Victoria AM is hosting a celebratory breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel on May 23.
The group, which welcomes cruise ships to Victoria, has been dressing in costume and promoting tourism in the region for 30 years.
“I’ve always been a people person,” said Diana Shnider, a member for 10 years. “When my husband passed away – he and I were involved in a number of organizations together – I thought, I’ve got to do more. I heard they were involved in tourism … and I thought if there’s anything I can do for tourism, it’s something that I want to support.”
Victoria AM has been in operation for three decades helping to connect businesses and tourists by providing a welcoming smile and information, as well as being among the first to provide monthly mixers for local businesses.
Greeting cruise ship passengers was initiated by Norma Fitzsimmons, one of the first female Chamber of Commerce members. Fitzsimmons, the owner of Island Florist on Yates Street, initially decided to hand out flowers to arriving passengers, as the industry grew and more passengers arrived, pins were presented instead of blooms.
“Norma started with giving a rose to every cruise ship passenger,” said Christopher Causton, one of the founding members of Victoria AM. “When we started to do that in 1984, there were only 11 cruise ships coming in – it was very effective, she’d pin every woman with a rose and instantly you knew she was off a ship.”
The group introduced Town Criers to Victoria and placed a bronze welcoming statue of Town Crier Tommy Mayne at Ogden Point. The group also funded four Welcome to Victoria signs over the years.
“We felt the need to get together and boost tourism and make some fun at the same time,” said Causton.
Part of the fun included the first Tea Cup Race in the Inner Harbour. “Almost all of them went to the bottom of the harbour,” said Causton with a laugh. “There are a few still at the bottom, I”m sure.”
The group met monthly and held the occasional hatting ceremony to encourage camaraderie among business owners.
“A hatting ceremony was to honour the president of a company or somebody who was having a special day, it was always a surprise,” said former member Janna Ginsberg Bleviss.
Three or four women dressed in lovely, long Edwardian gowns and hats and gentlemen in top hats would arrive and a scroll would be read by the Town Crier. “The scroll would be welcoming the person into the order of LOVE – the Loyal Order of Victoria Enthusiasts. It was full of very flowery language about the garden city, jewel of the realm,” said Ginsberg Bleviss. The honouree would then kneel on a pillow and be presented with a top hat. “It was great fun and gave somebody a fabulous hat to wear on a fancy occasion.”
Along with the fun ideas, the group also championed the construction of the Victoria Conference Centre and introduced the Superhost program. “We’ve got quite a little history, that’s why we’d like to give a little bit of a shout out to anyone who was involved in the organization – there’s probably a lot of people around, who remember fondly those days,” said Causton.
The Victoria AM anniversary breakfast is at 7 a.m. on May 23 in the David Foster theatre at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and is open to current and former members. For more information, or to RSVP contact Causton at 250-595-4543 or email email@example.com.