Slo-pitch was a big deal in Revelstoke back in 1988. There was an annual men’s tournament that received full coverage and a complete photo spread in the newspaper. The end of the league season was also a big deal.
That year, a group of local business people got together looking for a way to bring tourists in to Revelstoke. They decided to host a big slo-pitch tournament on the August long-weekend.
That year, 60 teams from across British Columbia and Alberta flocked to town to take part in the first ever Kokanee Glacier Slo-pitch tournament. It was billed as the “largest community event ever in Revelstoke.”
Local teams took part and competed against teams from as far away as Victoria and Edmonton. There was also mud volleyball, helicopter tours of the area, and a dance at the arena with more than 1,000 people in attendance. The Tally-Hos from Victoria won the $700 prize.
“Considering none of us had run a tournament before, I’d say we did an excellent job,” said tournament chairman and future mayor Mark McKee at the time.
The next year about 1,500 players on 66 teams took part – 55 in the fun league and 11 in the competitive division. The dance was moved to Grizzly Plaza and 1,500 people showed up. The success of the first year brought many teams back.
“We had a really good time so we decided to do it again,” Craig Duncan of the Metro Ford T-Birds from Calgary told the Revelstoke Times. “Personally I’m just here for the beer.”
The beer, which for many has come to define the tournament, turning Centennial Park, and almost every other green space in Revelstoke into a big party and a major fundraiser for local groups that collect the empties.
By 1992 the tournament was at 99 teams. “Another Glacier Challenge ball tournament has come and gone, providing another chapter in a local success story,” wrote the Revelstoke Times. “It’s a win-situation from the players who spend four days in the sun to the spectators kibitzing from the sidelines.”
This year organizers are aiming for 130 teams. Molson Canadian has come on as the main sponsor. There’s a complete line-up of bands for the entire weekend.
On Friday, locals the Maritime Kitchen Party open up for Vancouver rock-pop band The Boom Booms.
Saturday features the first ever Glacier Challenge open mic during the day. At night Blindspot opens for Redeye Empire.
On Sunday Blindspot once again takes the stage, this time opening for the Werewolves of Creston.
The music closes with the Maritime Kitchen Party on Monday afternoon.
In town, the presence of several thousand revellers is felt most prominently at the grocery and liquor stores. Campsites fill up, as do many hotels. Some locals do what they can to escape the madness, others revel in the festival-like atmosphere.