On Dec. 7, 1912, Kelowna beat Vernon 14-0 in a rugby game played on a frosty City Park field.
The pitch was described in the Kelowna Courier and Okanagan Orchardist as, "in a semi-frozen condition, which did not make for the best of footing, and scraped knees and elbows were the order of the day."
It was a rematch of the first-ever rugby game played in Vernon on Oct. 26 of that year, won by the Vernon side 11-6. Travel between the two teams was made possible by the recent arrival of 'motorcars' in the Okanagan.
In remembrance of that game in 1912, the Kelowna-area rugby community will celebrate the 100th anniversary with a match on Saturday - a century and a day after it was played. All local rugby enthusiasts are welcome to play.
Instead of 15-a-side rugby, however, a touch version of the game will be the focus for the day, enabling players of all ages and both genders to play together in this centennial celebration.
"Rugby is a legacy sport in Kelowna," said Doug Manning, president of the Central Okanagan Rugby Enthusiasts. "Locals either played the game or enjoyed watching it in City Park. With the help of the Okanagan Heritage Museum, we have discovered how important the sport was in the early days of our community."
On Saturday, players will be divided into four touch rugby teams beginning at 2:30 p.m. The first games will begin at 2:50 p.m., just as that historic game did 100 years ago. Players are encouraged to dress warmly and, if possible, wear clothing that might have been seen in 1912.
The first game played in Kelowna was on Oct. 10, 1908, and the person who took the kick-off in that first-ever game was Dick Parkinson, father of the future mayor of Kelowna.
In the first few years of Okanagan rugby, all the games were played between Kelowna and Okanagan Mission, with a team from Summerland joining them in 1911. In 1912, Vernon joined the league, and in 1913 Penticton played its first-ever rugby match. By 1914, there was even a team from 'The Benches' in Kelowna that played.
These historic years of rugby in Kelowna ended suddenly in late 1914, when most of the rugby men went off to fight with England in World War I.