Joyce Buckland (l) and Phyllis Rainey, organizers of a physically distanced Easter scavenger hunt in Ashcroft, April 2020. It was one of many events that community volunteers organized to raise spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic, as other regular events had to be postponed or cancelled. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Joyce Buckland (l) and Phyllis Rainey, organizers of a physically distanced Easter scavenger hunt in Ashcroft, April 2020. It was one of many events that community volunteers organized to raise spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic, as other regular events had to be postponed or cancelled. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

The Editor’s Desk: The year that almost wasn’t

2020 was a year like no other, but we rose to the challenge, because it’s what we do

Well, it’s certainly been a year, hasn’t it?

You’ll notice I didn’t qualify the above with an adjective. There are several choice ones that could be used to describe 2020, most of which can’t be printed in a family newspaper, although even they don’t do full justice to the year. Perhaps we need some better ones, as Carl Denham, the filmmaker in King Kong, notes when he explains what he expects to find on Skull Island: “They’ll have to think of a lot of new adjectives when I get back.”

I’ve been writing the “Year in Review” articles, which I usually enjoy. They give me an opportunity to go back and re-acquaint myself with what was news- and note-worthy in the region over the past 12 months, so there are invariably a lot of smiles as I stroll down memory lane. That’s because so much of what I write about is good or happy news: the sorts of stories that are the bread-and-butter of small town newspapers.

The first three months of 2020 were no exception. There were my “Theatre Diaries”, chronicling the WRAPS production of A Murder is Announced and the fun times we had. I wrote about how two years of hard work by the Sea Cadets, fundraising for their trip to Halifax in May, had paid off, and how Dwight Toews had big plans for more drag racing at Campbell Hill.

There was an article about how the McAbee Fossil Beds was set to expand on a successful 2019 opening, and how Historic Hat Creek was looking forward to building on a record-setting 2019 season. An article about the filming of an episode of The Twilight Zone in Ashcroft noted the economic benefits to businesses in Ashcroft and Cache Creek, and how they would help said businesses get through the lean winter months before the summer busy season.

Perhaps the fact that an episode of that particular show (and, even more on the nose, part of an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand) filmed here was a hint of things to come, because not long after filming wrapped, the whole world entered the world’s longest episode of Twilight Zone. Re-reading those articles with the benefit of hindsight was immensely sad, and proof that Robbie Burns had it right when he wrote about the best laid plans. So much optimism, so many blithe spirits, and no hint of what was just around the corner.

The life of a small town newspaper person follows a certain reassuring pattern, year after year. Just as farmers are guided by the seasons, we take our cues from what’s going on to let us know where we’re at. Clinton Citizen of the Year? It must be March. Ashcroft Art Show and Sale? April. Clinton Annual Ball and the Rotary Citizens of the Year banquet? It must be May. Graffiti Days and then grad? We’re in June. Desert Daze Festival? August. CP Holiday Train announcements? Christmas is coming.

This year that pattern went all to pot, as one by one all of the above — and so much more — was cancelled, or postponed, or scrambled to go virtual. It would have been all too easy to get depressed at what we lost, but then I read through all the articles about what sprang up to fill the gaps. Desert Daze and the Sage Sound Singers and the Holiday Train found a new way to present their music. Hearts sprang up everywhere; art shows went virtual. Drive-by events celebrated momentous events. Volunteers established and staffed a COVID helpline for local residents who needed assistance. The Santa Parade was cancelled but Santa Claus still came to town. There were physically-distanced scavenger hunts, and a Christmas lights tour you could take from your armchair.

In short, we adapted and carried on; it’s what we do, and we do it well. I’ve no doubt we’ll keep doing it well for as long as we have to. Here’s to a happy new year for all of us, and a welcome return to more normal times. We’ve earned it.

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