It was a night of celebration for Dennis Walker, who was formally awarded the 2021 Citizen of the Year on Friday (March 25) during a gala event at the Heritage Inn.
Walker, a radio presenter at 107.5 2Day FM, was recognized for his incomparable work ethic and enthusiasm covering local and regional events over the last year, which was made all the more challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, in spite of the pandemic, Walker always found something to cover on any given day of the week, rolling to events in his bike and hi-vis vest ready to listen and tell stories, or also by heading into the studio for a show and interviews with guests during a broadcast.
“I just don’t see the value in radio if there’s not an announcer there,” said Walker. “It just brings life to it.”
It was a cathartic evening in many respects, as the lifting of pandemic restrictions allowed the community to gather and celebrate Walker’s contributions to the city and the East Kootenay region.
And there are many.
He joined 107.5 2Day FM in 2015, returning to the Kootenays with his wife, Jeab Gay, after spending close to three decades in the Okanagan.
Since arriving in Cranbrook, Walker’s presence at community gatherings and events on any given day of the week is all but guaranteed.
“He has been a calm and reassuring presence to many listeners during the past 24 months, when people are tired, sad or scared during COVID, there’s Dennis Walker, bright in the morning, or weekend, for that matter,” said Jason Caven, station manager for 107.5 2Day FM.
“His constant promotion of community and local organizations reminds people that during the hardest days that we’ve experienced, good still exists in this world — and in Cranbrook, because somehow he finds out about it. And when there were no events during COVID-19 to cover, he somehow found something that was going on…”
The tributes poured in, not just from locals, but also in pre-recorded videos from friends and colleagues across the province and the country, including a touching performance from Nikita Afonso, a singer-songwriter from the Okanagan who Walker met and helped promote during his time in Penticton.
And there were lots of stories.
Shannon Fisher, with Top Crop Garden, Farm and Pet, described her first meeting with Walker, an avid gardener, who was having troubles with his tomatoes. A few years later, Fisher was mulling a pumpkin growing contest, raising the idea to Walker, who rallied the community and beyond with over 200 entries.
Or his willingness to literally dive into a story, by joining local wakesurfing duo of Ryder and Dagen Duczek one time for interviews out on the water at Tie Lake and a crack at riding the waves.
“He didn’t just do an interview, he came out to the lake, he got on the boat, got on his swim trunks and his life vest and we threw him in the lake and we taught Dennis how to wakesurf,” said Loree Duczek.
“…What really struck me about that is he wanted to experience that firsthand. So much so that he came and immersed himself in that experience. It made him better able to tell the story of what the boys were accomplishing.”
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the world was thrown into an era of uncertainty, Walker sat down and penned his memoir, ‘Little Red Radio: 40 Years of Working in Small Radio’. Indeed, the centrepieces at all the tables at the gala were adorned with a replica red radio fashioned out of a piece of painted wood.
The event featured community business leaders, local elected officials, colleagues, friends and family — all in attendance to recognize and toast Walker’s accomplishments.
“Wherever Dennis is reporting from, he always has a positive attitude and continually projects this to others,” said Pratt. “With his enthusiasm and interest, he always asks great questions so he can ensure his listeners are well-informed. It is amazing to see him show up at so many different events in and around the community.
“This truly shows his love for Cranbrook and the people who listen to him.”