In happier times, it would have been preparations for All Sooke Day that would have occupied many minds and hands at this time of year, as the whole community geared up for the annual celebration in July.
First started in the Great Depression as “the Progress of Sooke,” the community picnic on the Sooke Flats turned into a featured event that became significant in the culture of Vancouver Island.
While started as a community get-together with races and sports beside the river, along with servings of succulent spring (chinook) salmon barbecued over open alderwood fires, plus beef buried in pits of embers in the Leechtown style, it was the championship logging sports competitions that began attracting international visitors in the thousands.
This photo, taken in 1982, by Dan Haverty, from atop one of the two, 100-foot climbing poles mounted at the Sooke Flats. While Dan himself was a novice climber, he helped ready the poles for the championship competitions, and for the dancing atop the pole, an act performed by the very daring professional climber Danny Sailer.
The climbing events were among the most popular features, as were the log birling competitions that had begun in the river and then advanced to performances in a specially constructed pool on the Flats.
Choppers and axe throwers were also renowned, and entrants in these competitions came not only from U.S. locations but from Australia and New Zealand.
From 1934 to the final All Sooke Day in 2002, this event was the pride of the community, a very special volunteer accomplishment, and many have felt its loss in the decades since.
In 1984, the Sooke Region Museum embarked on making a a movie to showcase the attraction on its 50th anniversary, with Sheila Whincup as director of the movie. When the production was completed and launched in Sooke Community Hall in 1986, it was standing room only.
While the museum is not open because of the coronavirus pandemic, when it’s back in business, those who have not seen the movie the All Sooke Day Story could obtain a video copy to enjoy the exciting replay of logger sports.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.