Three New Public Art Works, All Created By Community

Over the summer I have seen underappreciated spaces in New Westminster become increasingly more exciting, personalized and playful. Three new artworks that are contributing to what I last called the placemaking of our city’s public sites include the “Stop and Stare” portraits in the New West Skytrain station, the Eco-Art works in Moody Park, and the Columbia Street mural.

What ties these three works together is the involvement of members of our community in the initiation and process of creation. Each project allows residents and people who populate the space to gain a new perspective on our environment and how we might activate it in a positive and creative way. They teach us how derelict or underused spaces and materials around us can be given new life and interest.

Stop and Stare

Walking through the New Wesminster Skytrain station concourse level, you now come face to face with some familiar faces.
Walking through the New Wesminster Skytrain station concourse level, you now come face to face with some familiar faces.

In October 2012, Neal Michael called out to New Westies to help create a space of identity and playfulness by encouraging the creation of more Public Art in the unused spaces around us (read his blog here). Neal’s inspiration from the global InsideOut Project has brought about a series of pasted portraits that are now installed in the New Westminster Skytrain Station.

These portraits are all simply pasted to the temporary walls that conceal skytrain station renovations.
These portraits are all simply pasted to the temporary walls that conceal skytrain station renovations.

These portraits are not glamorous, colourful or glossy like the faces seen on nearby advertisements. These are akin to small concert posters or personal ads sloshed up along the temporary plywood walls. This immediate use of materials does not take anything away from the Public Art Project: if anything it only separates it further from something that might sell to our desires. It confronts us with its jarring difference. Taking a walk on the concourse level, you might come face to face with a black and white blow up of a familiar face: there are no models here, only community members. This is a series that maps New West as a place built by people, and it presses these very human faces (some passport deadpan, some silly) toward us as an exclamation of tangible civic identity.

Eco Art in Moody Park

Natural materials were woven to create this teepee structure in Moody Park. Eventually it will succumb to natural processes of decay.
Natural materials were woven to create this teepee structure in Moody Park. Eventually it will succumb to natural processes of decay.

Before I came to New Westminster, I was involved in community art in Vancouver with a few projects and initiatives. I have always felt the power of open participation and the importance of engaging everyone in some form of the creative process. It was in one of these initiatives that I first experienced the work of Sharon Kallis, an environmentally responsible Vancouver artist who utilizes many techniques in weaving unwanted plant materials into ephemeral art installations. I remember the revelation I had in seeing the results of her facilitation in the expert weaving of the terribly invasive English Ivy and Yellow Flag Iris that plagues natural spaces in the GVRD. Her work with the Urban Weaver Project in 2012 allowed community members, First Nations and artists to learn traditional methods of weaving plant materials through the Vancouver Park Board’s Fieldhouse Residency. Kallis and her peers had pulled invasives from a site, processed them by hand and shaped them into something beautiful and temporary: from bowls, to walls, to fluid forms. This functioned as a remediation of an environment on several levels: an opportunity to allow space for native plant species to root, and an opportunity for people in that space to see the creative potential of waste.

A circle of dancing figures are large and easy to spot, while other works are a little more challenging to happen upon.
A circle of dancing figures are large and easy to spot, while other works are a little more challenging to happen upon.

After a public presentation in June, Kallis and organizers Corbin Murdoch (Public Arts Coordinator) and Shelly Schnee (Recreation Programmer at Century House) delicately steered and guided five groups of New Westminster community members over two months in the creation of their own Eco-Art installations. Kallis has commented on her work as a facilitating artist to this group: “I have to say how impressed I was at the quality of work and level of professionalism everyone brought to both the pitch session and the final works created. One of the participants referred  to another in her group as being the ‘real artist’ and I gently corrected her, reminding her that she was now working as an artist, with perhaps a more senior artist as collaborator… [what an] incredible opportunity for someone to have as their first steps into the art world!” Her description of this collaborative creative process as a learning opportunity for any person, regardless of their skill level or professionalism is a major component of this type of work where process is as critical as the end result. The people who create the work are shaped by this process, just as they manipulate their materials that are in turn re-shaped by the natural process of decay. After the public reception for the project last weekend on the south side of Moody Park, the artist-facilitator congratulated our city on this exciting step further into the realm of community-based Eco Art: “I hope this is just the beginning to what could become a strong tradition for New Westminster parks and community members! What a treat to get to play a part in it all.”

