Carrie Hewitt and Steve Bawden were all decked out in retro attire for the Shake, Rattle and Roll dance party and reunion. Alexandra Heck/The Free Press

Fernie Museum fundraiser a blast from the past

Retro themed evening raises over $10,000 for museum programming

Fernie was an interesting place back in 1959.

In the 1950s Fernie experienced its second wave of immigrants coming to town from England and Italy after WWII.

By the end of the 50s, industry in the town took a hit. The local brewery shut down, as well as the Coal Creek Mine, leaving large numbers of residents unemployed.

It’s left people to wonder what would become of the town.

“People were frantic,” said Ron Ulrich, Executive Director of the Fernie Museum, explaining that the economic downturn led to the town making a bid to host the 1968 Olympic games.

“Fernie, in 1959 and 1960 was a community in transition,” said Ulrich, a town that was uncertain about its future.

On Saturday night, the Fernie Museum welcomed 160 guests to revisit that era in town, with a dinner and dance party at the Fernie Community Centre.

Ulrich says that despite the economic uncertainty, Fernie was a fun place in the 1950s. There was a Chinese Restaurant where Nevados currently operates, which was the go-to hangout for all the kids in down. It was the Fernie version of Happy Days.

With that, the Community Centre was decked out in checkered prints and the dance floor came alive with dancers ready to twist and jive.

The annual fundraiser raised over $10,000 for the museum.

“We were really pleased with the turnout,”he said, explaining that the business community in Fernie donated over $16,000 worth of items for the auction and events. “We were amazed at how much local business support we had.”

Guests were invited to attend the themed dinner and dance, which was catered by the Park Place Lodge, who donated the meals and staff for the evening.

“As a historical organization it’s always fun to immerse people in eras of Fernie’s history,” said Ulrich.

This is the third year that the Fernie Museum has held an event like this.

The first year, they focused on the town in the 1920s, and last year jettisoned guests back to the 1940s.

“It’s the sights, the sounds, the mood,” said Ulrich. “It’s a fun way to be able to promote history.”

As a community museum, the director says it’s important to be able to bring residents together with events like this and have them interact with not only each other, but their city’s past.

He says after the costs of the event are paid from the funds, money will go towards the museum’s educational programs and operations, which are constantly growing.

“This type of initiative helps build capacity at the museum,” said Ulrich.

The museum hopes to visit Fernie in the 1970s with their fourth fundraiser dinner.

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