This is Family Day weekend, the new statutory holiday in B.C., so it is only fitting that the Resort Municipality of Whistler has announced the creation of Family Night in the resort.
Every Wednesday for the rest of the winter season will be Family Night and the emphasis will be on fun. A new event is being offered on Wednesdays at Whistler Olympic Plaza. The family event each week will feature sled rentals, hot chocolate, balloon toques, snowman contests, fire spinning, story telling and, of course, skating.
The first edition of Family Night is set for 5 p.m. on Feb. 13 and the organized events will wrap up at 7 p.m.
Funding for the new Family Night celebration is coming from the RMOW’s Festivals, Events and Animation budget.
Family Day is being celebrated all across B.C. for the first time this year after Premier Christy Clark and her Liberal government created the holiday to give families an opportunity to come together in a month that previously didn’t have a holiday weekend.
"For too long, British Columbians have had to go the long stretch between New Year's and Easter without a break and that ends this weekend with the first Family Day, a day picked by the public for a made-in B.C. holiday," said Premier Clark in a news release. "Whether you hit the slopes or take the kids on a hike, this weekend is about spending time together. I hope everyone enjoys the extra day to spend time together with the people important to them."
Family Day officially falls on the second Monday of February each year. The provincial government is encouraging B.C. Families to celebrate the weekend by planning a "B.C. Staycation." While many chose that option, large numbers of people opted to head south. Waits of up to 70 minutes were reported Sunday morning at the Peach Arch Border crossing. Travellers spent up to an hour to get into Washington State at the Pacific Border Crossing.
While the border crossings were busy, so too was B.C. Ferries. The ferry corporation posted a travel advisory for its major routes. The crossings between Horseshoe Bay, the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and Tsawwessen were busier than usual with waits reported through the weekend and expected Monday.
The Minister of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour, Pat Bell, has predicted the new holiday weekend will be a popular travel weekend into the future.
"Family Day will provide a significant boost for our tourism sector during the winter months," said Bell. "We're delighted that B.C. tourism operators are getting into the Family Day spirit with events and price cuts across the province."
The provincial government’s decision to create Family Day was supported by many family advocates, including Marianne Drew-Pennington, from the BC Association of Family Resource Programs.
"Family Day is recognition for those who are too often criticized rather than supported," said Drew-Pennington in the province’s news release acknowledging the new holiday. “Setting aside an annual holiday in B.C. that values parenting and the role of families in raising children and building communities demonstrates appreciation for these unsung heroes."
Joel Kaplan, executive director of BC Council for Families, also shared his thoughts on the importance of setting aside a family day across the province.
"B.C. Family Day is a time to celebrate families in all their diverse configurations," said Kaplan. "Building strong bonds with the people we consider our family can have lasting positive impact on our health and well-being. The council works to support families throughout the continuum of family life."
While the new holiday weekend has enjoyed broad support, not everyone is happy with the addition of another long weekend.
Jordan Bateman, Executive Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, has been critical of the reported $1.5 million spent by the province to promote Family Day.
The president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC, Philip Hochstein, has also spoken out against the new holiday.
“I think Family Day was a mistake,” Hochstein said in June on the cable program Voice of BC. “It will hurt business. The only people who are going to have Family Day are government workers.”
A website has been created to help families plan their Family Day adventure. The address of the new site for families is www.familyday.ca.