Campbell River Skating Club coach Rae Anne Hesketh works with the Competitive Team on Monday night in preparation for this weekend’s Gala. The event gets going at 2 p.m. on Saturday and admission is by donation. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River skating club welcomes public to annual gala Saturday

The club has been putting on a year-end show for the public since its inception in 1972

The Campbell River Skating Club will again host the community at its year-end gala this Saturday (March 9) at Rod Brind’Amour Arena.

The annual celebration of skating is the club’s chance to showcase its skaters’ talents while taking a “break” from the more serious aspects of the sport, according to club president Sue Smith.

“This is our fun one,” Smith says. “Yes, the girls get to show off their skills and they are working hard to get ready for it, but it’s more of a fun environment where there are no judges and no competition. It’s just lots of family and friends and the public and they can let loose a little and just enjoy being out on the ice.

The club has been putting on a year-end show for the public since its inception in 1972.

“That’s 47 years we’ve done some sort of fun thing at the end of the year,” Smith says, giving most of the credit for the current state of the annual event – and really, the club’s overall success – to head coach Rae Anne Hesketh, who she calls “the creativity behind it all.”

“She has been with the club for 32 years,” Smith says. “It’s her concept; they are her numbers. She gives the girls two or three pieces of music to choose from, but otherwise it all comes from her, and it’s been just fantastic that we’ve had that kind of consistency and professionalism for this long.”

RELATED: Campbell River Skate Club holds 2018 Gala

Smith is looking back on the season on Monday night as the girls practice for the gala, and says it’s been a “fantastic” year, right form the start. The season, Smith says, opened with a skater development seminar down in Parksville in September where 10-time national champion Patrick Chan put the skaters through their paces and offered advice and support.

“Of course, he had his Olympic gold medal with him, which was really a treat,” Smith says, “and all of our senior girls got to go and participate in that and they came back super ready to go and inspired to get out there on the ice.”

That was followed by the Island Interclub Competition in November that the Campbell River club actually got to host for the first time in nine years, which saw 228 skaters from all over Vancouver Island converge on Strathcona Gardens.

RELATED: Skating club hosts first Interclub Competition in 9 years

“And we’ve recently come back from Victoria from the Regional Championships,” she says, “where five of our six senior competitive girls headed down and every one improved on their results from the November competition, so we were thrilled about that.”

And after this weekend’s gala, Smith says, “the girls have to get right back to work, because we’ve got our final competition coming up April 5, 6 and 7. It’s a B.C./Yukon-wide competition, so it’s a really big deal.”

So this weekend’s event isn’t a “year end” thing at all?

“Well, I guess not,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s a good chance to give them some time to have some fun before they have to get back to work on their programs. I mean, they work really hard on the gala, as well, but it’s a different kind of work from regular practice.”

What Smith is most proud of this season, however, is that the girls have really bonded.

“They’re a great bunch of girls and they’ve really come together this year,” she says. “Our competitive team goes from age 10 to 16 and they are all super close and super willing to help each other. It’s really nice to see. It’s inspiring.”

Admission to Saturday’s gala, entitled “This Is Us,” is by donation. There will also be raffles and 50/50 draws and all the proceeds from the event go towards next year’s gala.

“There’s quite a few fun numbers, and it’s going to be a really good time.”

For more on the club, visit campbellriverskatingclub.com