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Cornbury History

Esprit Finds a Home

After numerous venues were suggested and dismissed Janice Van Cleve finally mentioned that Port Angeles might be a good spot. It was strategically well placed on the Olympic Peninsula but had the disadvantage of having only one way in or out. It was also a former logging town that had fallen on hard times so we thought it might welcome some kind of economic boost. Of course, whether our community and dollars were acceptable in what was a bastion of small town America, was a moot point.

Janice and Michelle Lee took the plunge and made the short trip to Port Angeles to test the waters. The report came back that it was potentially an excellent choice, particularly as the local Red Lion Hotel was interested in our business. Whether the rest of the residents would take to such a colourful invasion was another matter. The event was set for the following May as we felt the weather at that time of the year would likely be pleasant.

When the idea was first presented to the three groups the meisters of doom predicted any participants would be lucky to escape such a red neck town with their lives. In their opinion we had as much chance of survival as the ancient Christians did in the Coliseum. It was sheer suicide with only one way in or out of the town.

Undeterred by these warnings of our impending doom we decided to forge ahead, in the spirit of true pioneers. If necessary we would go down with our dresses and wigs on.

The liberation of Middle America was about to begin.

Debra Darling was recruited to assist in the organization of the event and came up with many innovative suggestions including the “High Tea at The Empress Hotel, Victoria”, an event that was to become a staple offering for most of the early years. Debra also assisted me arranging our “Gala Casino Night”, which was also a very successful and popular event for at least half of ESPRIT’s first decade.

Janice Van Cleve, Michelle Lee, and the rest of the committee did a magnificent job in dealing with the local Port Angeles community and ensuring the event would run smoothly.

Needless to say it took many meetings and hours of preparation, and for a few months Johanna Bolton and myself were making regular cross border forays on a regular basis. Of course, we also needed a new outfit with each trip, we certainly were not going to be seen as “the poor relations”.

The New Year saw us with a steady stream of bookings coming in edging us ever closer to our goal of “90 in 90”. Michelle Lee even persuaded some friends from Texas to attend.

By the beginning of May 1990 it was obvious that our target would be met and the first ESPRIT would at least break even financially. This was great news , each member of the organizing committee felt a great sense of achievement as our collective dream was about to be realized.