Stacey Irwin’s years of hard work and steadfast volunteering for the Abbotsford International Airshow enabled her to make history.
Irwin recently became the first woman to ascend to the role of board chair for the event, which celebrates its 60th year in 2022.
But rising to that role wasn’t an overnight leap for Irwin.
Since 2002 she has volunteered in some manner with the event, beginning her airshow journey as a hostess at the President’s Club. From 2002 to 2017 she served in that role, eventually also taking on the role of captain for crew hosting in 2015 and she then accepted a role on the board of directors beginning in 2015.
Irwin said a friend got her interested in the airshow and she quickly fell in love with the buzz and excitement of the event.
“I got in on a volunteer basis and just got to really know the people involved and started to understand the aviation industry,” she said. “It really ignited a passion in me. And with my other community work sitting on boards and governance and just wanting to make things better and build the foundation – and I ended up getting elected to the board in 2015.”
Irwin said the last several years she has worked with the board to make the event better for everyone.
She believes that her vast experience in a number of different aspects of the airshow will help in her new role.
“By volunteering you’re part of the operations and really helping to make the show succeed in that capacity,” she said of her early years with the event. “And then the move to the board is more of a governance hat that one has to wear and really looking at all aspects around security, enhancing policy and bylaws and things like that. It’s two completely different streams, but I do have a passion for both.”
Irwin said her love of the air show, the people and the way it brings the community together kept bringing her back.
“I honestly have to say it’s been the people that bring me back,” she said. “For that one weekend a year we all come together and it’s like a family. You see these people that weekend that you don’t see for a year but you come back for the air show and it’s almost like there’s been no time in between. We all have each other’s backs and it’s probably one of the best volunteer bases that I’ve had the privilege of belonging to. It’s always been impressive to me and I just love the energy of the airshow.”
She said the Skydrive event in 2021 was a successful and safe way to celebrate aviation during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s unclear if the drive-in inspired event will return for 2022 but Irwin hopes that the traditional airshow can return sooner rather than later. She said regardless of where we are at with the pandemic that the 60th event should be a memorable one.
Irwin said she will also be helping to create a new strategic plan for the airshow starting this fall and also helping with the search for a new executive director/president. This year will be the final show for president Jim Reith.
She said she’s proud to be the first woman as board chair and believes that women have always played an important role with the airshow.
“It definitely is an industry that has been male dominated,” she said. “But to have a woman break through I think is a good thing and it’s worth celebrating. Women are very much a part of the airshow. We have a large female base when it comes to our volunteers and we’re also seeing more female performers being brought in. We want to encourage women in aviation and over the years they have played a big part in building the success of our show.”
Irwin’s impact in the community is notable. She is a senior executive at the Abbotsford-based Prospera Credit Union and she holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of the Fraser Valley. Irwin has also served as president of the Rotary Club of Abbotsford, vice-chair of the UFV Board of Governors and chair of the UFV Alumni Association.
She has also volunteered with Archway Food Bank, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Canadian Blood Services and is heavily involved in PCU-supported events and charities.
The UFV grad said she hopes the 60th show continues the tradition of excellence and thanked the volunteers for being the heartbeat of the event.
“The airshow doesn’t happen without so many individuals that have the passion, care and determination to make the event a success,” she said. “It takes a village to put this event on. I also want to encourage everyone to come out and celebrate with us this year and celebrate what we have created as a community.”
The 60th edition of the Abbotsford International Airshow is scheduled to occur from Aug. 5 to 7.