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'Hands' annual tradition up in air

Hands Across the Border, held at Peace Arch Park, has been cancelled, organizers announce. - File photo
Hands Across the Border, held at Peace Arch Park, has been cancelled, organizers announce.
— image credit: File photo

A celebration that brings thousands of Girl Guides and Scouts from both sides of the border to Peace Arch Park every year has been cancelled.

And while this isn’t the first time Hands Across the Border has been called off since it launched 94 years ago, organizers say this time it’s for good.

“Rising costs over the past several years, along with diminished donations, have made the continuation of this event impossible,” Peace Arch Association spokesperson John Liebert says in a press release posted to Facebook last week.

“Costs have escalated to $10,000 per year.”

Sue Head, international and Canadian president of the International Peace Arch Association, confirmed Wednesday that she made the “heartbreaking” call to end the tradition.

“It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,” Head said.

The Abbotsford resident said the struggling economy in the U.S. has made sponsorships south of the border difficult to find; news that the RCMP were going to charge for their attendance this year was “the final nail” on the Canadian side.

“They were even going to charge us for the ceremonial officers,” she said.

Hands Across the Border has been held on the second Sunday of June for 90 of the past 94 years, interrupted for two years by the Second World War and two years by construction at the land border (2008 and 2009).

The event typically included a parade of flags through the historic Peace Arch, speeches, a re-dedication of the Peace Arch and the opportunity for youth to trade badges and pins with their peers.

And while some Semiahmoo Peninsula Girl Guide leaders are hopeful the event can be saved through sponsorship, Head is not optimistic.

A similar plea last year “got nowhere,” she said.

As word spreads, Head described feedback she’s hearing as shock and disappointment.

Jenny Hall, a White Rock resident and Girl Guides District Commissioner, said the event will be missed.

“I’m very sad to see the very real possibility of it not ever happening again,” she said. “It’s always a wonderful day.

“There’s got to be something we can do.”

Anyone interested in exploring the options or offering sponsorship can email Susan Richards de Wit at srichards@alumni.sfu.ca or Hall at hallsangels@telus.net

 

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