On February 12, 1920, a pronouncement was put forward stating a new campus event was about to happen. It would be a challenge offered by the class of Arts ’20 and would become known henceforth as the Arts ’20 Relay. But this now 91 year old race was no ordinary relay, no ordinary fun run. This event had a distinct agenda.
These were the early days of UBC, whose enrollment was approximately 1200 and whose campus was located in the 12th and Cambie area, near Vancouver General Hospital. Since 1908 the intended site of UBC’s campus was always Point Grey where we are today. In fact the BC government had started clearing the land and by 1920 started some construction. But despite spending money on more politically favourable projects, the government had for all intents and purposes abandoned UBC. The students were miffed and restless.
At 12th and Cambie conditions were primitive and over-crowded, in fact the campus was referred to as the “Fairview Shacks.” The temporary stay there had been too long and a student inspired “Build the University” campaign had emerged. Part of this campaign was in the form of the Arts ’20 Relay, a 7.8 mile race run originally from the undeveloped Pt. Grey site along to 12th and Laurel the “Fairview Shacks.” This was designed to raise awareness, to the public and the government, of the plight of the students.
This “Build the University” culminated in the summer of 1922 with a massive petition and publicity drive. The final week climaxed on October 28, 1922 with a float-laden parade winding through downtown and then out to 10th Avenue and on to the stump-riddled campus. Students, model T Fords, even cheerleaders made the journey as it was the students who were charged with the responsibility of seeing the university built. This would become known as “The Great Trek.”
Eight days later the Premier announced that it would go back and finish construction of UBC at Point Grey. The Great Trek had exceeded expectations.
The Arts ’20 Relay is one of the legacies of what at the time was considered a risky student campaign. It is still, as it was back in 1920, about connectedness and embracing the community along with fun, competition and a liberal serving of that priceless ingredient, tradition.
Registration for the Great Trek Run and Relay, an event spirit of the Arts ’20 Relay, has been extended until Thursday, October 27th at 5 pm. For only $27, participants get a technical t-shirt, pancake breakfast and a unbeatable tour of the most beautiful campus in the world. To sign up, check out the Great Trek site!