This year’s memorial for Ramona Wilson will be a little different.
“I was friends with Ramona when she went missing,” said organizer Kathy Frank. “This is the first year I have lived in Smithers since she went missing. I have been a professional performer for the last 10 years, and I know that Ramona loved music.”
Ramona Wilson went missing on June 11, 1994. Her body was found near the Smithers airport in April 1995.
The Ramona Wilson Walk and Music Festival will begin at 1 pm on June 11 at the Lake Kathlyn school. Smithers residents are invited to gather at the Subway and then to join Brenda Wilson-John and the group of walkers who are making the tenth anniversary walk along the Highway of Tears as they walk from the school to Bovill Square on Main Street.
The music festival will begin at the square at 3 pm, and will include a mix of local and non-local performers including Sarah Zantingh, Eric Anderson, Kelsey Abraham, Robbie Taylor, the James Shepherd band, Mark Perry and Stanley Young. Kathy Frank will also be performing.
Heather Holland will perform Women’s Warrior Song which was written in honour of missing women across Canada and Warren Dubz will sing Highway of Tears. The event will feature special performances by the Khast’an drummers, a group of Lheidli T’enneh members and friends from Prince George.
There will also be a silent auction, face painting and food vendors. Frank said people should bring a chair and enjoy the music.
“I just want to celebrate Ramona’s life and make sure people remember her for who she was and not just as part of the Highway of Tears,” said Frank. “The Highway of Tears is very dark and I think we just need to shine a little light on it and remember the girls for who they were.”
Part of that light will come in the form of candles in lanterns that will be made available for everyone who wants to remember a loved one.
“Anybody that you have lost, if you feel you want to celebrate them with music, you can put their name in a lantern, and the lanterns will be put on the stage for the very last song,” said Frank. “It’s going to be a very powerful day.”
The last song will be played at about 10 pm.
Frank said she would like to see a change in the way people look at the Highway of Tears.
“It is happening everywhere. There are so many people going missing and there are all these families and friends that don’t have any closure to these mysteries that are happening and its a hard thing to talk about,” she said. “I find that people find that it is a hard thing to discuss but if we can just open it up (through events like this) we can try and make it a little easier for everyone to just talk about it.”
Frank says the issue should be seen as a human one that affects everyone.
“I would just like to see more of a multicultural reaction to it. I would like to see where people are not afraid to discuss it. I know it is a sad tragedy but we have to try and find something in it that will bring some light to it so people aren’t so afraid to talk about it. So that possibly there could be closure for some of these families.”