A crowd of about 2,000 people showed up at the Exhibition Park Ice Oval Saturday evening with skates in hand and they were in the mood for a party.
The inaugural Ice Disco at the Oval gave everybody a chance to take to the ice on the 400-metre oval to dance to the music, take in the light show, get their faces painted, fill their bellies with food truck goodies, watch a fireworks display, and just have a good time socializing safely in a crowd, an opportunity the pandemic has robbed them of over the past two years.
The event was a fundraiser for the Prince George Hospice Palliative Care Society and people arriving at the rink voluntarily donated more than $30,000 to the society.
“It was a huge success for us, we had almost 2,000 people come out to attend the event, so we’re grateful for the folks of Prince George who came out and celebrated and gathered together again,” said event organizer Kyle Sampson.
“Really great to see so many smiling faces and so many people having fun together. We’re also grateful for our corporate partners and sponsors, without them this would never have happened. We wanted the event to be accessible to everybody so we made it a free event so they could participate in everything and make a donation if they were so inclined and we saw people come out in a big way.”
The money raised will help the Prince George Hospice Palliative Care Society support its 10-bed facility at Rotary Hospice House that provides end-of-life palliative care and respite services for families. The society, through its Solace Centre, also offers community outreach caregiver services, bereavement counselling and comfort for the community.
“This event was such an amazing opportunity to see our community gather again after such a long time away from events; we couldn’t have enjoyed the day more than seeing the countless smiling faces enjoying themselves,” said Hospice Society executive director Donna Flood.
“The support the Prince George community has for Hospice is truly heart-warming, and on behalf of our entire team at Hospice I was to share my genuine gratitude to everyone involved in the event. I want to first thank the Ice Oval group of volunteers who worked so hard to ensure our event could go forward – we are extremely grateful and look forward to supporting you too in your fundraising efforts to Chill the Oval!”
Above-freezing temperatures the past week made it challenging for the volunteer crews from the Outdoor Ice Oval Society who build and maintain the ice at the oval, but they managed to make the ice thick enough to hold up to most of the punishment of thousands of skate blades digging into the surface.
The event was a chance for the Oval Society to promote its Chill the Oval project to revamp the outdoor oval and install a refrigeration system. That would require a concrete track with buried piping to allow the flow of glycol and an on-site chiller that would make it possible to have ice six months of the year and create a year-round facility that could be used in the warm-weather months for roller skating and roller skiing. The cost of that project is estimated at $5-6 million and donations are being collected through the website www.pgoval.ca.
“Those volunteers from the Prince George Ice Oval Society worked tirelessly despite the warm temperatures to maintain the ice and try to keep it at a skatable level,” Sampson. “That’s a world-class facility right here in the middle of our city and if we don’t invest, with these abnormal winters we’re getting and these uncertain temperatures, we’re not going to have a consistent oval. It hurts their ability to world-class sporting events and host recreational skating for the community and it’s really important that we support the oval. So if folks enjoyed themselves last night, please contribute to the oval as well.”
The event was put together on a week’s notice and Sampson said it was a chance for some of the businesses most affected by the two-year pandemic, those in the entertainment and food-service industries – to participate in a large-scale event again. Other than the Rooftop Rock live music and entertainment festival Sampson brought last summer to the CN Centre parking lot during a lull in the spread of COVID infections, there haven’t been any large gatherings in the city over the past two years. His next big promotion is the Best Damn Music Festival at Exhibition Park, Aug. 12-13.
“We did Rooftop Rock and the idea was that was going to be the icebreaker,” said Sampson.
“But it turns out that perhaps our winter event will be the icebreaker and hopefully it’s a big kickoff for what’s to come for live events in Prince George this year. So many different people and businesses and organizations are involved in the live-event sector, everything from accommodations to restauranteurs to technical production service providers, food vendors, security firms, and sign companies.
“It’s been a really hurting industry the last year, so if we can support events in a big way this year it’s really going to help the economy turn around in Prince George.”