A couple of firefighters will be tasked with staying at Fire Hall #1 this year as Whistler’s Remembrance Day ceremony gets underway.
The reason: Whistler’s cenotaph has moved from that location — where it stood for over 35 years — to Whistler Olympic Plaza. “There will definitely be people caught off guard by that,” said Brian Buchholz, long-time organizer of Whistler’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
While the new spot is more prominent, scenic and will be able to accommodate more people, Buchholz said, emotionally, it will still take some time to adjust to the move. “As beautiful as the new spot is — and the viewpoints are spectacular — there’s a bit of reticence; are we doing the right thing? Many people had a warmth for that place. It was a positive thing to do, but it wasn’t done without some acknowledgement of that fact… This first year will feel a little different. The same people will be there with the same messages, but it will be interesting emotionally how it all rolls out.”
The ceremony is set to take place on Saturday (Nov. 11) beginning at 10:30 a.m. It will start with the Veterans’ Parade and Colour Party, which will travel down Village Stroll to the cenotaph. This year, organizers anticipate that they’ll host the largest contingent of current serving military members from Vancouver. “Once upon a time there would’ve been two or three people in the parade,” Buchholz said. “But it’s a visual reminder of that loss to have veterans and current serving members (there).”
As in most years, members of the community will also participate — from the Whistler Singers and Whistler Children’s Chorus performing songs of remembrance to the Whistler Girl Guides acting as honourary wreath bearers and the Whistler Scouts securing the flag at half staff.
“I have three young people reading poetry,” Buchholz said. “Whistler Singers will be singing up to three songs, we have some other poetry as we always do and a wreath presentation. The format stays the same, but every year I go into the community and find people to do readings.”
Every year Buchholz also finds slightly different topics to focus on as part of the service. This year, he plans to talk about the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium where 4,000 Canadians died. As well, he’ll touch on the sacrifice of First Nations and immigrants who served in the military.
“I always try and pick a story to tell that maybe hasn’t been told before,” he said. “Some part of loss and sacrifice that’s not well known.”
The service will last about 45 minutes with the Whistler Rotary Club offering coffee and cookies at the plaza afterwards.
While they anticipate a strong turnout — particularly because Remembrance Day falls on a Saturday this year — Buchholz said even if you can’t make it out you should plan to set aside two minutes of silence at 11 a.m.
“No matter where you are in Whistler or the Sea to Sky on Saturday, at 11 a.m. put down whatever you’re doing and take two minutes to pause and remember,”