Eight long-time high school buddies from Stettler know the meaning of tradition.
And Canadians agree.
Their story of gathering for a long weekend every summer in Central Alberta for the past 30 years no matter where they lived captured the $25,000 grand prize in Schneiders Summer Traditions Celebration contest.
About 5,000 videos, stories and photos were submitted by Canadians sharing their summer traditions.
The winner was chosen with the help of online voting during the national contest that ran between May and September.
What started out as an annual canoe trip down the Red Deer River changed after one of the friends Doug Stewart, 48, of Red Deer, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 and eventually couldn’t participate.
Instead of paddling and camping, they visited Stewart’s cabin on Buffalo Lake.
“When I couldn’t do it anymore, they came out to my cabin. They made it wheelchair accessible and do chores, rake leaves, stuff like that,” said Stewart at the cheque presentation at Port O’ Call Safeway in Red Deer on Tuesday.
After seeing a television commercial about the contest, Stewart spread the word among his pals who contributed their photos of past weekends to create The Joffman Weekend story and video, named after stops along their canoe route — the Joffre and Tolman bridges.
They will spend the prize money together.
“We’re going to blow all the money in one weekend. These guys will lug me around on a plane and go to New York and Madison Square Garden and watch the Rangers some weekend,” Stewart said.
Joffman member Guy Lamoureux, 48, flew in from Costa Rica for Tuesday’s presentation.
“We’re different people but we all started in the same place — Stettler,” said Lamoureux about the friends who went their separate ways but always kept in touch.
Craig Hruska, 48, of Calgary, said there have been some great weekends over the years.
But he was hesitant to share some memories.
“I have teenagers. I wouldn’t want my kids to know,” Hruska said with a laugh.
Weekend traditions he could talk about included their annual hearts card game and the treasure chest.
“Every year someone would bring something meaningful from their life and make a donation to the treasure chest.”
He said some of the treasures were touching, like a soother one of their babies no longer needed and some were outrageous like a certificate naming a star The Joffman Weekend.
Hruska said it’s always been a “guys weekend” but maybe an exception can be made in the future.
“Among us, we have kids university age and high school age. It might be a nice idea to bring all of the crews together.”
To view The Joffman Weekend, visit http://traditions.cbc.ca/entry/4722249-Joffman-Weekend.