NELSON — The torrid pace of Amazing Race Canada will rip through the West Kootenay in the July 18 episode with Selkirk College’s Kootenay Studio Arts (KSA) one of the featured stops for the popular reality television show.
Contestants and crew filmed the upcoming episode on April 30 and May 1 when they arrived to the West Kootenay as part of the cross-Canada adventure. Amazing Race Canada started with 10 teams of two competing in an elimination-based contest that is riddled with exciting tasks and challenges in locations across the country.
One of the characters that took part in the KSA stop is Carter Balzer, a member of the Selkirk College custodial crew, part-time instructor and program alumnus. Balzer judged the contestants who took part in the Blacksmith Studio challenge where they were tested with hammering out a metal hook.
“I love the place and I want to tell people about it,” Balzer says of KSA. “So if people see this show and the word gets out about Kootenay Studio Arts and Nelson, then that’s cool with me.”
Originally from Ontario, Balzer arrived to Nelson 17 years ago on the advice of a friend who told him about a fantastic arts school in the mountains. He enrolled in what was then known as Kootenay School of the Arts where he spent three years focusing on both jewelry and blacksmithing. When he graduated in 2004, Balzer took a summer job at KSA where he helped with renovations at the downtown Nelson campus.
When KSA merged with Selkirk College in 2006, Balzer stayed on as the building custodian and over the last few years has developed his teaching skills as a jewelry instructor for Selkirk College community education classes.
“I fell in love with the place first as a student, both the programs and the building itself,” Balzer says of the historic Victoria Street Campus that once housed the city’s jail. “When you are part of the renovations and making the place look beautiful, you get attached. Now I get to see students pass through these doors and develop their skills to become artists… I get emotional about this school.”
When Amazing Race Canada was scouting the West Kootenay looking for appropriate locations to stage challenges, the producers of the program also fell in love with KSA. Along with several other locations — Castlegar’s Zuckerberg Island, Chances Casino, Nelson’s Oso Negro, the Nelson Bridge, Kokanee Creek Provincial Park — the Selkirk College campus will be featured in Episode 3 on July 18.
At the KSA stop, contestants were tasked with either creating metal hooks in the Blacksmith Studio or a clay bowl in the Ceramics Studio. Blacksmith instructor Kevin Kratz provided teams with instructions on how to craft a hook using the red-hot forge, anvils and hammers. Balzer was then asked to be the final judge of whether they did it right, either sending them onto the next stage of the race or making them do it again.
“It was quite entertaining,” Balzer says of his role in the episode. “I saw the frustration with every team. They tried to make it work, but it’s harder than it looks. It was great to see those that were successful and how happy they were when they completed it.”
Though the time spent at KSA will be very brief in the hour-long episode, the actual production required Balzer and the other Selkirk College participants to be involved for two full days.
How much actual screen time Balzer will get in the episode is unknown, but he should be recognizable in his stylish heavy-duty kilt that has become his trademark look.
“It was very interesting to watch the whole crew work,” Balzer says of the behind-the-scenes production frenzy that unfolded this past spring. “The camera crew, the sound technicians, the light crew… they came in here and really transformed the shop into what they needed for a real short time. Once you got a few teams in the shop during the actual race, there was crew everywhere in a very small amount of space. It was pretty neat.”
Other than the episode being shot in the West Kootenay, Selkirk College has one other connection to this year’s Amazing Race Canada season.
The team of Kenneth McAlpine and Ryan LaChapelle are from Collingwood, Ontario but both 25-year-olds work at Rossland’s Red Mountain Resort.
LaChapelle graduated with honours from the Ski Resort Operations & Management (SROAM) Program in 2012 where he was chosen as the Selkirk College valedictorian. He currently works as an events director during the winter months.
Though Balzer doesn’t want to give anything away for the upcoming episode, he did say one team shone brighter than the others in the blacksmithing challenge and he took the time to recruit future students.
“I told one team that they should come back… he should do the blacksmithing program and she should do jewelry,” Balzer says with a smile. “They would both fit in well, they have the skills that you need.”
Find out more about Kootenay Studio Arts at Selkirk College by heading to: http://selkirk.ca/school/arts