First Queen Silver Star crowned during 1961 Vernon Winter Carnival

All hail the new queen

One thing you can be sure about with the Vernon Winter Carnival is that each year will bring something new.

However, in 1961, everything was new, since that was the year the annual event began.

From radio coverage captured by CJIB (now 107.5 FM) and preserved in the Vernon Museum, we are able to relive the exciting moment the carnival’s first ever Queen Silver Star was crowned.

As the coverage begins, announcer Jack Pollard states the crowd of two-to-three thousand gathered on Barnard (30th) Avenue is awaiting the arrival of the Vice Regal Party, composed of Lt. Gov. George Pearkes, Mrs. Pearkes, Lt. Col. David Kinloch and Mrs. Kinloch.

Once the dignitaries arrive, they gather near a large ice palace, which was carved on the main drag for the occasion, with the Queen Silver Star participants and the visiting royalty.

Queens from Trail, Summerland, Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver, Port Alberni, Salmon Arm and Lumby travelled to Vernon for the occasion.

Peter Seaton, the president of the Vernon Board of Trade, then says the occasion marks the “final lap in a long hard race to make Vernon and Silver Star a winter playground … The Carnival is going to be to Vernon like a drink to a man in the desert.”

The crowd cheers, some standing around the palace, others watching from the roofs of nearby businesses or in parked cars.

RCMP clear a path through the crowd to the sounds of the McIntosh Girls’ Pipe Band. The Vernon Girls’ Trumpet Band then escorts a car carrying the new Queen Silver Star to the ice palace.

The young lady emerges, and is revealed to be Miss Rhondda Oliver (later Biggs). She is helped up the palace’s stairs by two six-year-old pages.

They neatly arrange the long train of her blue-and-white robe as she takes her place on the throne. Her princesses, Sharon Magee and Joyce Moilliet, stand on either side.

Mayor Frank Becker and Miss Vernon Barbara Wolsey then place the crown on Rhondda’s head. As she gives her acceptance speech, a bonfire of Christmas trees on the hill behind the ice palace blazes to life.

Becker wishes her a happy reign, before reading congratulatory telegrams from Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and M.P. Stewart Fleming.

Lt. Gov. Pearkes then declares the first ever Vernon Winter Carnival has officially begun.

More than 60 years later, the 2022 Vernon Winter Carnival is set to begin on Feb. 4.

More Vernon News