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Dillon Giancola: Digging beneath the surface

When I was asked to compete in the celebrity/media challenge at the 2018 Taylor World Invitational Gold Panning Championships, I jumped at the opportunity.
gold panning
Sports reporter Dillon Giancola frantically searches his pan at the 2018 Taylor World Invitational Gold Panning Championship’s Media/ Celebrity Challenge in hopes that he didn’t scrape his gold into the water. Unfortunately, he did, and lost the challenge.

When I was asked to compete in the celebrity/media challenge at the 2018 Taylor World Invitational Gold Panning Championships, I jumped at the opportunity.

I told all my friends I was going to compete and win, and talked to past winners about strategy. I’m a competitive person, especially when the competition doesn’t involve running.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t do was read up on gold panning and watch videos on how to do it. When I arrived at Peace Island Park, bustling with excitement over the first competition of the two-day championships, I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

Still, that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm or confidence in my ability to pull off the win. In the media event at the 2017 Dawson Creek and District Hospital Foundation Trap Shoot, I won easily, even though I had never fired a shotgun or been trap shooting before. No big deal. At the 2018

Fort St. John Literary Society Spelling Bee media challenge, I did not win, nor did I come particularly close. I did, however, get the biggest laughs for my pre-spelling jokes, which I practiced very hard. I probably should have put that effort into the actual spelling, but, like they say, hindsight is 20/20.

As we got closer to the start of the gold panning competition, the pressure mounted. I realized that a lack of preparation would be my fatal flaw, so I started to ask everyone how exactly one panned for gold. Fortunately, prior to the competition, someone did explain briefly how it worked.

And yet, when we took centre stage, I was confused. “Oh, we dip the pans in the water?” I thought to myself. That’s like going golfing for the first time, knowing the goal of the game is to hit a golf ball, but not knowing you use a club to do so.

When the announcer began the countdown to the competition, everybody knelt down to the tub of water. That made a lot of sense. I was fully prepared to wrench my back for these two minutes while I stood up and bent over to fill my pan with water.

Although I knew I was clueless, nobody else did. So when the competition started, I was able to shake off the shame and compete, and I got really into it. The longer the competition went without anyone finding gold, the harder I tried, believing I could actually pull it off.

Turns out I tried too hard, and accidentally lost my gold nugget in the water while I was scraping out the rocks. There were a couple of kids sitting in front of me, cheering hard for number two, the station I was at.

Not only did I let them down, but I let myself down and the whole Alaska Highway News team ­— Editor Matt Preprost was the 2017 champion.

Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser ended up winning, so I don’t feel so bad. I helped the home crowd see their guy win.

I know it’s cliche to say that I’ll win it next time. But now that I know how gold panning works, trust me, I will. 

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at