For Marti Giroux, the Vernon Winter Carnival office is a home away from home.
Case in point: she was answering the phones at the office on 35th Avenue Tuesday morning, Feb. 7, when a reporter called to ask her about being named the Carnival’s 2023 winner of the Order of jopo.
“I’m here subbing for the girls, they’re all out of the office at the moment at the different events,” said Giroux, who was presented Carnival’s highest honour at the kick-off breakfast reception Saturday, Feb. 4.
“I was absolutely shocked. I had no idea it was coming. But it’s an honour to join such an elite group that has won the Order of jopo. It’s such a pleasure to be rewarded for doing something you love.”
Through the City of Vernon, the Order of jopo has been presented to visiting dignitaries, long-time Carnival supporters, past chairpersons and honoured cities from around the world.
The honour was first handed out to five men in 1974 – George Melvin, Carnival’s first chairperson; and past chairs Mike Kowaluk, Vince Lilley, Bill Oxley. The 2022 honour went to current Coldstream mayor and longtime Carnival supporter and volunteer Ruth Hoyte.
All recipients have shown tremendous community spirit and commitment to Carnival and the community.
Giroux is no exception.
“She comes to the office to organize jopo outfits, clean, organize, pack envelopes, sort merchandise and event helps manage our front counter,” said incoming Carnival executive director Kris Fuller. “She is all heart, on-call for anything we need and answers in a heartbeat when asked to lend a hand. She is truly wonderful.”
Giroux’s first taste of Carnival came in Year 1, 1961, growing up in Vernon. She’s had girlfriends become Queen or Princess Silver Star. Her school, she said, always put in a float in the Carnival parade.
And it was her mother, Amelia Maksymchuk – a staunch Carnival supporter – who got her daughter involved with the event.
Maksymchuk loved the Winter Carnival buttons and sent Giroux to the Carnival office to see if that year’s batch of buttons were out.
At the office, Giroux met then-Queen Silver Star Brittany Sjoblom.
“I asked her if they needed any volunteers and she asked me if I could type,” said Giroux, a former paralegal. “So I started working in the office. I’ve been a director, worked behind the scenes. Carnival is changing due to technology, but it’s still fun to get involved and volunteer. I wish more people would come out to help.
“I’m always behind Vernon Winter Carnival, 100 per cent.”