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Return of horse racing and broadcast of national TV program shot in Osoyoos made headlines in February
The announcement that horse racing would finally return to Osoyoos after a 15-year absence and the popular television show Undercover Boss Canada filming a segment in our community made headlines in February.
The town and spectacular Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa were put into the national spotlight after the popular television program Undercover Boss Canada had crews spend three days in Osoyoos shooting an episode that was televised across Canada on the Women’s Network the evening of Thursday, Feb. 14.
Ed Romanowski, the president and chief executive officer of Bellstar Hotel and Resorts, was the featured guest for this particular episode as film crews spent a week shooting footage of Romanowski as he went “undercover” and worked with front line staff at Bellstar resorts in Canmore, Alberta and at Spirit Ridge.
“I did everything from working at the front desk to housekeeping,” said Romanowski, who started Bellstar almost 10 years ago and has worked in the hotel and hospitality industry for 30 years. ‘Needless to say, I gained a whole new appreciation for the hard work and commitment shown by our front line staff at Spirit Ridge and our other properties. “Overall, it was a wonderful experience.”
Because he has worked for three decades in the hotel and hospitality industry, Romanowski said he realized front line staff are the key to success at Spirit Ridge and other Bellstar properties, but to work alongside many of them as part of this television program was something he won’t soon forget.
“Clearly front line staff is the most important people who deliver the most important work in this industry,” he said. “It’s these people who deal with our guests and make sure all of the needs of our guests are taken care of.
“I learned a long time ago that guests don’t really care who the CEO of the company is, but they want to have a great experience when they visit a resort and our front line staff are responsible for ensuring they have a great time.”
The fact Spirit Ridge is considered one of the finest resorts in the entire province is a credit to the people who work there, said Romanowski.
“We’re proud of the reputation we’ve established in only seven years since we opened,” he said. “It’s important we continue working hard and show a willingness to adapt and change because the hotel and resort marketplace is constantly changing and we need to be on top of all those changes.”
Osoyoos is one of the most unique small communities in all of Canada, said Romanowski.
“Osoyoos is one of the friendliest and most helpful communities I’ve ever done business in,” he said. “People here realize this is a tourist town and they’re so willing to go out of their way to help. The people have a great attitude and there’s a great vibe amongst the people that you can really feel when you’re there.”
After an absence of a decade, the Desert Park Exhibition Society announced in February that horse racing would return to Osoyoos in June.
Race dates were set for June 15 and Aug. 31.
A lot of work was still required at the track because the facility has to be inspected by authorities prior to the race days, said Carol Youngberg, president.
Osoyoos got racing back because the community wanted it, Youngberg said, but she hoped that community support would result in badly needed volunteers stepping forward.
A pilot program in Osoyoos that helps seniors continue living in their own homes expanded into a province-wide program in February.
Osoyoos is the smallest of five communities in the province that has been piloting the CASI program (Community Action for Seniors’ Independence). As of April 1, the CASI program transitioned to one of 56 Better at Home programs being launched throughout B.C.
Stacy Little, client program manager with CASI Osoyoos, said she was most excited that under the Better at Home program seniors here would be offered assistance with housekeeping.
Housekeeping and yard work is being contracted out and seniors who can afford it are charged a fee, while those who can’t receive assistance with the costs.
When Colin Chmelka was called up to receive a trophy as the Most Valuable Player on the Osoyoos Coyotes in late Feburary, the announcement caught him by surprise.
“I was kind of shocked actually,” said Chmelka, who also took a trophy for being the team’s top scorer at an awards presentation and banquet held at the Sonora Community Centre Feb. 20.
“I didn’t know I was going to get it, but I’m happy to have it,” said the tall forward, who comes from Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I’m really honoured to have it … It was a tossup between a lot of guys. A lot of guys could have got it.”
Head coach and general manager Ken Law praised Chmelka’s work ethic and leadership.
“He makes sure he goes to the net hard and he has an incredible shot,” said Law. “He’s the kid the guys look up to because he always gives it his all. You know that you’re getting 110 per cent every time he’s out there.”
Evan Last was named Rookie of the Year and also received an award for Scholastic Achievement, for keeping up his grades while playing solid hockey.
Brandon Watson was picked for the Fans’ Choice Award, and Alex Grupe took the Three Stars award. Troy Maclise was named Most Sportsmanlike Player, Garnett Kucher, the captain, was honoured as Most Inspirational Player, and Cam Dobransky was named Top Defenceman.
Austin Lee took the newly introduced Unsung Hero Award.
The Okanagan National Alliance (ONA) released its own feasibility study deeming a national park for the South Okanagan/Lower Similkameen as feasible, while urging the provincial government to re-open talks about the park with the federal government, Parks Canada and all stakeholders.
“It has taken eight years to ensure that the Okanagan Nation is in a position to be able to weigh in on what’s important to the Syilx people and how the future of the land and people should be protected,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair of the ONA, during a press conference at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos.
“There is now sufficient confidence to carry forward to the next phase of discussion of a potential park.”
Also attending Tuesday’s announcement was Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie, Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Robert Edwards and Gwen Bridge, natural resources manager for the Lower Similkameen Indian Band.
In January of 2012, the provincial Liberal government shocked many by withdrawing support for a national park after more than a decade of negotiations between Parks Canada and various stakeholders.
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