ORILLIA DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Doug Bunker, or simply “Bunker” as he’s known to most, has managed events for the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce for over three decades.
Throughout the years, his enthusiasm and community spirit have positively impacted generations of local residents and visitors to the Orillia area. Recently, his contributions were officially recognized by Boating Ontario.
The award ceremony took place during the Boating Ontario Conference at Deerhurst Resort on Nov. 29, 2022. The Gord Blake Visionary Award is one of four awards of excellence for individuals or organizations who have contributed significantly to Ontario’s boating industry. It recognizes significant innovative contributions and visionary leadership within the boating industry.
Bunker started with the chamber in 1987 to help develop and expand the perch festival. The same year, he introduced the Centre of Power Boating Show, which is now known as the Orillia Waterfront Festival. The following year, Bunker used his boating connections to bring the poker run to Orillia. The poker run is also still in existence and is now managed by Ride for Dad to raise money for prostate cancer.
Also in 1988, after being in Florida for an offshore boat race, Bunker witnessed Christmas in July and brought the idea back to Orillia. Christmas in June was received with enthusiasm and soon became an annual event at the Port of Orillia. The event is still going strong and is now so popular that dockage for the weekend sells out almost immediately upon the port’s opening each year.
In 1989 Bunker identified the opportunity to hold an early-season in-water boat show. This led to the debut of the spring boat show, which started off featuring mainly used boat sales but, as the years progressed, eventually developed into a waterfront event featuring new and used boat sales, vendors selling unique cottage and outdoor products, and entertainment.
Through his work with the perch festival, Bunker has built strong connections with the fishing community. He continues to work with the Canadian Sportfishing, marketing Orillia as the centre of outdoor recreation. This brings fishing groups to the area several times each year, providing an economic boost, often during times of year that are not traditional tourist seasons.
He has also developed a strong relationship with the Ontario Provincial Police, who have contributed to events like the perch festival’s OPP Kids’ Day and the Santa Claus parade. Through these partnerships, Bunker has helped to foster positive connections between community members and law enforcement, and championed community and boating safety.
At trade shows, Bunker is a true ambassador for the boating lifestyle and the City of Orillia. Through his marketing efforts he has helped to establish the Port of Orillia’s reputation as the “jewel of the Trent-Severn Waterway.” Each summer, the port attracts boaters from near and far who provide an influx of tourist spending to local businesses.
Bunker has been instrumental in the past 34 years of success of the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce Santa Claus Parade. With a strong network of local contacts and a genuine passion for the community, he has given his all to make the parade a success year after year.
In 2020 and 2021, when gathering restrictions made planning a traditional parade impossible, he worked to keep the holiday spirit strong with the Light Up Orillia and Lake Country light contest and the Santa Claus Tour. This year, when he asked businesses and organizations to change to a nighttime parade, the community stepped up in response and the event received outstanding reviews.
In today’s world, where frequent job and career changes are commonplace, Bunker’s 34-year tenure is truly impressive. It reflects his dedication and enthusiasm for community events. Bunker and the chamber events team are always looking for volunteers to assist with events throughout the year. The volunteer signup is at www.orillia.com/volunteer.
“During the pandemic, we made the tough decision to cancel the parade in 2020 and Bunker and the chamber team went to work creating Light Up Orillia and Lake Country, an online event so citizens could safely drive through our communities to see lights. In 2021 when the logistics of a parade seemed overwhelming, our team drove Santa through downtown, West Ridge and Rama First Nation.” — Allan Lafontaine, executive director, Orillia District Chamber of Commerce
“We couldn’t be more elated to see Doug Bunker receive this award. Doug has continued to be a pillar of strength in our community for years. His contribution to tourism in Orillia is immeasurable. The success of the Port of Orillia is just one example.” — Raquel Ness, president, Orillia District Chamber of Commerce