ITCHY FEET began as a partnership between the Tumbler Ridge Public Library and the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society way back in 1994. It was the brainchild of Paul Jurgens, one the family doctors then working in Tumbler Ridge. He rationalized that those of us who traveled in our youth, and then settled down to have kids, were reduced to armchair travel, but could still derive a lot of pleasure from vicariously enjoying the travels of others, and suffering ?Itchy Feet? in the process.

Thus a concept was born that has endured, is now in its thirteenth consecutive year, and has put on over fifty presentations. The majority of the presenters have been local Tumbler Ridge citizens who have shared their travels, their insights and their photos with inquisitive and appreciative audiences of up to 140. At other times guests from the region or visitors from afar have persuaded to share their experiences. Itchy Feet is free, and anyone with a desire to learn is welcome. It is a treat not just for the eyes and ears, but also for the taste buds, as the audience often gets treated to a tasty selection of foods from faraway places and cultural recipes.

The result has been a cultural experience that has entranced and enriched those who have been privileged to enjoy it, and created a regular winter feature that is unusual for a community the size of Tumbler Ridge. Recognition came in the coveted Success Story Award from the regional Library Association, presented to the Tumbler Ridge Public Library in honour of the success of the Itchy Feet initiative.

The 2006-07 has been stellar for Itchy Feet, with an astonishing variety of speakers and subjects, and some interesting innovations. Claire Sieber led off on Peru, followed by Bintang Howard on her native Indonesia. Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley brought us up to date on the regional dinosaur discoveries, and the Kabzems – Burton family spoke about travelling around the world together, with a focus on the Queen Charlotte Islands. Kids Itchy Feet premiered this year, with kids from the local schools presenting on their travel research, and Carina Helm delivered a show on her travels in South Africa. Most recently Charlie Parslowe and Michelle Boser jointly spoke on the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage route in Spain. Still to come on Tuesday February 27th at 7 pm is the presentation by the Sulaj family, Albana, Skender and kids, on their home country of Albania, and then the season will wind up with a Monkman Pass Memorial Trail presentation on Tuesday March 6th, something that will hopefully warm us up for the hiking season.

Itchy Feet is testimony to the value of a partnership between a volunteer group and a respected public institution for the betterment of the community, and speaks volumes of the readiness of the Tumbler Ridge Public Library to step outside its traditional role and embrace the concept of being a centre of wider learning and culture. Long may Itchy Feet thrive!