Police step up patrols for Hallowe'en; Gate Night revisited

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
October 27th, 2010

 Hallowe’en – and that uniquely Kootenay phenomenon, ‘Gate Night’ – is almost upon us, and police are promising an increased presence in Castlegar.

“Officers will be dedicated to deal with issues at Kinnaird Park, Millennium Park, the Castlegar Complex and any other potential problem areas,” said RCMP Cpl. Deb Postnikoff. “We will be working in partnership with City Works, Castlegar Fire Department, Selkirk Security, as well as Citizens on Patrol (COP), who will be supplying volunteers to enhance patrol capability.”

She also said police road blocks will be visible throughout the city, and Castlegar’s director of Transportation and Civic Works has ordered a closure of Kinnaird Park, which is historically a problem area.

“Anyone found inside the park deliberately defying the closure order will be removed and charged under the Parks Bylaw,” Postnikoff said. “A $50 penalty applies.”

In advance of the usual Hallowe’en hijinks is so-called ‘Gate Night’,  Oct. 30, which Fire Chief Gerry Rempel said can often be more problematic than All Hallows Eve itself. Both Rempel and city councillor Russ Hearne explained Gate Night to The Source last year.

“I’m not sure how ‘Gate Night’ started, but apparently it’s only characteristic to the Kootenays,” Rempel said. “I guess it’s just a night people go out and raise havoc. When I was a kid, it would be tipping outhouses and painting cows and stuff … They don’t do that so much anymore.”
Hearne, like Rempel,  was raised in the Kootenays, 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.”
An anonymous source suggested the night got its name back when the area was predominantly farmland – kids would go to farms where the owner had offended them in some way throughout the year, remove the gates off livestock fences and hide them.
“It’s been around as long as I can remember,” Hearne 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.



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