This year is the local chamber of commerce’s quasquicentennial anniversary – making it older than the City of Revelstoke.
“Our history is a testament of our importance to the community,” said Stacey Brensrud, executive director.
Four years before Revelstoke was incorporated in 1899, the chamber of commerce was in charge for the city. It was called the Revelstoke Board of Trade at the time.
“We presume its [board of trade] scope will not only include all matters bearing upon the general prosperity of the town, but that the mining interests of the districts will be considered,” reads a local newspaper article from July 6, 1895.
The 36 men that created the board owned most of the real estate and controlled the majority of the city’s wealth. The organization’s first president was J.D. Sibbald, “whose enthusiasm for the growing community made him a fit leader of men who were imbued with the doctrine that Revelstoke would go steadily onward until it was second to no place in the Interior of British Columbia,” quotes a newspaper in 1940.
Today, the organization has expanded to 356 members.
“Our growth shows we’re still relevant,” Brensrud said.
“We bring the voice of the business community to the table.”
Over the last 125 years, the chamber has largely shaped Revelstoke into what it is today. It’s a thread that stitches the community together.
The organization helped bring a creamery to the city in 1916 and even plan the Big Bend Highway. In 1941, the organization launched a campaign to send the U.S. as many letters as possible, inviting them to visit.
Everyone in Revelstoke with a relative, friend or acquaintance in the United States was asked to send them an invitation. Even the schools participated.
In 1942, an author from New York City contacted the Revelstoke Board of Trade, asking for “tasty” skunk dishes for a new wild game cookbook. The board sent out a newspaper ad and was flooded with responses.
“Cook like chicken,” reads one letter. Another said to stuff the skunk with onions, bury it in the ground for a week (firmly placing a clothespin on your nose when digging it up again), rolling it in lard and spice and roasting it drenched in hard cider until “all disagreeable odors have evaporated.
Delicious! Serve with champagne extra dry!!!”
Others suggested wrapping the animal in skunk cabbage leaves, wild mushrooms and bacon fat.
“Try it on the dog first and if he does not die in half an hour you will never find a more delectable dish.”
The board of trade even petitioned the government to rename local mountains, such as Mount Dickey in Mount Revelstoke National Park from Eight Mile Mountain in 1954.
Mr. Earle Dickey, born and raised in Revelstoke, was a former chairman of the board of trade.
For meetings and luncheons, the organization always brings VIP guests for members to mingle with, ask questions and raise concerns.
One year they brought the Canadian Ambassador to China, earlier this year they had the B.C. minister of forests to talk about the upcoming caribou plans.
With the pandemic, the chamber is largely focused on COVID-19 and how the crisis impacts their members. They helped create the daily list for what was open in Revelstoke during lock down, distribute what economic aid is available for businesses and heavily involved in the local recovery task force.
“The chamber is tired,” Brensrud said with a chuckle.
“The safety of our community goes hand and hand with business.”
She said when visitors describe Revelstoke, while they might first speak highly of the scenery, usually they will also note where they had lunch, saw an interesting store or had their vehicle fixed.
“Businesses play a large role in community branding.”
Brensrud said if the organization was to disappear, there would be less unity in the community.
“Who would sit at the table and represent business?”
While it’s hard to know what tomorrow might bring due to the pandemic, Brensrud said the organization’s next 125 years will be shaped by its membership, who will determine the chambers priorities.
This year will be the organization’s 27th Business Excellence Awards. The event is the chamber’s biggest fundraiser.
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