards night, where the “Golden Cones” were presented to the most popular performers, skits and other categories from the previous year, based on the audience voting cards that were submitted.

When the technology became available, the awards show included short videos of the performances, a’ la the Oscars. The outdoor stage was abandoned when the Lee Creek Community Centre was expanded to its current size in the late 1990s, and the festival moved inside, which fit the new time slot that was much later in the year. As the community grew older, hill folk became too busy with a variety of other projects and lost interest in putting on skits and investing time into local social events. Additionally, when the festival was held indoors later in the year, some of the charm was lost.

The final festival was held in 2005 and now, more than 15 years later, there is plenty of time to reminisce about these glorious days of our youth. In the last few years, the hall was renovated through work parties, and more events were happening up until the pandemic, including the still popular Prom. Since the time of settlement in the early 20th century, dozens of communities in the Shuswap have built halls and have hosted similar events, but it is unlikely that there were any as unique and creative as the Lee Creek Harvest Festival.

@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

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Building the first section of the Lee Creek Community Centre in 1983. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Building the first section of the Lee Creek Community Centre in 1983. (Jim Cooperman photo)

A scene from the 1983 skit, “The Case of the Missing Statue,” featuring the late Willy Gaw, Jim Cooperman and David Balser. (Contributed)

A scene from the 1983 skit, “The Case of the Missing Statue,” featuring the late Willy Gaw, Jim Cooperman and David Balser. (Contributed)