Bears are a fact of life where we live. Black bears mostly; grizzlies thankfully stay in the alpine. Once the cherries are ripe, and until the last of the frost-ripened apples are gone, bears are simply part of the fabric of rural life. We don't see them every day, but often for stretches of several days in a row there will be a bear or two in the neighbourhood, and that typically happens several times over the course of late summer and fall.
The Suzuki Valhalla Institute venue is in a lovely area in the centre of town. Classes are held in the local K-12 school. Parents and children practice outside beneath trees, children roam freely to and from the playgrounds at either end of the school, wander over to Fat Kat's to buy themselves ice cream cones, or down the little hill through the orchard area to Nuru for Italian sodas.
Yesterday, for the first time ever, 'bears in the neighbourhood' meant the neighbourhood that surrounds the Suzuki Valhalla Institute venue, during the actual institute week itself. There was a 2- or 3-year-old black bear chowing down in the cherry trees directly across from the school. Maybe 40 or 50 metres from the lobby, beside the laneway to Nuru, right next to where everyone parks and unloads their children and instruments.
So we put up a sign. "Bear in area. Parents please supervise your children." We encouraged children to walk to and from the playgrounds only on the sidewalk directly in front of the school building. Most of the institute participants were able to see the bear and enjoy watching him for a few minutes. The main concern was a few folk from cities who were desperate to get too close and take photos, but they were easily redirected. Mostly people stayed back and watched respectfully. A few people asked whether the Wildlife Officer should be called. Locals chuckled and said no. Here we only call about Problem Bears, and just being in a cherry tree enjoying an extended dessert is not a Problem.
One young child came out of his 2 pm class and read the warning sign in the lobby of the school.
"Look mom!" he exclaimed. "It says 'bear in area, parents please surprise your children!'"
The bear was there for most of the afternoon. It was quite the event for many of our institute participants. When we headed out to the community hall for our final concerts in the late afternoon he was still there.
The performances were stunning. The quartet Erin and Noah were in (photo above) did a phenomenal job. Video to follow, I hope.
So finally we understand the significance of this year's T-shirt colours ... black bear in a cherry tree.