How the Brigade Began
(Text taken from the 2008 David Thompson Brigade River Guide)
The visionary behind the 2008 David Thompson Brigade was Andreas Korsos. The idea of a cross country canoe trip really began to formulate around 1998 and the original concept involved 6 canoes with the entire adventure designed to be as period specific as possible, from the clothing to the food, and even included ‘pieces’ that were to be portaged. The idea originated with Andreas and was roughly written down but eventually deemed impracticable until the Canadian History Channel sponsored ‘reality’ programming in 2000.
By 2002, Andreas had been contemplating a way to commemorate Thompson and one night after weeks of talking about the voyageur brigade concept, he was finally told by his better half Leanne ‘you’ve been talking a lot about this… just do it’. The merging of a commemoration of David Thompson with a canoe trip seemed to be a logical fit. After all, wherever Thompson traveled so did the voyageurs engaged by him. Just as the voyageurs have been described as the backbone of the fur trade in Canada, they were just as much the backbone of Thompson’s explorations. The initial ‘roughly’ written version of the event was rewritten into a preliminary draft entitled ‘The 2007 David Thompson Brigade’. Following the preliminary draft, a chance discussion with a colleague at work gave Andreas the opportunity to present the idea to a large audience during an evening radio call in show in Edmonton in the winter of 2003.
After the show ended, 16 people called the show expressing interest in discussing the idea further. After some email correspondence a meeting was schedule for all to meet at the library in downtown Edmonton. With expectations high, Andreas went to the library on the agreed date and as it turns out only 1 of the 16, local businessman, Don Galloway showed up at the library. Despite the poor turn out Don and Andreas had a 45-minute discussion and agreed that when Andreas gathered enough other people to plan this enormous undertaking, he would call Don again.
Andreas attempted to track down individuals that would be interested in such an adventure for the better part of two years. His involvement with the David Thompson Bicentennials helped as well. In March of 2005, at a meeting of the partnership in Red Deer, Andreas presented his plan to the Bicentennial Committee. He had hoped that someone on the committee would have leads into interested people. As it turns out, he was invited to Rocky Mountain House for an event that May to display some of his thematic maps of the fur trade.
On an early May morning, after watching the centennial voyageurs depart for Edmonton, Andreas was approached by a member of the Bicentennial Partnership and asked if she could send someone over to him that was interested in his fur trade maps that were on display at the event. Soon after agreeing, a tall man in a large fur hat, reminiscent of an American Mountain Man hat, approached Andreas asking if any of the maps were for sale. A discussion ensued and after learning that the gentleman was an experienced marathon canoeist, requested whether he would be interested in reading an event proposal. Email addresses were exchanged, and Andreas would email Ted Bentley the preliminary draft of the 2007 David Thompson Brigade two days later.
Andreas Korsos and Ted Bentley along with Mark Lund would meet on Thursday, June 16, 2005, at O’Brynes in south Edmonton and would have a frank and pointed discussion about the feasibility of organizing such an event. After several beer and an agreement to meet again with other potential individuals they departed. If there was a day that defines the beginning of the 2008 David Thompson Brigade, it would be that day.
Preliminary discussions led to many ideas with respect to the nature of the event. The event year would be pushed from 2007 to 2008, the event would be less stringent with respect to being period specific, and among other minor changes the event was changed to be more inclusive in terms of participants and communities. A meeting of interested parties beyond Andreas, Ted and Mark occurred on 7:30 PM on Wednesday, June 29th, 2005, at Grant MacEwan College and soon afterward the real discussions and eventual planning would begin. As with other committees and ideas, people would come and go through the first year of the planning and discussions, but a core group would remain dedicated.