On October 3rd, after an almost 31 year hiatus, the echo of drums brought life, energy and a sense of community into the theatre of the new Fort St. James Community Centre.
As the Didoh Ne Drummers welcomed the community for the centre’s grand opening, a full theatre was present to celebrate a new gathering place to share, celebrate and be together.
And it’s this togetherness that seemed to be the focus of the evening. Betsy Leon, 93, has lived in Fort St. James her entire life and remembers well the grand opening of the old community centre in 1938 and also remembers it closing its doors in 1984.
Since then, Fort St. James has not had a community centre. Pat Short, Chair of the Community Association says that the schools have been hosting larger events up until now. “We now have a venue where can hold these big events,” Short said.
The centre includes a squash court, meeting rooms, a kitchen, theatre and a main hall.
Dave Birdi, Councillor for the District of Fort St. James said that this has been an ongoing project for many years and that big thanks go out to the Northern Development Initiative Trust for their $250,000 contribution which was given in the form of a grant. “It’s very exciting. This allows us to hold more functions, conferences, weddings and parties,” Birdi said.
And on the economic side, according to Birdi, this will also attract more businesses and organizations to hold their events in Fort St. James. “We can now attract them to our community,” he said.
Before the ribbon cutting ceremony, Mayor Rob MacDougall thanked the community for all their efforts in making the project a huge success. He thanked volunteers, staff, councillors, past mayors and the Hoy and Goodwin families for their contributions.
The entertainment helped make the evening a memorable event with some sultry jazz favorites performed by Mel McCutcheon, local singing sensation, Sam Holden who kept the audience eager to hear more, followed by a burlesque dance performance by the Foxy Firecats as they sashayed onto the stage.
A reception was held in the main hall. For everyone present and for Betsy Leon, it’s all about the community. “We go to school together, we work together, we do everything together. We are very proud of being a community together,” Leon said.