Gearing up for "gate night"

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
October 31st, 2009

Castlegar authorities are gearing up for a tradition unique to the Kootenays … “gate night.”

Castlegar fire chief Gerry Rempel says tonight (“gate night”) and tomorrow night (Hallowe’en), are traditionally busy ones for local emergency services – but non-locals may not understand why.

“We’ll be out doing patrols,” he said. “I’m not sure how ‘gate night’ started, but apparently it’s only characteristic to the Kootenays.

“I guess it’s just a night people go out and raise havoc,” the Kootenay native added. “When I was a kid, it would be tipping outhouses and painting cows and stuff … They don’t do that so much anymore.”

City councillor and former chair of the city’s public safety committee Russ Hearne was raised in the Kootenays (grew up in Salmo), and he said ‘gate night’ is very much familiar to him.

“No, I have no idea of what the relevance of the word ‘gate’ is,” he said. “My wife (Cheryl Hearne) says she thinks it’s the night that you open the gates to let all the spooks and demons of the night in, and Hallowe’en is the night you dress up and scare them all away.

“It’s been around as long as I can remember,” he said. “It’s maybe a generational thing …it seems to be lessening.”

He said that, back in his day, it was an event locals prepared for months in advance.

“People would actually buy eggs in August, then leave them out, wherever, to use on gate night,” he said. “Schools were always a favourite target – egging buildings, soaping windows … It wasn’t about doing the worst thing you could do, it was about getting up to mischief and not getting caught.

“It was an embarassment to get caught and spend a night in a jail cell … and boring, too …I never did myself, but there was more than one kid over the years who did,” Hearne added, saying he hopes the diminished activity of gate night reflects the death of a tradition best left in the grave.

“My group of friends never let it get out of hand … but this kind of tradition always has that potential. Sadly, things can escalate in that mob mentality, and people can find themselves doing things they’d normally just never do.”

Hearne said he no longer participates in gate night.

“As a business manager, I see how disruptive that type of behaviour really is,” he said.

Castlegar RCMP Cpl. Deb Postnikoff said the whole concept was news to her.

“I was born and raised in the Kootenays, and I never heard of gate night until I started policing in Castlegar … but my operational plan (here) included gate night. I must have lived a sheltered life,” she said.

In an interview at roughly 6:30 p.m., though, it seemed the situation was becoming more clear, as arrests are been made and local cells fill.

“I’m living the dream right now,” she said.

She added that police and fire departments will be out in full force tonight and tomorrow to deal with residents who have ‘misinterpreted’ what is, and is not, acceptabe holiday behaviour in the Kootenays.

Categories: General