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Organizers expecting large turnout for Remembrance Day



Whistler's Remembrance Day turnout is expected to be higher than usual this year with the events of Sept. 11 and the ongoing conflict overseas still fresh in many minds.

"Events in New York just have people being more introspective," said organizer Brian Buchholz, "Also, the conflict overseas has more people uneasy. People are generally more aware and Remembrance Day just happens to fall into that time frame."

This year's Remembrance Day service will begin on Sunday, Nov. 11 just after 10:30 a.m. at the Cenotaph in front of Whistler's main fire hall. About 20 people will march in the parade on Village Gate Boulevard and the street will be closed from 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.

For the fourth year running Blackcomb Helicopters will fly over the Cenotaph in an aerial tribute to the fallen soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.

"You see about two or three helicopters hugging the ground," said Buchholz. "It gets people's attention and stirs the blood."

This year the service will also recognize peacekeeping officers with the presentation of a wreath in their honour.

About 125 Canadian peacekeepers have lost their lives since first UN peacekeeping mission 55 years ago.

It was at that time that Canada's Lester Pearson, who was then the Secretary of State for External Affairs, persuaded the United Nations General Assembly to establish the first UN peacekeeping mission. For his efforts he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957.

This year, for the first time, Whistler will hold a Veterans' Candlelight Tribute the night before Remembrance Day, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 10. This will again be held at the Cenotaph.

There will be prayers and music and poems in memory of servicemen and women who have given their lives for their country.

"Remembrance Day and the Candlelight tribute is an opportunity for people to express their emotions," Buchholz said.

He says more people have expressed interest in the events this year than in past years but it's difficult to judge how many people will show up this weekend. And a lot depends on the weather.

"If we have 30 people I'll be thrilled and if we have 200 I won't be surprised," said Buchholz.

Buchholz is a firefighter with the Whistler Fire Rescue Department and has been organizing the Remembrance Day service for the past five years.

His father served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War and he says his role in the Remembrance Day Committee is partly to honour his fathers' service.

"I feel honoured to do it and the community feedback is just phenomenal," he said.

The Remembrance Day service in Pemberton is also expected to draw more crowds this year.

Sharon Erickson is a bartender at the Royal Canadian Legion in Pemberton and said each year the Legion plans a lunch for about 100 people after the service. This year they are expecting that number to double.

"I think we'll have a lot more people come out, a lot bigger response," said Erickson. "In Pemberton there are vets that fought in Bosnia. It brings it closer to home."