The first Winter Carnival in Vernon was held on Long Lake (Kalamalka Lake) February 23, 1893. It was stated this was the first affair of its kind to be held on ice in the Province of British Columbia. At this time there were approximately 10,000 residents in the area and it was said the crowd was a credit to this number.
Our first annual Vernon Winter Carnival (as we know it today) was held January 27 – February 5th, 1961.
1961: During the first carnival Minor Hockey held a jamboree that included speed skating, novelty and ice races. Now the PeeWee Hockey Tournament brings kids and parents from all over BC and Canada to the Vernon Winter Carnival. The Vernon Girl’s Trumpet Band have participated every year in the Vernon Winter Carnival Parade since 1961 (until the group ended in 2009). A special square dance number was written for the Vernon Winter Carnival by Don Messer of “Don Messer’s Jubilee” fame, called “Silver Star Breakdown”. Silver Star was the host of the Western Canadian Ski Jumping Championships.
1963: Silver Star hosted the Western Canadian Alpine Championships.
1964: Vernon hosted the Briaar Finals with 64 rinks in attendance. Both the curling rink and Civic Arena were used.
1966: “Jopo”, the jester role in the life of Carnival first appeared as the brainchild of Mrs. John Maynard. Bill and Lorraine Allum were the first Jopos. A contest was held to name the jester and 12 year old Tina Wunderli won with her entry of “Jopo”. The “Sheriff’s Jail” was introduced and run by the Vernon Associated Canadian Travellers. Over time there was a transition from sheriff to Karnival Kop. Ed Flegal was the first and continued his role until 1980. Carnival started honouring a local town everyday.
1967: Ice Palace returns to Polson Park. First appearance of a female jopo – later named Jopette
1968: Torchlight Parade from downtown Safeway to Civic Arena for Coronation.
1970: 3rd annual Feather Fancier Show.
1st Hospitality Centre 10am – midnight.
1st Jopo Bonspiel – noon – 1pm at the Curling Rink with celebrity curlers.
1971: Jopette was officially introduced. Ice Sculpture contest for schools began.
1972: 1st Party for the Handicapped by the Women’s Hospital Auxiliary, now call Party for the Disabled. As well the 1st Pee Wee Hockey Tournament was held and is still running today.
1973: 1st Snowshoe Golf Tournament. Store Decorating Contest Started – now called Best Decorated Premises.
1974: Carnival star – suspended on Main Street intersection. 1st 6 mile marathon. Masquerade Mutt Show began.
1975: Carnival swirl toques were knitted by the Foster Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star. Order of Jopo Award (all previous Chairmen as well as other important dignitaries were presented with this award).
1976: 1st Polar Bear Swim. Jam Can Curling started for elementary school children, organized by Vernon Senior Secondary Grade 12 students. Jopo House Luncheon started at the Vernon.
1977: Cable 10 TV – first major project covering Winter Carnival.
1979: Queen Silver Star XVII – Melanie Munk, was chosen to represent Canada & BC on a ski promotional tour to Japan.
1980: Queen Silver Star Reunion – a wake-up champagne breakfast was hosted by the City of Vernon.
1981: Ken Little became the Vernon Winter Karnival Kop. Kop uniforms were fashioned after the English “Bobbie”. 1st Bandarama held.1st Ice Cream Eating Contest.
1983: 1st Snow Sculpting Contest at Silver Star Mountain. Snow Volleyball began. Carnival Happy Hours began at local pubs 4-6pm.
1984: “K” dropped from Carnival Cops.
1985: Kids Truck Rodeo sponsored by Kal Tire began. 1st Mr. Carnival Competition – Club 2929.
1986: 1st Over the Line Snowball in Polson Park.
1987: Little Miss Carnival started – Polson Place Mall. It ran for many years then ended until it was picked up again in 2010 for the 50th sponsored by the Village Green Centre. 1st Winter Breakout.
1990: Queen Silver Star & Court went by limousine to Downtown Vernon, led by Vernon Girls Trumpet Band to light Harolds’s Star at 32nd Street and 30th Ave.
1991: Ken Little retires after 10 years as the Carnival Cop. First BC Snow Sculpture Competition is held at Silver Star Mountain.
1992: 1st Cornelius O’keefe’s Treasure Hunt at O’Keefe Ranch.
1993: Brochure changed from the smaller format costing $2.50 each, to a larger book free to the public. Hot Air Balloon Fiesta started.
1994: 1st Irish Pub Night sponsored by Kalamalka Rotary Club.1st Wallyball Tournament sponsored and held at Roster Sports Club.
1995: 1st Sovereign Lake Lantern Ski. Carnival office moved to its current location 3401 35th Avenue.
1998: 1st School Poster Contest for elementary school kids. 10th Annual Polar Bear Picnic in Polson Park.
1999: Coronation moved to Light Palace at Village Green Mall parking lot – part of the Balloon Glow.
2000: Carnival held a 40th Birthday party in Polson Park for the public.
2001: 1st Much Music Video Dance for schools sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club.
2003: 1st Kids Karnival sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club. 1st Annual Laugh Out Loud Comedy Fest (Snowed In Comedy Tour) sponsored by the Vernon Chamber of Commerce.
2005: Dorothy Sawicki retired as Secretary after 45 years. 1st Vernon Interclub Speed Skating Meet at Wesbild Centre.
2006: 1st Ladies Day Snowshoe Tour at Silver Star. Polar Bear Swim returned to Paddle Wheel Park sponsored by the Lions Club.
2010: 50th Masquerade Skating Party – sponsored by Vernon Shrine Club. Little Miss Winter Carnival Program brought back. Ice palace was constructed in Polson Park for the Coronation of the 50th Royalty.
2012: 20th Anniversary of the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. The BC Championship Snow Sculpture Competition was back with the help of Tourism Vernon and Silver Star Mountain Resort.
2015: 1st Family Day in the Park is introduced to coincide with BC’s first Family Day.
2018: Polar Bear Swim celebrate’s 5 years since it’s return to Carnival with the Zimbabwe Project.
2019: Feather Fanciers celebrate their 50th Annual event. Chili Cookoff and the Winter Carnival Blues Festival celebrates their 10th annual events.
2020: Vernon Winter Carnival celebrates it’s 60th Anniversary. Pre- Carnival Jopo and Jopette received an update to their costumes and make up. The diamond anniversary year was commemorated with the return of many past favourite events – such as the Iconic Ice Palace, Ice Carving and Jam Can Curling. The Vernon Girls Trumpet Band also reunited for the parade and Celebration of Talent.
2021: Vernon Winter Carnival took place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, an adapted festival was hosted with mainly virtual and drive thru events.
2022: Still facing challenges from COVID-19 many events once again had to be cancelled, however many did go forward. The first ever Winter Playground was hosted by VWC, as well as returning events such as the balloon glow, Snow Pitch, Snogolf and the first Snowglobe Concert.