When I was just a couple of years old, my parents moved my family to Westsyde, a neighbourhood in Kamloops with a strong community mindset. Just down the road from our house was Centennial Park. Complete with playground, sports facilities and an adjacent petting zoo, this public space would turn out to be the central focus for a great multitude of my life’s significant moments. In its parking lot I learned how to ride a bike, and much later how to drive a car. It was near the park’s entrance that almost a decade ago my fiancé and I shared our first kiss. From childhood days of climbing trees and playing soccer, to afternoons spent as a young adult kicking around a hacky sack with friends, the place has been host to countless memorable experiences of mine.
Being as cherished as it is to me, Centennial Park’s ongoing development is something I consider rather important. Recently I had the pleasure of contributing to its future improvement as an assistant in the Absolute Amazing Race. A fundraiser inspired by the popular reality television show of a similar name, the Kamloops based competition was established with the purpose of raising funds to install a water park within the Centennial grounds. Organized by the Westsyde Community Development Society, with the assistance of volunteers and local businesses, the annual competition experienced its third year this past weekend.
The race began Saturday morning, with the starting position appropriately set at Centennial Park. At the cue of the event’s planners, the teams of two took off on a frantic scramble to complete a series of challenges that would test their mental and physical abilities, while taking them to a variety of locations all over the city. Racers had to balance eggs on wooden spoons gripped between their teeth, collect nonperishable items for the food bank, decipher cryptic clues, answer trivia questions, undergo radical hair treatments, sell tickets to strangers, hike to a mountain lake, eat gag-inducing preserved eggs, corral calves, sink billiards, discover an old cemetery, and sing the entirety of O Canada to a pub audience without stumbling on a single lyric.
All of this was condensed into the span of just four or five hours, and that was only day one. The first ten teams to successfully complete every task progressed to day two. Starting the following morning, the second half of the race was just as varied and widespread as the first. Challenges that day included horseback riding, burlesque dancing, martial arts, tennis ball rallies, GPS tracking, and a grueling stairs climb. Everything came to a victorious culmination that afternoon on a downtown pier. In the end, the race for first place was so tight that the two top teams arrived at the finish line within under a minute of each other.
Winnings were divvied out in the evening at an awards banquet, held at the Dunes golf course in Westsyde. The first place finishers, a pair of adult males with the team name Beauty and the Beast, earned a weeklong vacation to Jamaica with flights, accommodation, and some spending money included. Second and third place were commemorated with trips and Visas of lesser value. In addition to the vacation and monetary awards given to the three winning teams, the dinner also featured a slew of door prizes, a 50/50 draw, and a silent auction. Those unlucky ones who left empty handed at least had an opportunity to make up for their losses by taking advantage of an all you can eat pasta buffet.
Thus was concluded another successful year of absolutely amazing racing. Westsyde is now a step closer to getting a water park of its own, thanks to all those involved with the fundraiser. Whether participants or volunteers, winners or losers, Westsyders or outsiders, all were in some way responsible for preserving what to me and many others has been a local haven. With the help of initiatives like the Absolute Amazing Race, budding generations will continue to create cherished outdoor memories of their own, in that beautiful piece of landscape called Centennial Park.
– Cory Magnus Stumpf