Columbia Street Mural 

This community mural has brightened up a dull corner of Columbia street.
This community mural has brightened up a dull corner of Columbia street.

On the weekend of the New West Culture Crawl, the dull grey wall to the east of the Army and Navy on Columbia Street received some special treatment. Members of the community were invited out to help paint a mural designed by local artist Gillian Wright. While at a barbecue a man showed me photographs he had taken of his wife and one-and-a-half year old daughter leaving their mark, and it felt like a glimpse of a special heirloom. This project, funded by a Vancouver Foundation neighbourhood small grant, is an example of what community members like Councillor Mary Trentadue and Nadine Nakagawa can do to with a sense of playfulness, some sleuthing into property ownership and a vision of how we might make our city into something more inclusive, creative, and enjoyable to walk through. So many New Westies will have stories to share about the day they left a painterly stamp on the prominent wall.

I know in my walks past these spaces that they are getting some notice. I know from colourful Instagram feeds that participants in community art are having fun. My hope is that these works are only the beginning and that they inspire others to start a project or think of other creative ways to utilize our public space. Small neighbourhood grants are a great way to execute ideas for improving spaces that need love. Even ideas can be shared with the city: If you see a space that looks like it might be ripe for some artistic interference you can always recommend them to the city or send them my way to share with the Public Art Advisory Committee.

Stay cool, New West: Summer fun at spray parks, splash pools, and beaches

Summer heat came early with a May that was one of the driest on record, and it’s only getting hotter. Thankfully, New West has a pretty great list of spray parks, splash pools and even a couple beaches where you can suntan on hot sand.

Spray Parks: Open from 10am-7pm, Victoria Day to Labour Day

  • Queens Park – A classic spot for summer fun, the thick trees of the park make it easy to find a shady spot to cool down. The spray park features a water table feature for toddlers as well as a varied collection of sprinklers for older kids and adventurous tots to run through. The spray park is next to the Queens Park Petting Zoo (open 10am-5:30pm), a concession, and the Rainbow Playland playgrounds.
  • Moody Park – Located Uptown at 6th Ave. & 8th St. next to the playground, this older spray park is earmarked for an facelift soon. Water lines were recently upgraded in preparation for the new spray park. I’m not sure when the new spray park is due to be installed, but this could be the last summer to enjoy the tree-stump sprinklers in the old park.
  • Ryall Park – Next to a toddler playground, an all-wheel park, and the Queensborough Community Centre. The community centre includes a small branch of the New Westminster Library – a good spot to step out of the sun for a while to check out a book or do a puzzle with your kids.
  • Sapperton Park – Blessedly close to Starbucks and a short walk from Sapperton SkyTrain, this smaller spray park at Sherbrooke & East Columbia is a great spot to meet up with friends. I often find at larger parks like Queen’s, the kids run off to play in different areas. It’s hard to keep up a conversation while you’re chasing them to opposite ends of the playground! At Sapperton Park, the kids are always within eyesight, which makes it easy for the parents to enjoy their “playdate” too.
  • Old Schoolhouse Park – Not a true spray park, but this Queensborough park includes a playable water feature for kids where they can get as wet as they want to. At Ewen Ave & Derwent Way.
  • Hume Park – Resurfaced in May/June 2015, this is now open for business! Really nice re-do of the splash park, that uses recycled tires for the surface – non-slip and a bit squishy on the feet.  Located off East Columbia Street in Sapperton.

