Angelika and Peter Langen. (BC Achievement photo)

Angelika and Peter Langen. (BC Achievement photo)

Top 10 community and A&E stories of 2021: 5 – 1

The past year has not been a normal year by any means in terms of community and arts and entertainment stories, but 2021 did see things open up a bit compared to 2020.

It is never easy to pick a Top 10 because of all the various factors (impact, interest, scope), that make a story compelling and there is some crossover between what constitutes news versus community. For example, the return of the Fall Fair could have been a Top 10 news story and the local response to the discovery of children in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops certainly had the elements to make it a top community story.

The following are the stories we felt fit best under this category.

Spice of Brenda: Our long-time columnist gets frank (when wasn’t she?)

Perhaps the greatest tribute to a life well-lived is how many people take the time make sure you’re doing OK.

At the end of a long narrow driveway near Tyhee Lake, past an old workshop and a pickup truck that has become part of the landscape, sits a modest off-the-grid cabin cobbled together over the years with materials salvaged from various construction sites and landfills.

On any given day, in a small, front yard wire enclosure with bright blue wooden gates, Brenda Mallory can be found holding court. Various friends and neighbours come by to check in, shoot the breeze and make sure she has enough firewood, etc., a tribute to 78 well-lived years, indeed.

The six-acre property, a veritable bird sanctuary, is crisscrossed with numerous trails, a playground for Brenda and the many dogs and cats she has rescued over the decades.

Brenda has been rambling around this little piece of Telkwa heaven for close to 40 years since she and her second husband Al Burrows landed in the Bulkley Valley from Atlin.

“We came here and some people who lived next door, they were also from Cassiar, said this property was for sale, so we had a big jar of gold that was flopping around under the front seat of the truck,” Brenda recalled. “Al worked in a gold mine up north and that’s what he was paid in. So, Al took the gold in and bought the property.”

Brenda doesn’t get around very well anymore, and failing coordination ultimately led her to give up writing Spice of Life, the column she wrote for this newspaper for well over 30 years. But she’s as sharp-witted, (and as sharp-tongued) as ever.

Since her last column was published two weeks ago, the well-wishes have been pouring in from her dedicated readers.

After moving to Telkwa, Brenda continued all of her artistic endeavours. In addition to writing her column, initially under the title Slices of Life, she published a book by the same name.

She painted and did art exhibitions, taught watercolours and writing and played her violin.

But, perhaps most interestingly, she was a professional stand-up comedian doing festivals and other private gigs across the north.

Stand-up comedy has been hailed as perhaps the most difficult of the performing arts, but it came naturally to the quick-witted and brazenly transparent Mallory.

“I didn’t find it (tough) because my life was kind of strange anyway,” she explained. “I don’t do jokes; I don’t even know any jokes; I just talk about me.”

“It got to be quite a bit, going two or three times a week to do local stuff for Christmas and somebody’s birthday and I said, ‘booger this, I’m not doing this anymore,” she said.

She did continue to do an occasional motivational speaking gig, however.

These days, Brenda doesn’t get out much, content to hopefully live out her days quietly in her little patch of forest.

She certainly has not lost the irreverent sense of humour that anyone familiar with her writing is sure to recognize, though.

“I’ve told everybody if I die up there (in her second-floor bedroom), don’t let the ambulance people come up, you just throw me off of there and they can pick me up down below because if I’m already dead, they don’t have to come up and fart around where my pee pot is and all that stuff,” she said.

“I don’t think anybody has figured that out, but I’m a big person, so, just roll me out, flip me over and phone the people.”

Wildlife shelter founders honoured with B.C. Achievement Award

The Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter (NLWS) is well-known to Bulkley Valley residents for its work in rehabilitating and rewilding animals, particularly bears.

But what they do goes well beyond that very important function with significant contributions to scientific research and rehabiliation and rewilding techniques that are used around the world.

Now founders and operators Angelika and Peter Langen have been honoured for their work with a BC Achievement Community Award.

“That was quite a surprise, I had no idea,” Angelika said. “Jennifer Larson out of Stewart had nominated us for it, then she reached out to our crew and asked for support, so they got a whole bunch of people together to write support letters and statements and I got a call a couple of weeks ago from somebody from down south telling me we had been chosen for this award and I no clue. I feel very special.”

For years now, the Langens have been working with researchers who use the animals while they are residing at the shelter to conduct sometimes life-saving research.

They have also worked with foreign governments to get rewilding programs going in other countries such as Vietnam and Greece.

Other jurisdictions are also anxiously awaiting the results of another NLWS first, their grizzly bear rewilding program.

“We have Montana, Yukon and Alberta and Yukon watching what we’re doing here and once this program has shown the success we’re hoping it will show, then hopefully those provinces and countries will pick up rewilding of grizzly bears as well,” Angelika said.

“We’re the only ones that rehab grizzlies. The idea is to prove that these bears are making it out there. We have some feedback for the first year, what we’re needing now is long-term results.”

“Angelika and Peter have dedicated their lives to wildlife rehabilitation, public education and ongoing research for the betterment of both the wildlife and the public,” said the BC Achievement Foundation in announcing the honour. “Their work benefits not just their local community of Smithers, but the entire province and beyond.”

Fall Fair returns

The Fall Fair is back.

In a letter to sponsors dated June 1, the Bulkley Valley Agricultural and Industrial Association said it is “over the moon excited” to make the announcement that the Bulkley Valley Exhibition (BVX) is on for 2021.

“With our open-air facility and proper social distancing protocol in place, the 102nd BVX will be a safe and fun event this summer,” the letter said.

It noted the May 25 announcement of B.C.’s phased restart program finalized planning that has been ongoing since the beginning of the year.

“It was the goal of the board of the BVX to offer something this year, we just didn’t know how big we could be,” said Jan McClary, BVX. general manager. “Now we’re looking at maybe being able to host just about everything we usually host, not the Canine Stars because they come from the States, unfortunately, but we’re going to be able to get them back next year.”

The rodeo, draft horse, light horse, loggers’ sports, 4-H show and sale, Kid’s Zone shows and petting farm all will be back, as well as the Shooting Star Midway and main stage acts.

The rodeo will be cut to three days from four, but other than that the other events should be typical of past years, McLary said.

New for 2021, Grampa’s Tractors, the collection of 43 antique tractors compiled by John and Leny Boonstra over the years will now be on display all year round at the BVX. There will also be a permanent historical display to go with the tractors.

~ Continued on Page 15 ~

 

MMIWG Mural completed in downtown Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)

MMIWG Mural completed in downtown Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)

Bareback riding at the Smithers Fall Fair in 2021. The Bulkley Valley Exhibition’s rodeo may be able to go back to four days in 2022 in part thanks to $40,000 in recovery funding from the provincial government. (Thom Barker photo)

Bareback riding at the Smithers Fall Fair in 2021. The Bulkley Valley Exhibition’s rodeo may be able to go back to four days in 2022 in part thanks to $40,000 in recovery funding from the provincial government. (Thom Barker photo)

A group of kids go for a spin on one of the rides at the Fall Fair in Smithers on August 23, 2019. (Archive photo)

A group of kids go for a spin on one of the rides at the Fall Fair in Smithers on August 23, 2019. (Archive photo)