Barkerville closing for the season inspires a whole slew of emotions. The day after the Barkerville season officially ends, when the last of our guests have checked out of the B&Bs and are headed off down Highway 26, is a shock to the system. For many long-time Barkerville “residents” the shock of going from clamour and celebration on Sunday afternoon to exceptionally quiet on Monday morning is always jarring… but it is a familiar feeling. We’ve lived it many, many times over.
Last week we wrapped up another Barkerville season and, as usual, we went out with a bang. For the second year in a row we closed our September season with a Steampunk-themed murder mystery weekend. For the better part of three consecutive days the streets of Barkerville were filled with leather, corsets, metal sprockets, gears, goggles, and the coolest collection of boots, masks, fascinators and other accessories this side of the 19th-century. Steampunk participants ran furiously about the site while trying to solve a mystery, attended themed events, and made a cacophony of joyful noise.
Then, come Monday, everything went quiet – as it always does.
During the active Barkerville season, my mornings take on a rhythm I find comforting. For weeks on end my routine has a familiarity that matches my nature. I get my daughters off to daycare and drive the eight kilometres from Wells to Barkerville, enjoying some glorious scenery or chatting with my husband if we happen to be commuting together. Once I arrive on site I park the van and almost always choose to walk up the backstreet. I cross behind El Dorado Gold Panning & Gifts and meander past the back of the Tregillus buildings, almost always lingering for a second or two to note the progress of the little garden patch tucked away there. For the last few weeks of the season the garden is dotted with fat, colourful poppies and I love watching their progress.
I tend to arrive early enough to have the pleasure of waving to the various merchants as they drive off-site and clear the streets of anachronistic vehicle traffic by 9:30 AM. I walk by the stables and have a quick wave or, time permitting, a chat with Glen or Dave or Felicity as they organize horses and coaches for the day. Once I arrive at my dressing room I pull on costumes and lace up boots with my fellow Historic Street interpreters. If Michelle (the actor who plays Miss Irvine) is there we chat non-stop with each other, our voices spilling over the tops of adjacent cubicles, until we are both confined in our Victorian properness, and are ready to hit the streets and face the day.
Now that the season has come to a close, I find myself walking up a much quieter street in the morning, on my way to clean out our dressing room. If I pass anyone at all it is someone with an energy that is decidedly different from what we’ve experienced over the past few weeks. Rather than gearing up for an eventful day in Barkerville, I find interpreters and contractors gearing down for the winter.
Businesses take inventory, pack up and put away the summer. Teamster Glen leads his giant, gorgeous horses away from rustic wooden coaches toward big silver trailers for their long ride to winter quarters. There is no buzz of early-rising visitors emerging from their respective B&Bs. There is no aroma of fresh coffee, or baking bread. It is all done.
As with most things, there is a special kind of beauty to be found in the relative stillness of season’s end. At the same time as my heart aches a little for those friends who have already departed (until next year) I look forward to some rest. My aging body feels the wear and tear of spending months on my feet; months of vocal strain; months of holding my body in ramrod Victorian posture. I also crave the quiet.
I like to imagine Barkerville itself feels a similar sort of need, a need for a time of peace, at the end of each season. The old town has hosted more than 60,000 guests in four short months and now, perhaps, it too wants to be still for a spell. Barkerville shines so bright from May to September and, like any aging star, needs a little time away from the limelight to rest, watch the oncoming snow fall, and slow right down (save for Halloween and Christmas) until next spring, when we will rev it all up and make some serious noise again.
The above one-panel cartoon by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the seveteenth of twenty weekly entries that were logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2015 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and the Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing the quirkier side of living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!