Lisa Snell photo Bobby Bruce (Nearly Neil) had couples up dancing with nostalgic Neil Diamond hits during the city’s seniors diamond anniversary program Saturday afternoon at the Centre For Active Living.

Anniversary party salutes City of White Rock history

Luncheon celebrates White Rock’s formative years

It was a party rich in memories of the City of White Rock’s formative years.

Some 350 people packed the Centre for Active Living at Centennial Park for the first celebration of the 60th birthday of the city last weekend.

The occasion – the city-organized Seniors Diamond Anniversary Luncheon – recognized the senior population in general, and specifically those who were residents when the 5.13-sq.-km waterfront community broke away from the much-larger municipality of Surrey in 1957.

Host Mayor Wayne Baldwin cut a 60th birthday cake for participants, who sang a spirited ‘Happy Birthday To You’ to the city, while former White Rock Sun newspaper editor Vin Coyne (an alderman from 1968-’69 and ’75-’96 and a Freeman of the City) had the crowd chuckling with anecdotes about the city’s early days.

A video presentation including interviews with longtime residents, while historic photos from residents and the collection of White Rock Museum &Archives brought back memories for participants, who also received an extra helping of nostalgia from Alyssa Nielsen (who paid tribute to Patsy Cline, one of the top charting hitmakers of 1957) and Bobby ‘Nearly Neil’ Bruce, who set feet tapping by revisiting many of Neil Diamond’s earlier hits.

Other musical entertainment was provided by pianist/vocalist/composer Dominik Heins who offered a preview of one of the original songs from Peninsula Productions’ upcoming musical theatre tribute to the 60th anniversary, Sea of Stories.

Launching Saturday’s event was a traditional Coast Salish prayer by Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles, while MC Stephen Quinn (host of CBC Radio’s On The Coast show) kept the busy program moving along smoothly. White Rock Youth Ambassadors were on hand to welcome guests and retiring MLA Gordon Hogg (an alderman from ’75-’83 and mayor from ’84-’93) was among attendees.

Community recreation co-ordinator Dianne Sawicki said that around 30 participants had identified themselves to organizers as residents of the city for 60 years or more.

“It was a fabulous event,” she said. “We were able to convert the curling rink into a special, beautiful venue for the seniors.”

“I was really impressed,” Peace Arch News publisher, Dwayne Weidendorf said Monday. “The city did a great job in recognizing the builders of White Rock – the people who were there from day one. They honoured White Rock really well.”

A second celebration of the anniversary takes place April 29, with a day-long family and youth-oriented community party at Centennial Arena including a dance headlined by popular band Hey Ocean.

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