Slowly and surely the puck will drop Pemberton fund raising edges closer to arena By Chris Woodall By the hundreds of dollars here and the thousands raised elsewhere, Pemberton will soon be hearing the propane-powered zoom of the Zamboni as it silks a sheet of ice. The Pemberton Spring Ball, April 4, was the latest fund-raising party to edge the community closer to building its own arena. Pony Espresso demon chef Mike Richman's inspired idea to hold a dinner dance brought together five of the area's accomplished chefs for a feast of feasts at what used to be Pemberton's high school and currently is the growing community's recreation centre. The brotherhood of chefs were preparing food until the wee hours of the Friday before to get ready for the event because the school/rec centre has no kitchen. No guests went hungry as platters of antipasto salad, pasta, fried eggplant, saffron rice, roast beef, steeped salmon and stuffed chicken breast kept taste buds lively. A tiramisu dessert with enough liqueur to curl your hair topped everything off. A variety of local musicians entertained first the diners, then the dancers in the black and white decorated gym. Volunteers from the Pemberton Fire Department stoked the bar and girls from the high school kept the courses moving. A silent auction of items donated from town merchants will add to the amount pulled in from the night. The money raised is still being tallied, but it is just one more step to getting the $1 million or so needed for the arena complex. It has been a long time, says Gladys Phare, fund-raising committee chair. Events like casino nights, harvest festivals, Halloween Howls and now the Pemberton Spring Ball, have all contributed by the hundreds of dollars or more at a time to the point where the fund has several hundred thousand dollars in the kitty, Phare says. "It's a reflection of the community spirit," that the committee has kept going, Phare says. The "immigration" of Whistlerites seeking affordable homes in Pemberton has brought a new spirit to the arena drive, Phare says. There have been setbacks, Phare admits, including a narrowly lost referendum that would have raised municipal taxes to help pay for an arena. Back in 1988 when raising money first started, Phare called on large forestry companies that operated locally to donate something back to the community. It was a flush year for the those companies, but they begged off, says Phare. "They've taken everything out and returned nothing," Phare says. Even BC Rail and B.C. Hydro have turned out empty pockets. "They should have returned something," she says. As for the provincial government, Phare suspects foot dragging from an NDP government because voters sent a Liberal MLA to Victoria. "It's been quite frustrating to say the least," Phare says. Yes, there's Whistler's Meadow Park arena down the highway, but when children have to get up at 4:30 a.m. for 5:30 a.m. hockey practise before school, it can be trying, Phare says. Never mind. Going the event route to raise funds will mean the arena will take a little longer to become real. "We've been carrying on so long people may doubt we'll ever get there," Phare says, the fire of pepper in her voice telling you she won't be giving up any time soon. "We don't just go 'round with our hands out, we pitch in to help out," Phare says of creating and running events to earn the arena's funds. "The Pemberton Spring Ball was worth the effort."