The Campbell River Skating Club hosted its annual gala on Saturday, and it’s safe to say it drew a much bigger crowd than previous years.
Back in December, the club announced its yearly celebration, held each March, would feature a special guest this time around: three-time Olympic medallist and 10-time Canadian National Champion Patrick Chan.
It took well over a year to put the whole thing together from idea to execution, but club president Sue Smith says it was all worth it in the end.
“It went really, really well,” Smith says, reflecting on the weekend. “It was absolutely one of our best shows yet. It went off without a hitch. Everybody was excited and nervous, but they all did amazing. All the work was totally worth it. You start with this unattainable idea, and then it somehow all comes together.”
Part of it all coming together, Smith says, was the work of Strathcona Gardens staff, who got the arena ready for the show, including removing the glass around the spectator side of the rink.
“I have to commend the arena staff once again for working with us and doing everything they could to make the day so great,” Smith says. “I’ve had numerous community members say that they felt so much more involved because they didn’t have that barrier between them and the skaters.”
They didn’t quite manage to sell out the show, Smith says, but that was probably for the best.
“We were at just under 500 ticket sales, so we had a few tickets left,” she says, “but to be honest, I’m not sure we’d have wanted to put too many more people in there. It was pretty full.”
It was also intimidating enough for the club’s young skaters without jamming any more people into the stands.
“They’re not used to performing in front of crowds that large, so that probably played a part in their nerves,” Smith says. “Even at the biggest competitions we go to, the crowds aren’t that big.”
But if the skaters thought it was nerve-wracking skating in front of a large crowd, they found out skating for an audience of one or two can be even more intimidating. Sunday morning, the local skaters had the opportunity to get on the ice with Chan and his partner Elizabeth Putnam for a skating seminar.
“I would think they were probably even more nervous on Sunday,” Smith says. “I mean, it’s Patrick Chan. But you couldn’t tell. They were laughing and having fun and teasing each other – and him – and having a great time.”
But it wasn’t just about having fun. It was also an opportunity to pick the brains of two of Canada’s best skaters and learn a thing or two.
“The seminar was amazing,” Smith says. “They did a session on jumps, a session on spins and a session on footwork and presentation – so getting the acting bit and the facial expressions and pulling the crowd in.”
It’s certainly a weekend the club members won’t soon forget.
“The girls are feeling very inspired, I think. They’ve got a ton of fresh energy and some new skills to work on and they’re ready to get working towards their next competition.”
And in terms of whether all the work to put it on was worth it, Smith says “absolutely.”
“Would I hesitate to do it again? Maybe for a minute, but it’s all about the skaters,” she says. “It’s all about helping them become their best and if we can continue to inspire them and help them get to where they want to be in the sport, that’s what we’ll do. This was all about the skaters and the community and sharing our love of this sport.”
Check out some of the fun: