I’ve known them for a couple years now, but I’ve never asked Bruce and LindaLea Klippenstein, AKA Mr. and Mrs.Town Crier directly – why do you do it? Also, where do you get your costumes – and how did you get this idea? OK, a few questions. So we decided to meet for coffee at Bliss earlier this week.
“Kristen, I have no idea where the idea came from, how the idea of a town crier came to my head one morning. I never heard of it before, it was never in my mind.” says Bruce.
You’ve no doubt seen Mr. and Mrs. Town Crier at events in Peachland (yes, back in the day!). Bruce rings his bell and says Oyez!, Oyez!, before unfurling his scroll and reading his carefully-considered words to suit the occasion. Mrs. Town Crier’s role is that of a gracious host – greeting people with a smile, and ensuring all the details are taken care of. This is also where LindaLea has something to say about Bruce and his ideas:
“So you have to realize, Kristen, that Bruce also woke up one morning in February of 1983, our kids were one and two, and he said ‘I had a dream that we bought the Western Wheel.” (That’s the local newspaper in Okotoks, Alberta, which will bring me to one of those ‘small world’ discoveries in a bit).
“He was an accountant in the housing industry,” says LindaLea of her husband’s plan.
“So when he wakes up on another February however many years later talking about being a town crier, I’m thinking ‘here we go again.’”
The town crier thing, adds Bruce, may have come out of his interest in Peachland’s early history – we had a lot more going on industry-wise, with the orchard, lumber and mining, “and now that’s all gone and now it’s the money that comes in from the retired people and tourism. So I started thinking, what could you do to promote tourism in town?”
Once the thought occurred, he had to follow through – so he found a costume shop in Kelowna (and they’ve since made another blue and gold one, just for him), and presented to District council. Long story short, it developed into an opportunity for them to become the self-proclaimed Mr. and Mrs. Town Crier of the Okanagan, and they’ve travelled all over the Okanagan lakeside in the past few years.
“When I was doing some research, I realized town criers were kind of the original news people, spreading the word – and I’m a news guy! So the more I researched, the more I thought a town crier would be great because it could add to tourism and the rest of it,” says Bruce.
They moved to Peachland in 2017, and like many of us, that first glimpse of town as you drive down Drought Hill is what won them over. Actually, it was LindaLea who experienced it first. She was here from Calgary condo-hunting, and after a day spent looking at 28 different places (“none of them had any magic”), she and her son, Tyler decided to go to Peachland for dinner.
“He said ‘mom, that was the best meal I’ve ever had.’ We were staying in Armstrong at our daughter’s bridesmaid’s house. I came back to town the next day and went to Gasthaus for lunch. And as I’m coming down Drought Hill, the sun is just dappled on the water and I could see Ogopogo and was like ‘OK, here’s the magic.’ So I went to Gasthaus for lunch, and went to Coldwell Banker and saw the condo we ended up buying.”
Bruce was in Calgary at the time, but he managed to get a flight to Kelowna to see the new place…and it was an easy decision to move. They settled into their condo a few months later and have been happy there ever since.
Back in Alberta, Bruce worked at the Calgary Real Estate Board and for a time, owned the Okotoks Western Wheel – the town where I went to high school. And as it turns out, my sisters and I went to the same tiny elementary / junior high as Bruce and LindaLea’s kids. Fast forward a good 30 years and yup, Rob and I decided we should move to Peachland from Calgary after having lunch at the Gasthaus. It was an unsuccessful house hunting day for us too – until we randomly drove up Trepanier and found the one we ended up buying. Small World!
So, what are Mr. and Mrs. Town Crier up to these days? They haven’t made as much use of their extensive closet of event outfits, but they very much enjoyed being part of Phyllis Papineau’s 80th birthday celebrations the other day – and they have another project on the go:
“It all came out of the town crier stuff,” says Bruce. He’s copyrighted the word Ok-WINE-agan, to highlight the local industry, and of course, there’s Ogogpogo. The Klippensteins believe this mythical serpent presents a lot of potential for tourists in the future.
“The last major siting was in 2018,” says Bruce, noting there was another rumoured siting in February.
“I thought I’ve seen the Ogopogo. But I would never call it an official siting because I did not see the head nor the tail. The humps could be waves. I was sitting beside the lake and it was raining and I saw three humps across the lake and they were moving fast,” he said.
He’s spoken with Westbank First Nations and other experts about Ogopogo, and it’s something he admits just fascinates him.
And going with that, is kind of the point isn’t it? Head towards what interests you, feel free to be creative, and if you can do that while putting a smile on someone’s face in your community, well, why not? Personally, I have a soft spot for people who put themselves out there.
“Seriously, we could not imagine being happier anywhere else in the world,” says LindaLea.
“This is Happyville – you know, the lake, the people. For the most part, people have chosen to live here. And we never want to leave.”
Same here 🙂
Here’s Bruce’s Cry for Phyllis Papineau’s 80th earlier this week. Check out the video of her surprise on my Facebook page!