It was a new season for Barkerville Historic Town and Park that opened last weekend during a record-breaking heatwave.
Turnout was good at the world-class heritage site east of Quesnel. They can now host double the number of guests under public health rules, up to 400, said public programming lead James Douglas.
Early morning visitors were ready for when the gates opened Saturday, June 26.
“Of course, as the heat continued to rise throughout the day, a lot of them went off to do some other really great things in the immediate area like Bowron Lake to do a bit of swimming or boating… but we had quite a great turnout this weekend,” Douglas said.
The COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in between 35,000 to 40,000 people last year visiting Barkerville, which usually averages around 65,000 visitors annually.
While enhanced safety measures remain in place and all special events have been suspended, Douglas believes things are looking better.
“We still are in a pandemic, so we still need to make sure that we very carefully follow the rules as they are laid out to us right now…but I think despite all of that, there is an excitement to people,” Douglas added.
“People have not necessarily grown used to the pandemic, but at the very least it’s not the quite surprising element that last year was, and there is a little bit more freedom within B.C. for people to travel and from other provinces too, so I think we will see numbers increase because people are looking to get out and do things.”
Douglas suspects Canada Day, which will not see a large-scale celebration this year, will be acknowledged by their historical and Indigenous interpreters stationed throughout the historic site. Before the pandemic, July 1st was one of the biggest days at Barkerville, attracting an average of 2,000 visitors.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Theatre Royal remains closed and is not anticipated to reopen until 2022 after repairs are made to its foundation that hasn’t been touched in nearly four decades.
The restoration won’t begin until August, and Douglas said it is likely archaeological objects will be found.
Also set to receive repairs is the tin shop that was damaged by sliding snow last winter.
A printing press revival project has been launched for the Cariboo Sentinel in which a 12-month subscription for limited prints by local artists are available to support the project that is hoped to result in a fully functioning print shop.
Douglas encourages visitors to reserve their tickets either online or over the phone to guarantee their spot at Barkerville, which will be open until Sept 19.