Kervin’s Corner: FILOMI Days History and a Call for Volunteers

“Our town’s celebration is a homage to what made us Port Hardy.”

Every year since 1977 Port Hardy celebrates what our town was built on — fishing, logging and mining. These are the industries which has given name to our 3-day celebration after by combining parts of each into a catchy mnemonic.

We recently celebrated our 40th FILOMI Days this past July. With such a big number to celebrate for our town, do we take time to learn about how it became our local festival? Looking past the obvious part – that we named it after our most important industries – there’s a lot to unpack about the history. There is certainly a lot to share not just about FILOMI Days, but also about our town.

Port Hardy existed as far back as 1904 perhaps even earlier, though it may not have been known by its title quite yet. There was only a general store and a post office, as well as Hudson Bay Company’s trading post (Fort Rupert). As the settlement developed, its population grew to around 1,000.

Port Hardy was incorporated as a district municipality in 1966 – roughly 5 years prior to the Island Copper Mine opening. Of course, this was a time when fishing and mining started to boom, and naturally our population grew to around 5,000.

Our town was named after Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy who served on HMS Victory.

So with such tremendous growth Port Hardy had an infrastructure problem on its hands. Most of the roads were still made of gravel. Residents then lobbied the government. After many unmet requests, the government eventually paved the roads in 1979, connecting us to Campbell River.

In an already booming economy at the time, Island Copper Mine eventually opened in 1970/1971. After exploration for around 5 years, the Utah Construction and Mining Company put boots on the ground. The mine, located near Coal Harbour, would then be known as the largest open pit copper mine in the world. Not a bad reputation to have for our region. It was the biggest employer for the north island up until it shut down in 1996. But what kept our economy alive was fishing industry, processing plants, fishing boats, et cetera.

As the fishing and mining industries inevitably went into bust, the logging companies filled the resource niche in our economy. Many companies like Western Forest Products are big employers to the north island now.

That brings us to today, where our resource sector continues on in our economy. Companies like Marine Harvest and Western Forest Products continue to provide jobs. Most importantly, though, we might see a revival in our mining industry. Exploration and viability studies are taking place right now to see whether another mine could open up.

So every year, residents scarf down their hamburgers, grilled by Port Hardy Secondary School students, as they enjoy live entertainment on stage. Others relax and chit-chat with friends in the beer garden, put on by the Lion’s Club. Helpful volunteers give out stickers and toys to children all while running activities and booths. To top it all off, people from all over the North Island come to watch the spectacle that is the fireworks, munching on popcorn and watching on in awe. And what an excellent way to wrap up festivities for the weekend.

That said, there’s a reason why we call it FILOMI Days. Our industries had such a huge impact on our town and it continues to do so. Our town’s celebration is a homage to what made us Port Hardy. And what better way to pay respects to what built our town than to volunteer? This year the FILOMI Days Committee is looking for even more volunteers to bring about a spirit of community. If you’re interested contact the municipal office about how you can help. We’d also like to acknowledge all the businesses that volunteer their time and resources into FILOMI Days – without you this event wouldn’t be possible, so thank you.

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