PENTICTON - A Summerland bride and groom’s big day was derailed by the seemingly inexplicable behaviour of Penticton ITU Multisport Festival volunteers near Munson Mountain last weekend.
Guests were delayed, forced to walk in dress clothes to the Munson Mountain park for the wedding and a key guest couldn't get to the event, all after an apparent communications glitch between Multisport organizers and volunteers over road closure procedures in the area.
Ray and Laurel Mantha’s plan for a wedding atop Munson Mountain began last year when Ray applied to the City of Penticton for a permit for the ceremony. He waited until January of this year to receive confirmation, and was never informed about the Multisport event and road closures scheduled around Munson Mountain on Saturday, Aug. 19, the same day as the wedding.
“We thought we were fine. We wanted our guests to come along the City's lakeshore, to see how beautiful Penticton is, but when we looked at the road closures, we thought, no, this isn’t going to work,” Laurel says.
Instead, they routed their guests through back roads, getting them to the intersection of Middle Bench Road and Tupper Avenue, a stone's throw away from the entrance to Munson Mountain.
But that short section of road was closed and manned by flaggers, as were other access routes to the mountain.
Ray called a number he’d been given for the Multisport organizers, and was assured everything would be fine. He says he was told the cyclists racing the route tended to come in packs and there would be time in between for the guests to use the road to access Munson Mountain. He was also told plans were in place to lead the wedding guests as a group.
“I was told the worst thing that could happen would be a possible wait for two or three vehicles of wedding guests before shuttling them down the road.”
The couple informed as many wedding guests as they could get contact on Friday night of the new plans to meet at Middle Bench Road and Tupper Avenue.
“I was the first one there, and the gentleman who was flagging didn’t seem to know that we’d spoken with Multisport,” Ray says, adding he was made to wait even though no racers could be seen on the route.
Ray told the flagger to call the the Multisport official he had spoken with and explained to the flagger accommodations for the wedding party were to be made. He was let through so he could begin setting up for the wedding.
However, things began to unravel at that point. The flagger who had been given instructions was apparently replaced by a man sporting a kilt, who then made things very difficult for the wedding party.
“I began receiving calls they weren’t letting my guests through,” Ray says.
He called the Multisport official again, and shortly after that call, guests began arriving — on foot.
“We’re talking women in heels, and not necessarily young women,” he says. “Then there was a couple they took on scooters or motorbikes. If they were going to do that, why not let them come up in a vehicle?”
Ray says cyclists were riding close to the shoulder of the road whenever possible, leaving lots of roadway for vehicles along the short, high visibility stretch of road.
The flagger in the kilt refused to let Laurel and her bridal party pass in their vehicle when they arrived.
“He told me I had to ride on the back of his motorcycle. At that point, I looked at him and said, ‘Do you think I can ride on the back of a motorcycle?’ I’m in a long wedding dress, my hair is done up. I told him we were all going up in this vehicle,” Laurel says, adding they were made to wait 10 minutes after that exchange.
“We were less than a minute away, with no cyclists coming. In the time we were made to wait, probably six to eight bikes came by,” she says.
She was shocked by what happened next.
“Some people who were volunteering began waving their fists at us for driving down the road. I waved my bouquet, wondering, couldn’t they see we were all dressed up?” she says.
Ray’s sister and his niece came all the way from Ontario to attend the wedding, his sister also providing the photography for the event. They arrived late and were both told they couldn’t attend at all, but eventually Ray’s sister - but not his niece - was allowed up the mountain.
Officials took Ray’s sister on a motorcycle. The 60-year-old woman had her new hairdo ruined by a motorcycle helmet, and his niece was left on the side of the road in tears.
The wedding was scheduled for 3 p.m. Ray says had he been better notified of the event by the City, they could have scheduled the wedding for an hour later, after the race was over.
Ray began making calls to the City and Penticton Multisport officials following the ceremony. By Monday morning, the City had, without argument, refunded his permit fee. He’s still seeking restitution from Penticton Multisport.
He's considering suing the Multisport Festival, seeking restitution for his niece's air fare from Ontario.
“I’m not against these events - not at all,” he says, adding he used to participate in similar sports venues. “What I want is to see the community and race organizers learn to work together."
“We had guests come from Edmonton, Ontario, Vancouver, all over. Their impression of Penticton isn’t a good one. I felt so bad for our guests, having to go through that,” Laurel says.
It's been several days since the wedding, and both he and Laurel say they have calmed down considerably over what happened.
“If my niece hadn’t been shut out of the ceremony, we’d probably find it laughable by now,” Ray says.
“We chose Munson Mountain because we like wine touring, and knew the area well. We thought there was no better place to show off the jewel that is Penticton,” Laurel says.
Calls to Multisport officials have not been returned.
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