Last year’s 40th anniversary of Rambo’s First Blood is still bringing in success for the Hope, Cascades & Canyons, Visitor Centre and Museum.
On Saturday (Jan. 28), the Tourism Industry Association of BC (TIABC) publicly announced that the Visitor Centre is a nominee for their Remarkable Experience Award. Nominated alongside the Barkerville Historic Town and Park, and the Northern FanCon, the Visitor Centre was selected for the ‘First Blood 40th anniversary event’ that took place in October.
“It’s really exciting,” says Sarah Brown, the centre’s operations manager and curator. “This started out with Brian [McKinney] and Tracy [Paynter] in the back room of the trailer sticking posted notes, on the wall, of things they wanted to do. To see that grow into something that was so big and so well supported was exciting. And the business community [and vendors] really came out and did a lot.
“It seemed like everybody really took [the event] in the spirit, in which it was intended, and came out and had a really good time.”
During the three day event, hundreds of people, both locally and around the world, came in honour of the 1982 release of the movie, First Blood, which was filmed in Hope in 1981. Fans were delighted with perfect weather and attractions such as the unveiling of the Sheriff Will Teasle wood carving, Rambo paintball, and getting to ride a tank — hired from the Canadian Military Education centre — that crushed cars.
While the Visitor Centre is grateful for the nomination, they also want to emphasize that their success wouldn’t have been possible with the support and hospitality provided by Hope residents and businesses during the festival. This included an $11,000 aggregate donation from local businesses and community members, as well as a donation of cars (for the tank to crush) from Silver Skagit Mechanical.
“Every fan that came in, I worked in the visitor center all weekend, they said they felt welcomed in the community,” says Brown. “All of the accommodations here and just the local people were really friendly, and kind, to [the fans and guests].”
The awards are part of the annual BC Tourism Hospitality Conference. Nine categories or awards are available for those in the tourism industry (hotels, restaurants, visitor centres, attractions) to be nominated for.
For the Remarkable Experience Award, nominees are those who’ve provided an experience to guests that inspires them to share about it via word of mouth, post about their experience on social media, and generally talk about how this experience was positive and unique for them.
The winners will be announced on Mar. 2, during the 2023 conference’s Awards Gala evening. As this event was the passion project and “baby” of McKinney, who was one of the co-organizers of the 40th anniversary, he will be representing the Visitor Centre and accepting the award on their behalf should they win.