Outdoor pools – Open from the last weekend in June until Labour Day

  • Moody Park – The newest pool in New West is conveniently located in leafy Moody Park. Changerooms are clean and spacious, and while the pool isn’t the biggest around, it is a beautiful spot to cool off in summer. Open for public swim from 1:15 to 7:55pm in July & August. Adult swim from 8-9:25pm on Tuesdays & Thursdays; youth swim from 8-9:25pm on Wednesdays.
  • Hume Park – Pair your swim with a walk through the trails in Lower Hume or take the kids to the new adventure playground next to the pool. Hume Park is great fun. Open on fair weather days from 1:15pm-8pm.
  • Grimston Park wading pool – Open from 12-4pm in July & August, this is one of the few remaining free, public wading pools in Metro Vancouver. Staffed by a lifeguard, who often brings water toys and may offer face-painting if you are lucky. Grimston is a lesser-known park in New West, located in the West End a short walk from 22nd St. SkyTrain.

Free admission to Moody Park Pool & Hume Pool on weekends, and just $2 for adults / $1.50 for kids and seniors during the week.

Beaches

  • The not-so-“secret” beach in Queensborough is a lovely and quiet little patch of sand. You probably don’t want to go swimming in the fast-moving Fraser River, but you can cool your feet at the river’s edge and benefit from the cool air off the water and surrounding shade trees. Located off the Port Royal Riverfront Walk, on the Poplar Island side.
  • The Pier Park Urban Beach is accessed via the Quay boardwalk and a new pedestrian overpass at 4th Street (via the Parkade). While you can’t go swimming here, it’s breezy and beautiful, with trees and sun umbrellas for shade and even hammocks to relax in. The City is adding new water ‘misters’ to provide some relief from the heat (should be complete in the second week of July).

Further afield: 

When a beach where you can swim is the only thing that will do, you have to settle in for a bit of a drive or public transit adventure. Here are a couple of favourite ‘field trips’ from New West:

  • Our family’s favourite swimming beach near New West is Centennial Beach at Boundary Bay Park in Delta, which is about a half-hour drive away. It’s a long, sandy beach with shallow water that heats up to the temperature of bathwater. When the tide is in, you can go out wading until you are just a tiny speck on the horizon and still not be more than waist-deep. When the tide is out, the area is full of tidepools to explore. There is a playground and concession near the main parking lot, but if you are willing to walk a ways you can usually find a quiet spot in the seagrass where you can spread a picnic blanket. Just remember to bring lots of sunscreen and your own shade: it’s mostly scrub bush and grass out there rather than trees.
  • Sasamat Lake’s White Pine Beach is 40 minutes away and features a beautiful beach surrounded by mountains and tall evergreens.
  • English Bay Beach in downtown Vancouver is 40 minutes by car or an hour by public transit. The beach is gorgeous, and you can pair your visit with a walk around the Stanley Park Seawall or a bit of Robson Street shopping in the West End.

What about you? Where do you go to cool off on a hot summer day?

Best playgrounds in New West: what are your favourites?

Favourite playgrounds in New Westminster

This Saturday, June 16, the new Westminster Pier Park will open with a celebration from 11 am to 3 pm. There will be lots of fun, family-friendly activities, food and live music.

The upcoming event makes me marvel at how lucky we are in New Westminster when it comes to outdoor play areas. The new Pier Park will feature two playgrounds, a concession, washrooms and playing fields, all in a beautiful waterfront setting. But it’s just the latest addition to many fantastic playgrounds around the city. Here’s the highlight reel of some others:

Moody Park

Located in Uptown, Moody Park has a playground, spray park, outdoor pool, tennis courts and playing fields. There are also washrooms and picnic benches along with lots of shade.

Why I love it: the location makes it the ideal place to stop off while running errands with the kids. Royal City Centre is right across the street and there are many eateries, businesses and shopping outlets — not to mention the public library — in the area.

