In August, I will celebrate my one-year anniversary of living in the Elk Valley. While the year hasn’t all been beer and roses, I feel this year taught me a lot, both personally and professionally. And I have learned a great deal about this Valley and what makes it such a unique place: the political landscape, the coal industry and the culture included.
One aspect of this area that is hard to ignore is that it attracts some characters. Just one walk down Second Avenue in Fernie, and you’ll meet interesting people that you wouldn’t necessarily meet elsewhere. There are the notable ski bums, bike afficionados and mountain lovers that quaint British Columbia towns attract. But in addition to that, there are the people who grew up here, who graduated here and who raised a family here. They are the ones that have seen the changes in the Elk Valley ebb and flow like a wave on the ocean. And they are the ones I’m venturing to get to know more.
Last year, we featured a weekly column titled “Faces of the Valley.” The column, written by Jennifer Cronin, was a weekly chat with somebody about their upbringing, what brought them to the Elk Valley and what the area means to them. It was simple and yet it was by far our most read feature in the paper.
The column ended in January when Jen took a new position and time constraints stopped her from being able to continue. I know as a newsroom, we greatly missed the column – it was solid weekly content that was original and interesting. I feel like that sentiment was felt among our readers as well. From what I gather, the column was so well liked because it let people get to know their neighbours a little better – people who they have seen around the community but might not have ever gotten the chance to have a conversation with.
Last week, I met with Jen to discuss the idea of bringing the Face of the Valley back to the newspaper. I wanted to undertake the column, but incorporate her style and voice, as it was her unique touch that made the column different to other articles. Luckily, she agreed, and the Face of the Valley will be resurrected.
Starting this week, the Face of the Valley will once again be a weekly feature in The Free Press and feature people who know the Elk Valley better than I ever will. It will be a chance to speak to the characters who I see on Second Avenue, or at the Sparwood Library, or at any one of the many celebrations throughout the Elk Valley. I am always on the hunt for a good conversation and a history lesson.
If you know of anyone who you think would make a great candidate for a Face of the Valley column, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to talk to them.