Marianne had a waterfront childhood in Carling with her grandparents at their marina, and on Bay Street in town with her father at his marina. At three, she had her first boat, with a motor at six, to use in sight of the dock. Later, there were no limits, always a boat and the Bay.
She experienced first hand the need to leave the area for a career at that time, and realized early the importance of economic development. Upon returning to Parry Sound after a successful career with a succession of blue chip companies, the waterfront beckoned again. Marianne volunteered with the local Power and Sail Squadron. The Squadron flag with the trestle is her design.
Resuming her lifelong interest in the economic driver, she served two years as the Chair of Parry Sound Area Tourism. In 1997 a group called Sound Process 2000 was formed, by the Town, CBDC, Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Association, for community improvement. She was invited to chair it, and then in 1999 she was asked to chair the Health Centre campaign. She and the team raised the goal by a million dollars, for a CT scanner. In 2005 she co-chaired OLD HOME WEEK, bringing hundreds of people home.
Through all of this, beginning in ‘97, Marianne established Sail Parry Sound with an extraordinary team of skilled and dedicated volunteers. It began with then-mayor Nancy Cunningham, inviting Bill Beatty, John Mason, John Shipman and Marianne to discuss sailing races in the Big Sound for economic development. A few weeks later, a crowded public meeting agreed, too. Sail Parry Sound (SPS) formed for community improvement through economic development and youth development. It would restore Parry Sound’s sailing heritage through excellence in regatta management and in sail training.
Volunteers who stepped forward from the beginning, brought experience that would be impossible to duplicate in a single corporation. “We share the same values”, she says. “We chose to run Sail Parry Sound like a business, even though we are all volunteers and it is not for profit.” Everyone at Sail Parry Sound is a person making a difference. Marianne and Nancy went to the Shark Class Worlds in June 1997, with Ted Chisholm, former racing director of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, to invite them to a regatta, for 1998. A spectacular racing venue was available, and the volunteers could rely on Ted to help, but Sail Parry Sound had nothing to offer until they got home and asked for help. The idea caught fire. Sail Parry Sound was a virtual sailing club for eight years.
The community gave everything; The Town Beach for the Sailing School; The Town and FedNor for start-up funding; John Shipman for launching. Harry Marwood, the committee boat. Harold Blower, a workboat. Hundreds of people, businesses, clubs and councils provided donations, equipment, supplies, and hard work. As the Sailing School set up, Marianne quietly donated a new Optimist pram. Other members signed on a loan for six more. Three more donations followed. People in the area donated backyard boats as backup. The children arrived the first day, to a fleet of new boats, two professional instructors, helpful volunteers and a summer of fun. With Larry Woolner’s leadership the sailing school matured and by 2003, it was chosen ‘Best in Canada’ by CYA, for “Excellence in Sail Training”.
Marianne has been the overall Regatta Chair for all but one of the major events held by SPS, including the Worlds. After the success of the Sharks, in September 1998, in what she has since called a moment of madness, she suggested that Sail Parry Sound seek the Olympic sailing with the Toronto bid fourteen carloads from SPS drove to Toronto one wintry day. Paul Henderson, that’s the SAILING Paul Henderson, then an IOC member, and International Sailing Federation President, was speaking. Paul Henderson has been a friend of SPS ever since. The summer of ‘99 brought Regatta Week – two major regattas. Two hundred volunteers made it possible. Marianne went to the ‘98 Shark Worlds in Austria and ‘99 Worlds in Toronto, to invite them here. In 2000 they came to SPS; 54 boats entered, from 4 nations. John Stothers’ Race Committee volunteers gave them first-class racing; their expertise cemented the on-water reputation of SPS.
On the land, hundreds of guests were welcomed by an equal number of volunteers, and donations of goods and services worth almost $100,000. Customer service is a hallmark of SPS, for the sailing school families, and for sailors and their families at regattas. Marianne has been to clubs where visitors were ignored.
“Not here! At SPS, they find that the whole town puts out the red carpet. SPS guests write thank-you letters. We hope they choose to live, work and invest here.”
Sail Parry Sound regattas have contributed over a million dollars to the local economy, in accommodation, foodservice, and purchases of goods and services, plus return visits to what is now an internationally-recognized centre for sail training and regatta management.
For the Toronto 2008 Olympic bid, Marianne had support from all the shoreline communities for Olympic sailing, added to the public endorsement from Paul Henderson of ISAF. All this came before SPS had a place of its own.
The next major step was that permanent home. Land from the Town, funding from FedNor, NOHFC, Trillium, and clubs, councils, businesses and families, with Larry Barnes’ financial management, made it happen. At the opening in June 2007, distinguished guests showed high regard for SPS in the sailing world. Just weeks later, SPS became Training Development Centre for Northern Ontario.
Since 1997 Marianne has spent thousands of hours not only inspiring the volunteers but also raising awareness of SPS and its mandate among local municipalities, provincial and national funding bodies and in the wider sailing world. Sail Parry Sound owes its success to the vision, leadership, dedication and drive of Marianne King-Wilson, builder of the sport of sailing in Parry Sound.
Marianne, we salute you.