Donning long dresses, full 1860s themed suits, and western wear galore, the City of Quesnel was in fine fashion for Billy Barker Days.
In its 43rd annual year, the event goes back to 1973 when the Town Council of Quesnel and the Chamber of Commerce came up with the idea to host a Summer festival. President of the Billy Barker Days Society, Maureen Murray, says it’s a great way for the entire community to come together. “It’s a wonderful little town and having a big festival like this for everyone, especially the low income people who can’t go to the more expensive places, I think it’s a great idea.”
Murray says the City celebrates Billy Barker Days to honour the Gold Rush and the fact Barkerville is just another 50 miles away from Quesnel. In fact, William ‘Billy’ Barker was a English prospector who was famous for being one of the first to find a large amount of gold in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. He also founded Barkerville which is now preserved as a historic town.
Chief of the Nazko First Nation, Stuart Alec, says Billy Barker Days restores pride back to his nation. It’s the first ever year, an official Nazko First Nation float made an appearance in the parade. “This is a pretty historic moment for our people,” he said. “Part of the traditions we want to bring back is some of our identity, some of the horses we used to ride, and dancing we were once part, there’s a lot more traditions we have to get back to, but we wanted to show the community we’re still strong and proud.”
MP for Cariboo-Prince George, Todd Doherty, says the event shines a light on the smaller communities in the region. “It’s a great opportunity for people to see that our communities in the Cariboo are a great place to live, work, play, invest, and learn,” he said. “It’s a massive economic impact, not only does it generate a lot of business during the event, but also follow-up business as it’s a great time to showcase all of the things that are great in the Cariboo.”
Also being held is the 51st Annual Quesnel Rodeo, heralded as the largest amateur rodeo in all of B.C. The Billy Barker Days Festival goes all weekend and winds up Sunday evening in Quesnel with a fireworks display.