All Sooke Day

The first All Sooke Day was billed as a “Celebration of the Progress of Sooke” in 1934, held to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the discovery of gold in the region and the 1864 origin of metal mining. The format at the time was like a community picnic with events such as egg and spoon races and greased pole climbing. Later a logger sports show became a key part of the annual event.


All Sooke Day Could Be Axed

Archived Article © Robin Wark, Sooke News Mirror
December 18, 2002

After almost 70 years, the future of All Sooke Day is in question. Last Thursday the Sooke Community Association announced the cancellation of the 2003 event at the Sooke Flats. The association issued the following statement:

“After much deliberation, the directors of the Sooke Community Association regretfully announce the cancellation of All Sooke Day 2003. Just as the two-man cross cut saw and the steam donkey became outdated, so too has this annual event become outdated, cumbersome and financially inefficient to operate. We wish to thank every person and business that has contributed and supported All Sooke Day and made it such a success for the past 69 years. To our contributors, supporters and members of the community, we welcome your support, ideas and suggestions as we attempt to create a new and viable venue for the future.”

Association president Harry Connor said he would like to have a meeting in early January with the other presidents of Sooke service organizations to look at continuing All Sooke Day in a different format. Depending on the outcome of that meeting, an announcement will be made pertaining to the future of All Sooke Day. Rod Sluggett, president of the Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce, said he is concerned if the community loses its summer celebration it will not get it back. He would like to see if a variety of community groups could take on the project and carry it out in a different format. Sooke mayor Ed Macgregor, on Monday, said he has not officially been told about the cancellation of the 2003 event. Macgregor said until he understood more fully the reasons for the decision he’d prefer not to comment on the situation. The mayor did note that All Sooke Day has long been a community fixture.

Neil Bischoff, vice-president of CANLOG, said the association had heard rumours of the possible demise of the event, but as of Friday noon hadn’t heard anything officially. CANLOG is Canada’s logger sports association and is involved with doling out national championships to various events across the country. “From a nostalgic point of view it’s sad,” Bischoff said, when told of the Sooke Community Association’s decision. He said he doesn’t know what can be done at the CANLOG level, but hopes loggers will compete again in Sooke soon. “Hopefully, there will be some players around there that will come forward and help out,” he said. The CANLOG past president said putting on an annual show involves a great deal of work and financial backing. From a provincial perspective the New Westminister resident said logger sports is strong and more shows have come on-board than have dropped out over the past few years. He noted that Rocky Mountain House recently revived its show and that Powell River holds an event every other year. Bischoff said he has attended All Sooke Day a number of times and said it is known as a good, family atmosphere show.

The first All Sooke Day was billed as a “Celebration of the Progress of Sooke” in 1934. It was held to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the discovery of gold in the region and the 1864 origin of metal mining. The format at the time was like a community picnic with events such as egg and spoon races and greased pole climbing. Later a logger sports show became a key part of the annual event. According to a 1935 newspaper report, about 3,000 people came out to enjoy the event and about $1,000 was raised for excavation and creating a foundation for the Sooke Community Hall the next year. By 1936, about 6,000 were attending the event, which served up a ton of barbecued spring salmon at the Sooke Flats. The All Sooke Day baby competition has been a fixture at the event since its inception in 1934. Among the past winners of the contest, organized by the Sooke Lioness, are Keith Brownsey, John Planes and Art Shambrook.

The All Sooke Day name was adopted in 1940. During the war years the day was not held but in order to keep the date open dances were held in the community hall, which opened in 1937. Until 1960, there was no admission fee. Organizers decided to charge patrons to cover the cost of food and prizes. That didn’t stop an estimated 12,000 people from taking part. The event held the first Canadian championship for logging sports in 1966.

Last year about 5,100 people turned out for the event. This was an increase of about 1,000 from 2001. Sixty loggers attended the show, which organizers said was less than 2001. The day also included the first Fling at the Flats, a concert featuring a quartet of opera singers and the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra. Connor said the event has made money the past two years. All funds raised by the association at All Sooke Day are used to support its works. The association, an all volunteer organization, provides bursaries and maintains all the sports fields in Sooke, as well as the community hall and the park at the flats. The organization also assists many local charitable organizations, such as Meals-on-Wheels, the Sooke Christmas Bureau and the Sooke Fall Fair.


Sooke getting lumberjacks back, and that’s okay
Logger sports making a return 16 years after the demise of iconic All Sooke Day show

Archived Article © Tim Collins, Vancouver Island Free Daily News
November 7, 2019 [ Source ]

There will be a new addition to the 2020 Canada Day celebrations, and Sooke Lions Club Canada Day chair Steve Wright is thrilled with the change. “We’ve had multiple requests over the years to bring back some logging sports and make them a part of our Canada Day events,” Wright said. “It’s really a part of our history and heritage, and I can’t think of a better activity to include in the celebrations.” He said that a lot of people in the community still remember All Sooke Day, where logging sports played a significant role. That event was cancelled in 2003 after 69 years of operation when the Sooke Community Association decided the event was outdated.

An association spokesperson at the time issued a statement saying: “Just as the two-man cross cut saw and the steam donkey became outdated, so too has this annual event …” But that viewpoint has, for the past 18 years, been a point of contention in the community and the move by the Lions club to revive the activity has met with significant support, including the support of Council.

In October, council voted to increase its Canada Day event funding by $10,000 to allow for the logging sports to return. “I think this is a great idea, and it’ll be very good for tourism,” Mayor Maja Tait said.

In an ironic twist, the company bringing the lumberjack show back to Sooke has ties to the community. Darren Dean, the owner of West Coast Lumberjack Shows, lived in Sooke in 1996 and once helped to organize All Sooke Days. “I still have a soft spot for Sooke and a lot of great memories,” Dean said. “It’s a great community with wonderful people.” As for the show, Dean, who spent more than 15 years in the forest industry, believes it’s important to remind people of the history of the activities on display. “It’s nice to be able to remind people that if it wasn’t for logging, B.C. as we know it would’nt have existed. The lumberjack era may have largely come and gone, but the memories continue.”

But the show goes beyond the raw skill sets of the lumberjacks (and jills). Although it provides an action-packed entertainment package that focuses on logging skills, there’s a lot more going on. “We’ll be doing three shows of about 45 minutes, featuring tree climbing, axe throwing, tree chopping and sawing. But there’s also a lot of humour and a chance for members of the public to try their hand at the activities,” Dean said. “They’ll find out that it’s a bit harder than it looks, but it’s all just a lot of fun.”

Canada Day celebrations are headed up by the Sooke Lions Club, but are a joint effort of a much larger committee that includes most of Sooke’s service clubs and agencies. “We’re all very excited about this addition to the events. We think that it will help to draw a lot of people from Greater Victoria and beyond who’ll come to Sooke to celebrate Canada Day with us and see this great show,” Wright said.

UNFORTUNATELY, ALL EVENTS WERE CANCELLED DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

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