Girl Guides have captured hearts in Enderby.
Everywhere you look, banners and storefront posters celebrate the Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous, which has brought 2,500 Girl Guide leaders and youth to Enderby from last Saturday to this Friday.
Smiles abound as the guests wander the streets and pop in and out of shops.
“We want to show them the community is happy they are here and we hope they will come back,” said Corinne Peard, with the Enderby Chamber of Commerce.
The level of support peaked Saturday as the Guides from seven countries kicked off festivities with a parade downtown.
“The streets were lined with people,” said Laurie Hooker, B.C. Girl Guides public relations advisor.
“The community has really embraced us.”
Four other communities also bid for SOAR, which is held every three years. Hooker insists the right choice was made.
“I would go as far to say this is the best community we’ve been in,” she said.
And it’s been a major undertaking for an event that has doubled the size of Enderby’s population.
Riverside Park has become a city within a city, with campsites creating a network of neighbourhoods. A giant stage sits on a ball field while the Lions Pavilion has been converted into a hospital and a gathering place for the visiting nations — the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Japan and Grenada.
Three hundred core staff eat three meals a day in the curling club, while the lounge is the administrative nerve centre for the entire operation.
The ice is long removed from the arena and in its place is the food distribution centre.
“It (activity) starts in here at 4:30 a.m. and they prepare the food totes to go to the camps,” said Hooker, adding that each Guide unit cooks their own meals.
And the quantity of food being brought in constantly by reefer trucks is immense. Every day, about 6,600 juice boxes are consumed.
Riverside Park’s maintenance building is also busy as it hosts site services — everything from recycling and trash to portable washrooms, water and propane.
Activity stations are dotted throughout the park and the opportunities range from science and art to physical fitness and photography.
Community service is also critical and girls create dog toys or put together sanitary kits that will be sent to Third World Nations.
A mural with Guide symbols starts to wrap itself around one of the park’s buildings.
“It’s a legacy project we will leave in the community,” said Hooker.
When they aren’t busy in Enderby, a fleet of buses transports the young women to activities throughout the Interior, including rafting in Lytton, gleaning in Lavington, trail building in Grindrod and visiting the Allan Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon.
For many of the participants, this is their first time away from home on a major excursion.
“The people are very nice and I’m making friends easily,” said Cassandra, from Montreal, Que.
Part of the fun has come from trading keepsake pins with the rest of the girls.
“They’re pretty and easy to keep on a hat,” said Cassandra.
Hanna, from Bellingham, Wash., is enjoying the diversity SOAR provides.
“This is the first time I’ve been meeting people from other countries,” she said.
Outside of Riverside Park, the Guides are making quite an impression on Enderby residents.
“What a great group of young ladies,” said Melanie King, with Mel’s Mainstreet Pizza and Pasta.
Over at Sutherland’s Bakery, many of the Guides have virtually become regulars.
“As the door opens for a group to leave, the next group comes in,” said owner Greg McCune.
Based on previous SOARs, businesses were advised in advance about what products are in highest demand. The goal is to not run out.
“All of the ice cream suppliers have everything they need,” said Peard.
With the bond between the Guides and Enderby growing stronger every day, the hope is that the leaders and youth will return to their homes and relate their experiences to friends and family.
If all goes well, that will translate into return trips.
“We want to be able to welcome them back,” said Peard.