Hume Park

Hume Park, located in Sapperton, was recently renovated. It features a large playground for school-aged kids with a separate area just for the little guys. The playground is nestled between an off-leash dog park (with plenty of trees and benches), an outdoor swimming pool and a spray park. There are also picnic benches, playing fields, washrooms, tennis courts and plenty of trees for shade.

Why I love it: the large play structure has a wide variety of challenges for older kids (it struck me as a decided response to recent criticisms that today’s playgrounds are too safe.) But my three-year-old was able to enjoy it as well. His younger brother, meanwhile, was happy puttering away in the toddler area, undisturbed by older kids.

Grimston Park

The West End’s Grimston Park has a recently rebuilt playground, a wading pool, tennis courts, washrooms and playing fields. The wading pool is open from noon – 4 pm, July to Labour Day, and has a lifeguard on duty during those times.

Why I love it: the climbing structure is very well designed. My two-year old can easily climb all the way to the top by himself (the look of triumph on his face after he completes this feat is priceless!) In fact, there is no part of the playground that’s not accessible to him. And yet, the school-age kids we see there are able to use the equipment in a way that challenges them as well. It allows all ages to play together.

Queen’s Park

Located in the heart of the city, New Westminster’s biggest park has one playground for little kids and another for the older ones. There’s also a spray park, a concession stand and washrooms, located among trees, picnic benches, grassy areas and flowers. But the highlight, from Victoria Day to Labour Day, is a petting farm filled with critters willing to have little hands tug at their ears.

Why I love it: the petting farm is fantastic with a variety of animals and knowledgeable volunteers, and it’s free (with a donation box at the exit.) The parking is abundant and free. And the size of the park makes the sights and sounds of the city fade away, letting me relax.

I lived in Vancouver for years before moving to New Westminster in 2008 and I’m hard-pressed to think of even one outdoor play space for kids that’s comparable to the playgrounds that New West offers.

What’s your favourite playground in New Westminster and why? Do you enjoy one of the ones I’ve listed here or did I miss a fabulous one that you want to share with everyone? Let’s hear it in the comments!

It’s A New West Thankgiving Thanks-Fest!

Well, it’s the Thanksgiving long weekend. And I thought that it might be a good idea to look around me, and take stock of all of the things that I have to be thankful for, particularly here in my adopted home of New Westminster.

Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving is based around the Anglican calendar, a liturgical festival that quietly mirrors the pagan Harvest Festivals in Britain, and those festivals celebrated very similarly by First Nations peoples who engaged in harvest festivals for many thousands of years. Over the centuries, the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving has come to mean many things to many people .

What does thanks mean to me, here in New West?

Like many things in life for me, it’s the details, the simple pleasures for which I give thanks. I don’t have to face hypothermia, typhoid, fighting off a bear with a skinny branch, or injuries sustained in clearing a patch of land to build a log cabin like our early Canadian forebearers did (and for which I also give thanks).

But, thanks are thanks, no matter what era in which one finds oneself. And here are some of mine.

***

The Library

New Westminster Library
Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd

Libraries are a sure sign that civilization is alive and well. At the risk of sounding like a very, very old man, libraries democratized information long before the Internet came along to claim the crown. And they’re still important, you young whippersnappers.

Ours is a five minute walk from my apartment. I have celebrated the New Westminster Library here before, of course, as have a number of writers here on Tenth To The Fraser. But recently I’ve discovered yet another treasure it provides me – classic movies on DVD! Netflix this!

Public Transit

Tranlink public transit New Westminster
Photo: Nathan Pachal

Although it’s been under attack recently, public transit in New West still kicks all manner of butt, and was one of my reasons for moving here. Then, I was without a car. I am therefore in favour of, and thankful to, any city that empowers its citizens to choose not to own a car if they don’t want one, or can’t afford one.

