Beaver Valley May Days History
As far back as 1911, Fruitvale has celebrated May Days. The first celebrations were held on May 1st, but later May Days began to be celebrated during the May 24th long weekend, which commemorates Queen Victoria’s birthday.
In the early days of Fruitvale, there were no parks. All the sports events and celebrations were held beside the Great Northern Railroad track across the street from the business section of town.
Everyone looked forward to these celebrations, and because the roads were not much better than trails and extremely muddy in the spring, a great deal of effort was made on the part of Fruitvale residents to participate in these celebrations. Over time, May Days became an annual event.
Gwen Robinson was an active member of May Days for many years. At one time she was Chairman. She remembers scooping ice cream all day with the Pythian Sisters until their wrists ached. “They didn’t have ice cream bars back then, ” she said.
During the late 1960’s, the Fall Fair was discontinued, as was May Days. As today, volunteers were hard to recruit. New, more sophisticated roads allowed the village residents more mobility, and they often travelled to the surrounding lakes and holiday areas during the long weekends.
People missed these activities, so in 1972 the Recreation Commission held a meeting and invited service clubs, including the newly formed Beaver Valley Lions Club, the Women’s Institute, the Rotary Club and more. It was decided that all organizations in attendance would form the May Days Committee.
Robinson was at the meeting as a chair of the Women’s Institute and recalls, “It was strongly stipulated that although all groups had their own good causes, no one would take the money, but instead any money raised would be spent on worthwhile projects.” It was this decision that enabled the May Days Committee to support such projects as the Beaver Valley Manor in 1974.
The first years were tough in the mid `70’s with little money and poor facilities. Robinson remembers it all very well. “If you don‘t think that was fun, try to run a weekend function with no running water and no electricity. ” she said.
Beaver Valley Clubs and Organizations
The Rotary Club started out organizing the children’s races and Lions Club was in charge of the barbeque. Eventually, the Lions moved to Bingo and the Rotary was in charge of the barbeque, which they continued to do until 2015.
In 2016, the Beaver Valley Rotary Club (established Sept. 15, 1954) made the difficult decision to fold, due to a lack of volunteers. They were honoured as the 2016 Beaver Valley Citizen(s) of The Year.
“This year, rather than recognizing only one person or a couple, the committee’s decision was to recognize an organization,” said Grace Terness, on behalf of the selection committee. “We could not have chosen a more deserving group. Within this club there are many individuals, past and present, who would be eligible for this award in their own right and by choosing the Beaver Valley Rotary Club, we are recognizing each and every individual as a dedicated Beaver Valley citizen.”
Eventually, the money made at May Days was given to upgrading the park and things began to look the way they do today, rather than the original ‘shack town’ with temporary shelters all over.
Every year, the Legion took charge of the Beavarian Gardens. One year, Robinson remembers the men coming up with this fancy new shelter that could easily be taken apart and stored. The tarp was orange like the tarps available today. “Boy, have we come a long way from the 1000-pound canvas!” said Robinson.
People were enjoying a great time under this tarp when “The most God awful rain storm came and washed away all the hard work. Oh dear! Did the people get wet or what!”
Each year a lot of sweating went on, wondering if the committee would get the BC gas stove for the weekend or not. Finally, Barrie Robinson, Gwen’s husband ‘got on the ball’ and acquired one from the Eagles. They used it at May Days for many years until it was recently replaced.
Dick Dar, owner of Liberty Foods, donated his old freezers to May Days and that was the first time they ever had freezers. “Dicky Dar was one hundred per cent supportive of May Days since day one”, said Robinson.
The committee slowly collected things from year to year and eventually water and electricity got hooked up and permanent structures were built. Many different things were attempted over the years. Some were successful and others were not. At one time, there was a May Days pageant, greasy pole climbing, a craft show, and many other fun and enjoyable events.
Thanks to the loyal support of our many service clubs and organizations, individuals and community minded businesses, our May Days continue and improve on the previous year. Somebody always comes forward and pitches in and makes it happen.
May Days has encountered all types of weather: snow, hail, rain and sunshine. The whole village looks forward to May Days celebrations, no matter what the weather. Originally, money raised was given to the community for a community project. Now, the money raised is distributed amongst the groups that participate.
On June 25, 1966, Fruitvale had its first Sports Day in many years under the auspices of the local Centennial Committee. This day was made possible because of the cooperation, enthusiasm, and hard work of many organizations and individuals.
The 1934 edition of the Nelson Daily reported on Fruitvale’s Empire Day celebration this way:
Under the management of the Fruitvale Athletic Club, the Empire Day celebration here will be long remembered by young and old. From early morn, the day was one round of enjoyment, the climax being a big dance in the Community Hall, which extended till dawn again. Visitors were well catered for by the numerous booths, with hot dogs, coffee, ice cream, et cetera galore and the weather was ideal. In school softball, the ‘Fighting Nine’ won 20-15. This team was composed of Marjorie Young, Arvid Hamburg, Saide Hamburg, Gordon Grieve, Bobbie Sims, Harold Moon, Joan Grieve, Ida Seifrit and David Doig. Other sports included foot racing and specialized racing such as the elephant race, log sawing, greasy pole, broad and high jump.