She didn’t think anything of it when she was called to a 5:30 p.m. gathering in Polson Park and saw all of the board of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society in place.
After all, Deb White had been chairperson of the board the past five years, a board member for 10 and Carnival volunteer for 15 years.
White was expecting to complete her second volunteer shift for Carnival’s Drive-Thru Ice Park, driving the pace car, leading attendees through the park’s twisting road to look at the magnificent ice sculpture created for the event.
She finished the first shift at 5 p.m., then, with the temperature dropping, she went to get some socks and arrived back at the park for her second shift which was to begin at 6 p.m.
Or so she thought.
Instead, legendary Carnival Cop Rod Koenig arrested White for not wearing a Winter Carnival pin – though she claims she had one on under her jacket – and put her in the portable Carnival jail, used in the Arrest the Best fundraiser during the annual event.
Koenig, however, did not tell White why she was jailed, nor did he impose a monetary fine for her to raise for charity.
Instead, White’s successor as chairperson, Erik Olesen, stepped up and told White, congratulations, she was being presented with the Order of jopo, the highest honour the Vernon Winter Carnival can bestow. Olesen placed the gold medallion around her neck.
“I was overwhelmed,” said White. “I’m thrilled. It’s such a great honour. When I was chair, I know that picking a person to receive the Order of Jopo can be hard so I’m very honoured.”
Through the City of Vernon, the Order of jopo has been presented to visiting dignitaries, longtime Carnival supporters, past chairpersons and honoured cities around the world. All recipients have shown tremendous community spirit and commitment to Carnival and the community.
And it’s because of the community that White continues to volunteer.
“I’ve said it time and time again, Winter Carnival is a happy time in the community and brings so much happiness and smiles to everyone,” she said. “I’ve always loved Carnival and I still do.”