B.C.’s Chief Gold Commissioner Mark Messmer competes in a speed panning competition against a miner, while Mayor Bob Simpson looks on. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Annual Gold Show a 24-karat affair

Visitors and vendors came from across the west to show their wares and keep in touch with tradition

Mining vendors, politicians and people wanting to get involved with their prospecting heritage gathered for a spot of fun at the seventh annual Gold Show at Alex Fraser Park last weekend (April 20-22).

One of the highlights of the weekend included the speed gold-panning championship on Saturday afternoon, which pitted miners against politicians in a wet and wild race to isolate gold flakes from dishes filled with dirt and grit.

Competition was high spirited, with dozens surrounding the matches, cheering on their favourite competitors.

First place this year went to Rick Wittner, president of the Cariboo Mining Association (CMA) and organizer of the event.

Wittner says the result was fantastic.

“Last year, I came in second and I think the year before, I came in fifth or sixth, so I’m really happy to win.”

He says that he didn’t really practise leading up to the event but he knows how to pan quite well, so that helped.

“But, speed panning is something that’s completely out of my element, so I’d say that I lucked out.”

Wittner was pleased with all the out-of-town support this year’s event seems to have drummed up.

“Most of our vendors are from as far away as the Yukon, Alberta and the Lower Mainland. Also, we do advertising which covers right up from Fort St John right down to Ashcroft, so we bring a lot of people into the city.”

His wife, Jackie, who is secretary for CMA, is also pleased with the showing.

“We just keep growing and growing. We have a waiting list of over seven vendors already this year. The vendors are coming to us, so we no longer have to go and chase anyone,” she says.

“This is the first time we’ve opened up for Friday night.

“We had over 120 people come through last night, and last count I did today showed over 800.

“I’m going to have to go home and print more tickets tonight!”

Of the importance of the event, Jackie says that it’s imperative to remain in touch with the region’s roots in mining.

“It’s about these young ones. I mean, look at them,” she says while pointing to a brother and sister furiously working away with their arms elbow-deep in a trough.

“It’s awesome to see them panning. They’re the future of keeping our heritage alive.”

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