While some of the challenges have tagged along for the new year, here’s a look in the rear view mirror at some of Vernon’s top headlines of 2021.
Locally, the biggest story was sparked in our region on Aug. 6, as the White Rock Lake wildfire put the city and surrounding areas on evacuation alert. The blaze grew to 55,000 hectares and had Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Coldstream and Vernon on alert as the glow of the fire burned on the north Westside of Okanagan Lake.
Winds also continued to push the out-of-control wildfire to the northeast towards the Falkland area, putting residents in Monte Lake on evacuation order and even some near Kamloops on evacuation alert.
Just 10 days later, it was determined that significant structure loss had taken place with 50-60 buildings ‘significantly damaged’ on Westside Road. Among them was the beloved Little Kingdom store.
In fact, Black Press Media analytics show that 16 out of the top 50 most-read articles on the Morning Star website were related to the White Rock Lake wildfire.
COVID-19, but specifically vaccination passports, were another hot topic in 2021 (and continuing). In the No. 13 spot is a story about a local restaurant blaming the passports for its closure.
Squires Four Pub closed its doors Oct. 27, and remains closed, “due to unprecedented reasons,” according to a sign on the front door.
“It’s the (COVID-19 vaccine) passports. We’ve received 50 per cent false (QR) codes. People are getting angrier. Sales are low. There is no government support. It makes no sense to stay in operation,” the owner of the long-time pub said.
Yet another major event this past year was flooding and highway washouts that left thousands stranded.
Those trying to get home to the Interior from the Lower Mainland were stuck as all transportation corridors were severed. The only way to get home was to take the long-way-around, through the United States. But crossing the border meant getting a COVID-19 negative test.
That was the case until authorities agreed to let travellers returning home to cross the U.S. border without a PCR test. It was welcome news to those stuck as well as their loved ones, making it the No. 15, most-read story in Vernon.
Speaking of driving, winter driving has already caused some chaos on local roads. And the situation wasn’t much different last winter.
Okanagan RCMP spent a day in February checking more than 200 vehicles on the Okanagan Connector. They weren’t being checked for compliance of COVID-19 travel restrictions, but instead to inspect vehicles for safety.
Officers issued several tickets, including violations for brake issues, not having a driver’s licence and driving contrary to conditions.
Twenty-one vehicles were also sent back into the valley for tire-related violations, such as worn-out or bald tires and lack of winter tires, a requirement for driving on the Connector.
This story out of West Kelowna came in at No. 16 for 2021.
Another restaurant article topped the polls at No. 17.
News that Temptasion would be serving its last dishes at the end of August saddened the community.
The high-end Chinese food restaurant first opened 13 years ago, and quickly became a favourite spot.
While the family business would be gone, news quickly came to light that a Cactus Club would fill the empty spot (hopefully sometime in 2022).
A local celebrity took the spotlight from the pages of this newspaper, coming in as the 22nd most read story.
Harrison Coe is featured in Fixing Up Christmas, a film that was shot in Kelowna earlier in 2021. The Vernon man’s role in the film debuted Dec. 10.
Downtown Vernon also shared in the movie lights and the limelight at No. 26.
It was Christmas in August as shops and locals were dressed to the occasion for another Hallmark film.
Despite the wildfire smoke that filled the air, red ribbons, bows, fake snow and other decorations lifted spirits around town.
Perhaps the biggest star of 2021, and 2020, was B.C.’s own provincial health officer Bonnie Henry.
She’s been featured in daily briefings, headlines, photos and more with her popular COVID updates, and not-so-popular health restrictions.
News that she co-owns a winery in the Similkameen became the 28th top story in Vernon.
Clos du Soleil is a winery in Keremeos that Henry helped found with a group of friends in 2006.
You might also recognize the long locks of star Mike Hall.
The Shuswap man stars in a popular television series called Rust Valley Restorers. And he and his crew made headlines (not their first time) about the sale of his 500-plus car collection.
Ahead of the auction of his collection in Tappen on Oct. 2, Hall admitted he was keeping around 50. The auction will conclude season four of Rust Valley Restorers, which will air on History in 2022.
Cherryville also had its time in the spotlight in 2021.
The small community east of Lumby made headlines when a royal treasure was listed for sale.
A castle, complete with a moat and drawbridge, was added to the real estate listings for $3.5 million in October.
The listing received a lot of views being the No. 33 most read story of the year.
A few more of the top stories from 2021, amid more wildfire articles. to wrap up the top 50 are:
You can continue to turn to the pages of the Morning Star, both in the newspaper and online at vernonmorningstar.com, for breaking news, community features, local sports highlights and more in 2022.
Thank you to all our readers and supporters for turning the pages in 2021.