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Hay River YouTube channel delivers jet boat blast from the past


Jet boat racing from Hay River in 1986.

Normally, the Town of Hay River’s YouTube channel is the home of recorded council meetings. Now playing? Jet boat racing from 1986.

Over the past 24 hours, two videos from almost 40 years ago have surfaced. They turn out to be from the collection of town senior administrator Glenn Smith.

“My dad was involved in the jet boat committee,” Smith said, adding that both videos had “been sitting around for a long time” so he decided to digitize and share them.

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The first video is an almost hour-long documentary following a jet boat racing series on its first trip to Hay River.

The show, hosted by TSN’s Ken Chilibeck, primarily showcases jet boat action along the Hay River itself, with panoramic shots of Louise Falls and Alexandra Falls alongside interviews featuring some of the team members – including locals like Russell King, who founded Kingland Ford in the community.

From 2019: Hay River helps power jet boat team to world title

(A component of King’s boat failed some eight miles from the finish after days of racing. “Pretty frustrating,” he tells the camera crew.)

About halfway through the show, the camera breaks from the action to spend a few minutes focusing on a tour of Hay River and a section about its history.

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NTCL barges, the syncro lift, the FFMC fish plant all feature, alongside shots of floatplanes flying in with fresh fish for processing. There’s even a shot of a Pacific Western Boeing 737 performing the airline’s daily service to and from Hay River.

Residents inspect a jet boat in 1986
Residents inspect a jet boat in 1986.

Hay River’s highrise is picked out during a helicopter tour of the town’s skyline, as is Diamond Jenness Secondary School. “The purple high school certainly stands out,” the narrator remarks.

In the end, Sylvan Lake’s multiple world champion Marv Hamm wins the Hay River races. “This is the first time we’ve been to Hay River ever and the people here have made us all feel like winners,” he says. “We all felt like champions here, they’ve treated us great.”

“It’s happened many times,” said Smith of jet boat racing in Hay River. “That one was a fairly big one because it was covered through TSN, but they’ve been part of world championship circuits.”

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Residents would end up racing jet boats in Mexico, New Zealand, and throughout the circuit in Alberta, Smith said, noting that Hay River still has representation in the sport.

If that’s not enough Hay River heritage, a second video – originally produced for the town’s chamber of commerce – takes viewers on a tour of the community as it looked 37 years ago.

Welcome to Hay River, filmed in 1986.

There’s footage of skiing, snowshoeing, break-up, the Lions Club and Paradise Gardens campgrounds, Hay River’s beaches, golf, fishing, paddling and various waterfalls.

Music from Linda Duford is featured in the video, which was produced by Jack Cooper and Bruce Green. Narration comes from resident of the time Bernie Plaquin.