Community demonstrates ‘Esprit’ 0
Hundreds of supporters, family and friends from across the region turned out Tuesday evening at Esprit Rafting Adventure’s base camp to attend a Sunset Celebration, a tradition for the outdoor adventure company.
The wet weather broke in time for people to line the shoreline and watch a spectacular sunset on the Ottawa River, capping an afternoon of music, food, dancing, tributes and displays, all part of celebrating summer life on the river.
Whether they met the challenge as set out by The Big Decision’s Arlene Dickinson remains to be seen.
The CBC television host and marketing communications entrepreneur was a special guest of the evening’s event, which was being recorded for an episode of the reality show to be broadcast sometime this fall. As part of her two day visit to the operation, she challenged Esprit’s owner/operator Jim Coffey to host an event emphasizing its role in the community and its ability to rally and network people together.
Speaking to the crowds packing the deck, Ms. Dickinson admitted to being overwhelmed by the turn out, saying she couldn’t help but be impressed with someone who could arrange such a gathering on such short notice.
She said she came from poor roots and had to struggle to get where she is today, CEO and owner of Venture Communications, and one of Canada’s most powerful business leaders, so she feels for the trials and challenges of businesses like Esprit Rafting.
Ms. Dickinson said her visit will give her a lot to think about, then urged everyone to support their local businesses, because they benefit entire communities.
The tourist operation is among 12 Canadian businesses in contention for an investment of $250,000 by Ms. Dickinson. The series, which debuted in March, features either Ms. Dickinson or co-host Jim Treliving evaluating two struggling businesses and deciding whether to fund one, both, or neither.
The television network reviewed 1,000 applications before settling on Esprit Rafting and its 11 competitors.
In his application to “The Big Decision,” Mr. Coffey submitted a brief story about the business and some of the hardships it had faced in the past year, including being forced to pull out of Mexico, where it had been hosting seasonal rafting excursions since 1995, after the ongoing drugs wars made conditions too dangerous for their employees, then losing everything in a vehicle fire when attempting to relocate to Costa Rica.
They found themselves begging and borrowing to make it through that first season.
Speaking shortly after the sun set, Mr. Coffey said he thought the event went well, despite some challenges in timing.
“There are tons of people here,” he said, and pointed out the view was second to none on the Ottawa River.
The Esprit owner said the support they have been receiving has been phenomenal, with many people submitting testimonials about the business to try and convince Ms. Dickinson to support them.
Asked if he thought their efforts have made an impression on the Dragon’s Den regular, Mr. Coffey said he wasn’t going to worry about that just now.
“Right now, I’m in the moment of our event,” he said, noting the CBC taping is over, and he was concentrating on attending to around 1,000 guests, friends and others who have gathered in a show of support for Esprit Rafting.
No one will know what The Big Decision will be until the episode airs, sometime this fall.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist