"Whistler has become my sanctuary. It brings me so much joy to live here..."
- Shauna Hardy Mishaw
She's bold and confident and rarely takes no for an answer. She can be unrelenting too. Even abrasive when she feels she has to be. But make no mistake, when it comes to celebrating the values of her adopted hometown, Alberta-born Shauna Hardy Mishaw is all in.
"I feel so fortunate to make my home here," says the executive director of the Whistler Film Festival Society and grand-poobah at this week's cinema shindig. "I grew up in a family of very keen skiers and so we spent a lot of time in the mountains. I loved growing up in Alberta. It's a special place. But Whistler felt right from the moment I moved here."
She laughs, a growly/happy sound that comes from deep inside her. It's a trademark chortle, and one of her most endearing traits. You see, no matter how tough a businesswoman people may perceive her to be, Shauna has a heart the size of a barn. And enough of a sense of humour to realize it's both a strength and a weakness. She's not a big gal, far from it. I bet she barely nudges over the five-foot barrier. But her energy, her vision - her desire to make positive things happen around her - make her a giant among her peers. And for the Whistler community that's a very good thing.
Consider this week's film festival. Now celebrating its ninth year of existence - "it was such a little idea at first," says Hardy Mishaw - Whistler's very own movie party has morphed into one of the most exciting independent ventures to ever be launched in the Sea to Sky corridor. Why? Because it fulfils one of the region's most important needs: and that is developing diverse new ways to promote the resort's recreational offerings.
Remember diversification? Remember how important that concept was to our much-vaunted Whistler 2020 vision? Well, Hardy Mishaw is one local event promoter who gets it. "Not a lot of people in Whistler really understand what it is I do," says the red-headed dynamo and mom of two toddlers (as if she didn't have enough to keep her busy). "But I spend the better part of my year promoting Whistler to folks in the entertainment business. And you know what? Those people like coming here. They genuinely want to come to Whistler." She smiles. "So yeah, with the film festival we've created an important cultural event, but I think it's just as important to understand its potential for attracting new visitors too. I mean, do you know how big cultural tourism is these days?"