A magical Christmas for mainland visitor

A Vancouver resident has thanked the town of Fernie for making her Christmas extra special.

After her father passed away, and just recently her mother, Janice Cole decided that she would leave Vancouver and spend Christmas where her father grew up – Fernie. Billy Cole, was well known in Fernie as director of the funeral parlour.

It was Christmas Eve when Cole decided she would buy a plane ticket and leave town. She travelled alone, hoping that she would find magic in her father’s childhood town.

As she was travelling to Fernie from Cranbrook on the shuttle, she started reaching out to different Facebook groups and got in contact with Tourism Fernie. She asked what she admitted was a strange request; if they knew of anyone who might share their Christmas with her. Not long after, with the help of Fernie Museum curator, Ron Ulrich, Tourism Fernie returned her message and told her that she had dinner plans arranged. Surprised and overjoyed, Cole continued her journey through the snowcapped mountains until she arrived in Fernie late Christmas Eve.

That night, Cole attended a church service, and while she was there, met an elderly lady who offered to drive her back to her hotel. At first Cole refused but quickly realized that her Vancouver apparel was no match for the cold temperatures outside.

“That’s really where the magic started,” said Cole. “We started to drive up and down the streets of Fernie, and when we saw passersby, she would roll down her window and call out, ‘Merry Christmas!’”

“In that moment, I was happy,” said Cole. “And I didn’t think I could be happy again after losing my mom, let alone on Christmas.”

Together the two talked about Cole’s reason for coming to Fernie, and they remained in contact the rest of her trip. The stranger also let Cole borrow a large parka and mitts to help protect her from the cold.

Cole had a suspicion that some of her distant relatives lived in Fernie and through the power of technology she found an address. On Christmas morning, she ventured out from her hotel, found her father’s childhood home, and was given a grand tour.

In the evening, Cole met up with her host family, Nathalie Fisher and Frank Longo, who welcomed her in for a Christmas feast. After eating together they all read the bible around the fireplace, before Cole left to continue on her adventure. From the downtown area Cole ventured off to Fernie Alpine Resort for a sleigh ride. Through the forest they galloped, until Cole spotted a warm fire in the backyard of a FAR resident. She asked the driver to stop the sleigh and approached the property. The owner of the home immediately wished her a Merry Christmas and offered her some wine. Taken aback by his kindness, the owner simply replied, “This is Fernie, we do this all the time”.

In the remainder of her time in Fernie Cole met many friends of her parents, one of whom had knit a sweater for her father in 1980. She met residents of Fernie 901, who now live in the room, which was her father’s childhood classroom.

“Small town charm, friendliness, connectedness, everybody knew everybody, and everybody knew family members I didn’t even know I had,” said Cole.

Throughout her time in Fernie, Cole witnessed many Canadian postcard moments, including a father and son playing ice hockey on the street as the sun went down.

She recalled her Christmas being like a Hallmark movie; a chapter out of a fairytale.

Cole would like to thank the residents of Fernie for making her time away from home so special.

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Janice Cole’s sleigh ride at FAR turned into something out of a postcard when a stranger offered her wine around a campfire, Christmas Day. Submitted

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