Danny Hooper, who can find a quip to bring laughter to any situation, returns next week to emcee for Canada’s biggest annual outdoor country music festival, the Big Valley Jamboree.Hooper might be best known today for his easy, comic style as a fundraising auctioneer who has raised countless millions of dollars for non-profit organizations throughout Canada and the USA.Last week, I ran into the man of many hats, who was raised on a ranch near Tomahawk, and remarked how fit he was.“The West Coast Trail,” said the musician, former radio host and record real estate salesperson. “I hiked it recently. It’s not a hike you do to get fit. If you are not in shape to begin with, you will be in trouble. Parks Canada rescues many people from the trail by helicopter nearly every year.”The West Coast Trail is a 75 kilometre backpacking trail following the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island. It was built in 1907 to help rescue shipwrecked survivors along the coast, part of the treacherous of Graveyard of the Pacific.Explore Magazine declared it Canada’s best hiking trail and one of North America’s 50 best.“The trail is a rugged eight-day hike along sandy beaches, up cliffs, down deep ravines, along muddy trails, across waist-deep rivers and bridges,” says Hooper. “We had to watch every foot placement.”“Our party of eight left Port Renfrew and on the first day we climbed and descended the equivalent of 51 storeys on exposed ladders carrying 20-kilogram packs.”“We were so tired at night there wasn’t a lot of conversation around the fire,” says Hooper. “Everyone crawled into their tent and fell asleep instantly.”Hooper, 62, a private pilot and Harley-Davidson motorbike rider, says he’s at the age when many people start to atrophy and believes we must get the most from life while healthy.“I signed up last fall for three classes each week with Orange Theory Fitness and worked hard at my cardio fitness, endurance and strength,” says Hooper.“I was a little runt of a kid with no athletic ability and was always being bullied. I developed a sense of humour to handle those situations and joined the debating team to hone my speaking skills.”
Danny Hooper makes his way carefully along the sea on Vancouver Island’s 75-km West Coast Trail.
Motivated by the guitar his dad gave him at the age of 10, Hopper began his career as a country music singer by recording his first song in 1975 and later playing Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.While his humour and easy-going manner helps him to emcee 80 events, his workouts made sure he was fit for the West Coast Trail.“The first day was tough and we hiked for 11 hours,” says Hooper. “Other days it was usually between five-and-six hours. In the mornings, we’d find wolf and cougar tracks over our own tracks from the previous day.”“Before starting, we stretched on the beach for 20 minutes. We had no injuries, not one blister. That was a testament to our guides.”Ahoy Admiral Brian HallEighty-five-year-old sports broadcaster Brian Hall was inducted into the Sourdough Raft Race community as its newest admiral at the event’s 60th annual dinner last week.Alberta’s Lt.-Gov. Lois E. Mitchell and her husband Douglas Mitchell, along with Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee and Events Edmonton’s Paul Lucas, were among guests at the Chateau Louis celebratory dinner.Hall moved to Edmonton from Toronto at the age of 19 and got his first broadcasting job at CKUA, where he handled news and sport and hosted a jazz show.He was the CFL Edmonton Eskimos’ play-by-play broadcaster for 45 years. He also did play-by-play coverage for the Edmonton Oilers; pioneered the city’s first open-line sports talk show and called more than 10,000 thoroughbred races at Northlands Park.
Brian Hall wore his admiral’s hat last week when he became the newest admiral of the Sourdough Raft Race.
Singling out every admiral at the gathering, Hall went around the room and named all admirals and told a short story about most.Admirals present included: Don Clarke, Don Sprague, Ed Bean, Gerry Yuen, Fred Windwick, Jack Rutherford, John Bracegirdle, former Eskimo Tom Richards and yours truly.Hall raised a few eyebrows by acknowledging an old friend, the Lt.-Gov., with a “Hi Lois Baby” and went onto give special praise to Ed Bean., 91, who founded Crystal Glass in 1949 and has given the raft race unwavering financial support for many years.Ken Evasiw, president of the Sourdough Raft Race, said fresh enthusiasm will be coming from youthful Edmontonians with the introduction this year of a Venturer Scouts badge. That’s for racers age 15 to 20.The race was cancelled last week because of dangerous river conditions and has been rescheduled for Aug. 18.