Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Williams Lake Wrestling Day

For those outside Williams Lake -- today may be a return to work day

But for those inside Williams Lake - today is a civic holiday and in fact, the only civic holiday in Canada on January 2nd

See below for the story on how Wrestling Day came to be in Williams Lake as read by former Williams Lake City Councillor and current Squamish-Lillioet Regional District Area 'A' Director Deb DeMare at the Jan 6th, 2004 Williams Lake City Council meeting:

Williams Lake is the only city in Canada, probably the world, that
celebrates Wrestling Day on January 2.

The idea for the unique holiday originated with pioneer merchants
Alistair Mackenzie and Syd Western. Mackenzie was the son of the
first village merchant, Roderick Mackenzie, and he was managing
the Mackenzie Store (old Fields store) at the time. Western was manager
of the T.A. Moore Store (now Ming' s restaurant) across Oliver St.
from Mackenzies.

The story goes that the two men met for coffee one frigid January
2nd in the late 1930s, the exact date has been a matter of discussion
for years. The streets were empty. There hadn't been a customer in
sight all morning. The two men decided they might as well close
their shops and go home. They phoned the other downtown
businesses - there weren't many of them at the time - and everyone
agreed it was a good day for a holiday.

It isn't sure whether Western or Ken Rife came up with the name
Wrestling Day, for the holiday, but the reasoning was that if the day
after Christmas was Boxing Day, why not call the day after New
Years Wrestling Day. A further argument in favour of the name was
that half the town was wrestling with a hangover.

The holiday caught on and the name stuck. For a number of years it
was simply a gentlemen's agreement, merchants closed up shop on
January 2nd. In 1942, Village Commissioners and businessmen
Robert Beauchamp and Mac Johnson brought the issue of the
holiday before the Village Commission, and on December 23, 1942
the Commission proclaimed Wrestling Day an official civic holiday
beginning in 1943. The village didn't get around to passing a bylaw
to make it legal until 1959.

The village held no special ceremonies on Wrestling Day. People
simply stayed home and recuperated from the holidays celebrations.
In 1967, Williams Lake resident Gwen Ringwood, a nationally known
author, had the idea to "do something" special . She suggested a
Wrestling Day Walk.

The first year only a few people braved the cold and miserable day.
Only Mrs. Ringwood, Clive and Irene Stangoe, Cathie Kerley, Olive
and Dyne Kyall tromped down to Scout Island and back. . The
reward for their efforts was a brunch at the Kerley home. The walk
moved to Chimney Lake in 1969 and was a fixture of Wrestling Day
celebrations there until 1986.

In 1977, at Mayor Tom Mason's urging, town council abolished the
holiday on the grounds the town had outgrown such nonsense. Most
government agencies recognized Wrestling Day, but by then the
chain stores had arrived in Williams Lake and they, along with some
unionized lumber mills, didn't appreciate or recognize the extra
holiday. With the chain stores open, Mason argued the holiday was
a hardship on the smaller businesses. Council passed a store
closing by-law in December 1976 cancelling all existing by-laws
regarding store hours, including Wrestling Day.

This did not go well with Williams Lake citizens who benefited from
the extra day off nor with the old timers who hated to see the tradition
die. They kicked up such a fuss town council reconsidered and re-
instated the holiday the following year.

Today, in the tradition of Wrestling Day, nothing much happens in
Williams Lake on January 2nd. There is no special celebration.
Some businesses open, others stay closed. Some workers work,
others enjoy the extra holiday. Although there are regular rumblings
about the inconsistencies and even the need for the holiday, no
recent city council has tampered with the holiday that makes
Williams Lake unique, at least for one day.

Wrestling Day does bring some fame to the city. Most years
someone from the outside media hears about it, or remembers, and
does a news story.

No comments: