For many, this year’s Lakeside Event in Invermere held an additional importance, thanks to the efforts of a group of family and friends.
On June 16, well-known valley resident and hang gliding enthusiast Daniel Saunders (known to friends and family as “Dano”), passed away due to a coronary arrest while in hospital.
Saunders had been a large part of the Lakeside Event, partaking and helping to organize the day over the years. To honour his memory, friend and fellow hang glider Jeff Blake used Saunders’ glider at the 2011 Lakeside Event, and — with permission from family — brought the spirit of Saunders with him.
“It’s a tribute to Dano, that’s part of it all today,” said Blake.
On his glider were the words “4 YOU DANO,” which raised a cheer from crowds down below in James Chabot park when it appeared in the sky.
The message wasn’t Blake’s only tribute of the day. Prior to appearing above Lake Windermere, Blake ascended Mount Swansea with Saunders’ ashes to spread.
“I launched, and circled around once,” Blake explained. “And on the second time coming, I let the bag go and spread the ashes over the mountain. There was a great roar of applause and cheers from the crowd at the launch site. It was really something.”
Saunders’ family — wife Julie, daughter Jayme and son Zackary — were present for the flight, with Julie and Zackary at the top of Mount Swansea and Jayme below for the landing. Jayme was also running a lemonade and drink stand at the event to raise money for ambulance services in Saunders’ memory.
“It’s what Dano would have wanted, one last flight,” said Julie. “For the last couple of years Jeff has been flying at the event with Dano’s glider, so we thought it was perfect.”