Since my little girl lives in North Delta, and it’s such a big deal to cross a river around here (with only 3 buses crossing a river, only one of which stops at a SkyTrain Station during regular service hours), I’ve since had to buy one. If only New West was looked to as more of an example of how public transit should be integrated into a community.

Moody Park

Photo: Robert John Davies Jones

Toward the end of the summer, I got off the 155 bus on 6th Street, between 10th and 9th. It was fresh, sunny day. There was a gentle breeze. The bus pulled away, and I looked across the road into Moody Park. The trees cast cool shade onto the grass, awash as it was with cheery sunlight. Dogs played. People gathered, laughing around picnic tables. It was life! And people were out in it, enjoying it together. It made me feel grateful to be here.

Rainbow Market

Photo: RJDJ

Rainbow Market on 8th street at 4th is the convenience store very close to my apartment – even closer than the Library! When there’s no milk for coffee, it’s been there for me in a pinch. But, it’s not just about the convenience. It’s about the time my daughter got a free candy (with my permission) when it was noticed that she was feeling a bit disappointed that day by the chap behind the counter. That kind of stuff counts.

9th Street

Photo: RJDJ

Some of the oldest houses that I’ve seen in New Westminster are just around the corner from me here on the Brow-Of-The-Hill. There is something about a house that is over a century old that really makes one feel very connected to a place that celebrates such an illustrious history, existing in a form that is both wonderful, and somehow alien too across the span of decades. It feels, at times, when walking in historic neighbourhoods like this one (as I’m wont to do), that time itself is something of an illusion.

I suppose too, I am in a state of constant admiration of those who live in those houses along 9th street. I am amazed at how devoted they must be to have made themselves so actively a part of that ongoing history just by taking care of a house like that, preserving that shared history for us all.

Drink Urban Lounge

Drink Urban Lounge
Photo: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I consider Drink Urban Lounge on Columbia Street to be my local, with a fine selection of beers, great food, and friendly wait staff. There’s something that is both cozy and sophisticated about it that I noticed the moment I stepped in there. I know The ‘Drink has been compared to a Yaletown place, but I actually think it’s its own thing.

When they played David Byrne on the box, along with some cool jazz, a spot of Bob Dylan, a touch of Wilco, they really had me. And one time recently, our hostess made us nachos even after the kitchen was closed. How great is that? Great enough to at least say “Thanks!”

Angelina’s

My favourite meal of the day is brunch. And when I crave it, Eggs Benedict is the first dish that leaps to mind, with strong coffee, fried potatoes, and freshly-squeezed orange juice – comfort food. All of this is mine at Angelina’s, a breakfast and lunch place down by the Quay (115 – 960 Quayside Drive ) which has become a fast favourite, for which I’m thankful is here in our city. It’s owned by a couple who are extremely friendly and know their trade. It feels kind of like a B&B without the first B. But, show up early, ’cause it’s cozy.

The Quay

New Westminster Quay
Photo: Stephen Rees

I believe that human beings draw a strong psychological lift being near water. And to have a place to walk near it, with greenery, a pub, a playground, a River Market, and grocery store along the way, that lift is made all the more a thing for which to be thankful.

Army & Navy

Photo: RJDJ

This is one of my favourite places on Columbia Street, not just because of the wide range of fashions and household items at very reasonable prices. But, because it reminds me of my childhood in the 1970s, when all department stores were set up like this. The soundtrack helps. When you’re in the Army & Navy on Columbia Street, your soundtrack will be pop music of all kinds, as long as it was released between 1956 to 1976. It’s like being a kid again! Well, for me it is.

Queen’s Park and surrounding environs

Photo: RJDJ

Like I touched on when speaking about 9th street, history fascinates me, and with many homes dating from the early 1900s in this extraordinarily pretty neighbourhood, there is plenty to soak up. In addition, quiet, tree-lined streets in a neighbourhood that still passes the pint of milk test (15 minutes to buying a pint of milk without climbing into a car) once again shows me a big part of what makes a great place to live, and how neighbourhoods should be planned.

