Rotary bonfire a Halloween tradition

It isn’t Halloween in Grand Forks without a trip to the Rotary bonfire at Angus MacDonald Park.

It isn’t Halloween in Grand Forks without a trip to the Rotary bonfire at Angus MacDonald Park.

The bonfire has long been a tradition in Grand Forks and attracts hundreds of kids, adults and families. There is always plenty to do with a fortune teller, complimentary kettle corn for the kids, fireworks and, of course, the giant bonfire. The big pile of wood for the bonfire is provided courtesy of Boundary Electric and the City of Grand Forks.

Rotarian Gord Nichols said he figures the tradition of the Halloween bonfire started about 40 years ago.

“It went back to the early days of the Rotary Club in Grand Forks, which began in 1965,” he said. “So it started shortly after that. Part of the impetus at that time was that there was quite a bit of vandalism in the downtown core. The merchants and Rotarians thought that if they had a focal point outside of the downtown core that maybe the youth would congregate there so if there were people wandering around downtown causing mischief, they’d be more visible.”

Nichols said the effort proved very successful in reducing vandalism in downtown Grand Forks.

“Over the years it’s become very popular,” he said. “We used to do more traditional things like apple-bobbing, sack races and costume judging. Some time before my time, around 1980, Rotary started with the fireworks. Over the years it’s got way more sophisticated and larger.”

Nichols said they even ran a haunted house for a number of years, which was popular but a lot of work to set up and take down.

“It was so labour intensive to put that together in one day and tear it down,” he said. “Now we’re doing hot chocolate and music, which is fairly new.”

Nichols said the Rotary Halloween bonfire was mentioned in Beautiful B.C. magazine in the 1990s as one of the must do events in the province.

He said it remains just as popular today. “We get everyone coming from kids in strollers to geriatrics in wheelchairs,” said Nichols. “It’s open to everyone. It’s very accessible.”

Nichols said the bonfire will be lit around 6 p.m. with the hot chocolate and fortune teller setting up around 6:30 p.m. The fireworks will be starting at about 8 p.m.