Mackenzie In Party Prep Mode
(at left, intersection of Crysdale and Pioneer in 1967 at right, same intersection in 2012)
Mackenzie, B.C. – It is the second “planned” community in B.C., and this year, Mackenzie will celebrate its 50th birthday.
Mackenzie was officially incorporated on May 19th, 1966, and this year to celebrate the half century the long weekend in May will be party-time. “The Instant town” that’s how Jim Wiens, a 5 term Councillor for the District and curator of the District of Mackenzie Museum refers to Mackenzie’s beginnings. The town site was chosen by the Province, once a couple of forestry companies had set up operations on the banks of the newly former Williston reservoir. “They (the government) hired a company out of Vancouver , they planned the whole town, shopping, houses, everything, for about ten thousand people. Right now there’s about 38 thousand living here.”
He says the first planned town in B.C. was Kitimat which was also designed by the same people in Vancouver, “So if you look at a street map of Kitimat and Mackenzie, they are very similar” and chuckles that the lower mainland designers forgot the two communities lie within significant snow belts, making snow removal from what he calls “crooked streets, crescents and cul-de-sacs” a major challenge.
But because the town was designed to support the industries, there were benefits, “Mackenzie got off to a really good start” says Wiens, “BC Forest Products and Finlay Forest Industries invested in the town. Our rec centre has a pool a curling rink, a library, a gymnasium, little restaurant, it is the centre of town, it was built by the local companies”. The facilities a necessity if the companies were to attract workers to the new community. BCFP and FFI also built many of the homes.
Wiens says many who first moved to Mackenzie didn’t plan to stay long “It was, ‘I’m only gong to be there for a couple of years’ and 40 years later they are still here, because they love it.” He recalls when Mackenzie was in the running to be named “Hockeyville” and the NHL’s Jeff Courtnall was fully behind the towns effort “He was up here, and he phoned his mother in L.A. and said ‘Mom you should see this town, I love it, it’s so beautiful up here’ and she said, ‘you used to live there’, because his dad helped build some of the houses here in 1966. He ( Jeff Courtnall) was up here when he was 2 years old.”
Diane Rossi is one of those folks who only planned on staying for a couple of years, that was 47 years ago. Today, she is the coordinator for the 50th anniversary celebration.
Events include a meet and greet on Thursday the 19th, the official anniversary date. From that point, there will be a band Jam, fire works, pancake breakfasts, a parade on Saturday, community Bar-B-q, presentation from the Mackenzie Arts Centre, a dance , social at the Legion, quilt show, and the burial of a time capsule in the Spirit Square.
The whole weekend has a reunion theme says Rossi “I think anyone who has left Mackenzie, still thinks of Mackenzie as home. That’s our whole basis of it, to catch up with old friends, with people who have left, and this will bring it back a little bit.”
Rossi has just one wish for the celebrations “This is a really good community, it’s a caring community. I just hope people take away that they had a good time.”