Really, I just enjoy walking around this neighbourhood, admiring the individual beauty of each house, admiring the aesthetics of another age, and once again being made aware of how important history and a sense of continuity is in New Westminster, and how I feel I’ve been invited into it.

Friends

Friends, of course.

I sure have made a lot of friends in this town, ones I love to chat with, to hoist pints with, to share stories with. There is nothing quite like a support network, with “support network” perhaps sounding a bit too clinical for what it actually means to me.

As we grow up and get older, our relationships become more selective, perhaps. And being Canadian, we’re a bit more guarded as to who we let in than perhaps our American cousins are. But, like our other cultural cousins, the British, once you’re in, you’re in. How can you not be thankful for something like that?

So, I am.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

***

5 Songs About Thanks

Recollections of Childhood in Moody Park in the 1950’s

Recently, we have had some excellent posts here on Tenth to the Fraser by New Westminster resident, historian and Friend of the “New Westminster Museum and Archives” Ken Wilkinson. Based on some survey results and the readership statistics, I know that Ken’s articles are popular and anticipated by our readers.

To add to this genre, I will be posting an occasional guest post from my father, Richard Tomkinson, who was born here in the Royal City in 1943 and was, with his brother Robert, the 3rd generation of New Westminster Tomkinsons. These recollections of childhood have as their epicenter, 1040 7th Ave, a house removed only 3 years ago, across from Lord Kelvin Elementary and just next to the pool area of Moody Park.

I have edited what began as an interview format, into a narrative so any deficiencies in fact or style are all mine. Likewise, I have kept all of the best of the source material, so any lighthearted word or turn of phase must also be attributed to the source.
– Will Tomkinson, Ed.

Email, 1940's style ... Birth announcements via telegram announcing Richard & Robbie's arrivals.

My memory of growing up around Lord Kelvin school and Moody Park area was mostly of unrestricted roaming and fun, with groups of boys and girls from the post-war baby boom filling the neighbourhood houses.  Younger kids would move through the back lanes, neighbourhood streets, over back fences and through yards and the neighbourhood streets in packs, older kids in groups of 4 or in pairs.

This was all without supervision of course, at any age, but there was a curfew for children in the 50s. I seem to remember there was a horn that blew meaning that you were supposed to be at home rather that at roam. I don’t remember the source of the horn but I seem to recall that it was in the east of the park, as it sounded fairly far off. Moody Park itself was ever popular in the summer when the Kiwanis pool was open. I remember the pool’s opening day but I am not sure exactly when that was. (Editor’s note: I suspect this was in 1947 but I have not been able to confirm this.) Of course in later years we all had the adventure of struggling over the fence for a midnight swim. In the park, the playground was a big draw, as it still is, but lacked any hovering parents. During late fall as the huge towers of leaves from the many trees were often piled up, which were great fun.

The Author, circa 1947

Hard to imagine now, but great fun was the circus that regularly visited in the 50’s. That was always exciting and an adventure opportunity. Circus came for a week sometimes, other times for two days. In the beginning it was a real big circus with many tents, rides, animals etc. As time went by it got less and less. Mostly the circus set up in the high ground opposite and away from Kelvin school. Seems to me they set up once in the north field but it was boggy and had mosquitoes. Actually the north field was probably responsible for all the mosquitoes for a mile around. Yes, some enterprising kids would get jobs from the circus hands. Kids got jobs, I got 25 cents here and there for little jobs while they set up and tore down. During the winter and into the spring the north side always flooded, sometimes dangerously, and often in the winter provided a very large skating rink. We would be cautioned not to cross the ice on our way home from Lester Pearson Junior High. Did we listen? Kids today, just like kids in the 1950’s.

