Barkerville is now open for another season of mining the Cariboo’s rich Gold Rush history for unique stories and experiences from the 1860s.
Barkerville Historic Town and Park, which is a National Historic Site of Canada and a Province of B.C. Heritage Property and Park, officially opened May 17 for the 2018 season.
Barkerville is now the largest living-history museum in western North America, according to its website, and the town is named after English prospector Billy Barker.
“In 1862, Barker helped spearhead a 20-year, multi-billion-dollar industrial revolution that literally built a province,” says the site’s visitor guide.
“Today, the extraordinary historic town of Barkerville is an authentic, world-class heritage experience that provides travelers from across the globe with a unique opportunity to revisit the Cariboo Gold Rush through activities, storytelling, preservation and good, old-fashioned service.”
Throughout the town, there are many heritage buildings and characters to meet, and there are several educational activities, displays and tours, such as guided town tours with historical interpreters, schoolhouse lessons, historical tours of Chinatown, court sessions and Theatre Royal variety shows.
Special events are also planned throughout the year.
This year, Barkerville’s Dominion Day event on July 1 will mark the 150th anniversary of this celebration.
On July 1, 1868, Barkerville held the first Dominion Day party in recorded history.
“Canada’s very first Dominion Day celebration was held in Barkerville as a fervent display of support for Canadian confederation three years before British Columbia joined in 1871,” according to the visitor guide. “Just past midnight on July 1, 1868, the Dominion of Canada’s first anniversary, Barkerville citizens launched their own version of a 21-gun salute. Cannons were in short supply, so black powder charges were detonated between stacked anvils, providing a loud and raucous start to Canada’s inaugural birthday party. A full slate of activities followed throughout the day and long into the evening, capped off with a fireworks display.”
James Douglas, the manager of visitor experiences and public relations, says Barkerville’s Dominion Day celebrations in 1868 were a few hours before the celebrations at Fort Langley, making this the oldest celebration.
Douglas says this year’s Dominion Day celebrations, held Sunday, July 1 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., will be particularly exciting, as a demolition crew will come in to do an anvil salute like the one that took place in 1868. There will also be a tug of war, funny face contest, greasy pole climb, egg toss, races and much more. The House Hotel will host an evening of entertainment, dancing and refreshments, followed by fireworks.
Dominion Day is the beginning of a very busy month at Barkerville.
“July this year is going to be quite packed for us,” says Douglas.
The fifth annual Barkerville Indigenous Celebration will be held July 14 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature the Lhtako Dené Hoop Dancers, St’at’imc Bear Dancers and Xatśūll drumming, song and storytelling.
The week after that, Barkerville and the New Pathways to Gold Society are partnering to put on a special commemorative pack trip, explains Douglas.
Nam Sing ran a pack train into Barkerville and used to drive small herds of cattle and bring produce to the town, he says, and this year, they will be re-creating one of those pack trips.
“We are gathering wagons and horses, and we are going to do a re-creation of one of those rides, from Wells to Barkerville on the highway,” says Douglas.
“There will be a number of Chinese, First Nations and Caucasian cowboys, and we’re working on getting a produce sponsor so we can bring real vegetables here.”
Other upcoming special events in Barkerville including the Theatre Royal Summer Show Gala June 16, and the Spirit of Cariboo Cameron performances June 29 to July 2. Some of the future events include a Mid Autumn Moon Festival Aug. 18, Barkerville Cowboy and Drover Jubilee Sept. 7-9, and the Barkerville Heritage Workshop Series Sept. 10-13.
Barkerville is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the Visitors’ Reception Centre is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until June 15 and then from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., starting June 16.
For more information, visit barkerville.ca.