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Twenty years of trade show progress

On the 20th anniversary of the Kitikmeot Trade Show, some time was devoted to reflection on how far the event, and the region, has come.

The 2019 recipients of the Willy Laserich Memorial Corporate Citizen Award, presented at the 20th annual Kitikmeot Trade Show, were, from left, Brenda Mercer, Charlie Lyall, Charlie Evalik and Dan Kane. Wilf Wilcox and Keith Peterson were also recognized, but weren’t present for the photo. Laura Wittle/NNSL photo

A panel of original trade show participants was assembled last week and they were acknowledged for their years of dedication. The Willy Laserich Memorial Corporate Citizen Award was bestowed upon them. Charlie Lyall, Wilf Wilcox, Charlie Evalik, Brenda Mercer, Dan Kane and Keith Peterson were the joint recipients.

“I think it was a nice touch for the (trade show steering) committee to recognize and honour their commitment and achievement to bring the trade show from where it started to where it is now,” said trade show organizer Jim MacEachern.

Mercer was Cambridge Bay’s economic development officer in 1999 when the inaugural trade show got off the ground. She remembers airline Canadian North spearheading the initiative with an aim to further ties between Yellowknife and Cambridge Bay.

By the third year, then-mayor Keith Peterson, and Charlie Lyall, then-president of the Kitikmeot Corporation, decided “let’s have our own trade show,” said Mercer. “There was a lot of benefits from that, and they could see it was a good idea.”

She said it’s apparent how the local catering and hospitality industries, in particular, have made great strides over the past two decades.

“Cambridge Bay is a very friendly place and it always has been, and even this week you hear that, just how warmly welcomed everybody is,” she said.

As for catering, she recalled that just one resident would attempt to cook for all the trade show delegates in the early years of the event and “it was kind of overwhelming.”

Since then Nunavut Arctic College has started cooking programs and local catering businesses have sprung up.

“The catering this week was just unbelievable,” Mercer said. “That’s great because there’s so many economic spinoffs from the (trade) show – people come in and businesses are making money.”

The venue has also been a useful occasion for company executives – especially in mining and exploration – to communicate with regional business and political leaders, she added, noting that the Hope Bay gold project has become operational after many years as a glimmering prospect.

It was about 10 years ago that delegates at the trade show made a case for Cambridge Bay to host the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, which is now a reality.

“I think it helped to say, Hey, we can do these things,” said Mercer, went on to become self-employed as an event planner in Nunavut. Although Ontario her been her base of operations for the past several years, she said she maintains strong connections in the North.

She also lauded the Kitikmeot Trade Show’s efforts to foster future leaders by bringing in two youth from each Kitikmeot community. While there, the youth hear about the importance of staying in school and engage in on-the-land programs. The Kitikmeot Inuit Association has since taken over that role and adopted a mentoring program for youth.

“The group of students that were selected (this year) were very impressive, spoke very well. Part of what they’re learning is how to network, how to speak to a crowd, how to introduce yourself, how to shake hands… there were some (youth) in that group it was like, Wow, you can tell there’s some leaders emerging, for sure,” Mercer said. “I think it’s a great component of the show.”

One thing that has not changed is the limitations of the community hall, which restricts attendance to 200 people. Marla Limousin, Cambridge Bay’s senior administrative officer, told Nunavut News last year that the community is motivated to build a new recreation complex to have more room for various events.