Every year for the past six or seven years, Vernon’s Beverly Nickel lines up outside The Morning Star office with a bunch of strangers in the wee hours on a wintry Saturday.
Yet, even though she barely knows them, Nickel feels a connection with this group, as they all wait in for The Star’s annual Gund Teddy bear contest.
Perhaps it’s simply the Christmas spirit, and the friendly banter they share as they try to stay warm by sipping Tim Hortons coffee and hot chocolate, while bundling up in blankets and heavy coats.
Most of them are seasoned bear hunters, returning year after year with friends and family, and most appear to enjoy the early-morning camaraderie as much as they do the contest.
“It’s nice to have the people out there,” said Nickel, who, in addition to collecting one of 50 limited edition Gund bears, had her name drawn for a $500 grand prize.
“It’s the same people. I don’t see them at all any other time. It’s just a good thing.”
Born in Vernon, Nickel usually comes by herself to the event.
To win a bear, and get their names in the draw, the first 50 participants have to show proof of $300 of purchases from a list of participating local merchants. The grand prize winner can then choose gift certificates totalling $500 for any of the vendors. Nickel chose a lump sum for Save-On Foods.
“You’ve gotta eat, right?” she chuckled. “They’ve got some great sponsors.”
Regarding her ever-growing collection of bears, she added: “I line them up. I bring them out for Christmas.”