Richard as a teenager in New West, circa 1959

With so many kids around, you would have thought there may have been some neighborhood rivalry but there was not much of that. There was a gang on Nanaimo we battled with, that was about it. We also had a bunch of really smart kids in the general ‘hood, which did not mean they stayed out of trouble, but they were involved much more in sports. Box lacrosse, tennis, little league baseball, soccer, girl’s softball, and junior softball kept many kids and young adults coming to Moody Park.  Mostly kids would go to sports on their own except for little league which had a lot of parent involvement, and was the site of quite a number of adult punch-ups. Then, as now, lawn bowling kept the seniors in ‘whites’.

In the spring, I remember using the park for practice on May Day poles or with batons. This was before Hyack had the profile it has now. Back then it applied to the Anvil Battery only. The park was also a place for city youth programs and Young Life meetings at Century House. As a youth I remember those meetings and hanging out in the late evening in the playground just barely on the safe side of aggression which was often in play. I learned to run real fast at just the right moment, probably not much different than most of today’s young ones. On the other side of aggression was the first kiss and a lot of confusion.

By the time the city’s 100th anniversary came around in 1959, I was 16 and had a lot of other things on my mind other than 7th street and the park. Band, cars, school etc…. but I will always remember the scary long walk through the park coming home from band practice. Even today the shadows threaten, but never did I actually have an event to regret.

New West councillors pull all-nighter voting for youth centre in Kraft contest

Mac & Cheese. Photo: Angie Torres (via Flickr)
Fortified by Kraft Dinner, New Westminster Councillors Jaimie McEvoy & Jonathan Cote pulled an all-nighter voting for the Youth Centre in Moody Park in the Kraft Celebration Tour online contest. Thanks to them and others in the community who voted, New Westminster youth won the $25,000 prize! Photo: Angie Torres (via Flickr)

We often hear that New Westminster is a small town, not just in size but in style. And that can be both good and bad. This week, in the Moody Park Youth Centre’s campaign to win a $25,000 grant in an online contest, there was a whole lot of good going around.

It seemed that the whole town pulled together for the youth centre. To win the big prize, New Westminster went head to head with the city of Nelson, both trying to muster the most votes in one day. With no restriction on the number or frequency of votes, the Kraft Celebration Tour contest was as much about passion for the community as population numbers.

Said The Royal City Record about New West’s win:

New Westminster clobbered Nelson – who were hoping to use the cash for an upgrade to their curling club – by a score of 220,531 to 154,709 in the 24 hour contest that ran from 9 a.m. Friday to Saturday. Not bad for a city with an estimated population of around 60,000.

New Westminster rallied for our youth, urging each other on through many emails, tweets, Facebook posts and blogs to cast a vote (or more) for our town. Meanwhile, a group of teens gathered in the library to stay up all night watching movies and vote, vote, vote! City councillors and staff also took time out during the day to vote during coffee breaks and lunch hour. Then, two City councillors, Jonathan Cote and Jaimie McEvoy, saw each other on Facebook that night and upped the ante, challenging each other to pull an all-nighter voting for the youth centre.

Jonathan Cote on Twitter at 3:46 a.m.: "I am going to pay for this tomorrow..."
Jonathan Cote on Twitter at 3:46 a.m.: "I am going to pay for this tomorrow..."

“We were both getting tired and getting ready to call it quits, so I put out the challange on twitter,” said Jonathan via email. “I thought with two kids under the age of three I would have the edge in staying up through the night.”

The wager? A dinner out with both spouses. The winner would pick the restaurant – and the loser would pick up the tab.

“Jaimie and I would occasionally check on each other on Facebook to make sure we were still up.”

All that time staring at the Kraft logo on the contest screen made both councillors crave Kraft Dinner. Jonathan said he made his around 2 a.m. and Jaimie around 3:30.

“Around 4:30, I thought I would rest my eyes a bit to get my second [wind]. Next thing I knew it, it was 7:30. As per the posts on Facebook, it looks like Jaimie made it to about 6:30. No word on which restuarant Alix and I will be taking Jaimie and Stacy to.”