There’s an old adage that says “Dress for Success.”
For gold panner Brenda Gejdos, success actually came while wearing a dress, a beautiful floral 1800’s frontier-style dress, in fact.
The former Charlie Lake resident, who now calls 108 Mile home, won her third World's Invitational Gold Panning Championship at Peace Island Park on July 31, after wins in 2017 and 2014 in the very same dress.
As has come tradition on the Sunday of the event, competitors and volunteers, encouraged to wear something that might have been fashionable when the original gold rush took place.
"I wore this dress the first year that we had costumes and I won that year," said a beaming Gejdos after earning 18 points over three rounds to claim the Class A trophy on Sunday afternoon.
"I put this dress on again in 2017 and I won it again, and this was the 50th anniversary so I thought let's put on the lucky dress and see what happens. Sure enough, we won it again."
Gejdos found 14 of 15 gold flakes in 130.28 seconds in the first fine round of the championship, and three of five flakes in 100 seconds in the second skill round. She found her gold nugget in an incredible 9.75 seconds in the third and final speed round.
"It was quite a tight competition, it was fun," said Gejdos, who hasn't missed a World's Invitational in the last 41 years. "I don't remember them having to go back and count the points and count the speed to get a winner. I don't remember it being this tight."
Kelly Gejdos placed second and Trina Barrette third, both finishing with 18 points. Breaking the tie and crowning a winner came down to calculating the fastest overall panner across the three rounds.
Dorri Larstone won the Class B championship with a 17 point finish. She found 12 gold flakes in 278.75 seconds in the fine round and all five flakes in 161 seconds in the skill round. She found her gold nugget in 79.18 seconds in the speed round.
It's the first time the gold panning championships were held since the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Michael Gunderson, the last winner in 2019, made the "mad rush" from Edmonton to join Sunday's event and defend his title. He finished 13th among the panners this year, acknowledging the tough competition.
Tyson Gejdos topped all panners in the the Class A speed round with a time of 9.66 seconds. Four others finished with times of less than 20 seconds: Garrett Gejdos, Chris Kuchmak, Trina Barrette, and Dave Coupland.
"Stiff competition this year for sure," said Gunderson, who found his nugget in 21 seconds. "I wanted to come here to just at least make face since I won it last time," he said. "I made a promise to myself that I'd be coming to these as much as I could, so I'll keep coming as long as they keep holding it here."
Gejdos said she was encouraged to see so many young people take part in this year's event, including young 10-year-old Frankie Barrette who wowed the crowds all weekend, winning the Juvenile Open, placing second in the Class B, and fifth in the Class A championship.
"It's incredible to see them, it's incredible to see that they want to do it," she said. "When they see the gold they're just so excited about that. It's wonderful."
In the meantime, Gejdos will be washing and ironing her lucky floral dress before putting it back in its trunk and heading home. She and the Gejdos family plan to return to Peace Island Park for the championships in 2023.
- Brenda Gejdos
- Kelly Gejdos
- Trina Barrette
- Dorri Larstone
- Frankie Barrette
- Jonathan Garner
- Frankie Barrette
- Jennifer Finnie
- Luella Barrette
— with files from Dave Lueneberg
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