The Story of CanIRON

In the Spring of 1995, Vancouver Island Blacksmith Association had a guest demonstrator, Joe Delisimunovic. Joe was the resident blacksmith at the historic O’Keefe Ranch, just past Vernon, BC. Joe came to Vancouver Island to do a two day demonstration of different blacksmithing techniques. During the weekend conversation, an Invitation was made by Joe to come up to the O’Keefe Ranch on the July 1st weekend and have a picnic and camping trip with a little Blacksmithing thrown in.

About 12 VIBA members, with their families, made the journey and had a very enjoyable weekend. After the weekend and everyone had time to think about what just happened, someone had a thought during a VIBA monthly meeting, “What if we invite members of our neighbour North West Blacksmith Association, to the O’Keefe Ranch for next year?”. Everyone thought it was a good idea and at the next NWBA Fall Conference, an official invitation was made.

The same bunch of people from Vancouver Island went up to the O’Keefe Ranch for the July 1st weekend, which worked good for the U.S. members of the NWBA who attended, for their July 4th weekend. A lot of the people who had wanted to come up cancelled because they were going to New York for the ABANA Conference in Alfred, New York. It was a very enjoyable weekend for all who were there, but the crew from VIBA were a little disappointed due to the low turnout.

After everyone went home, Ron Greig had a thought, ‘What if VIBA hosted the ABANA Conference in Canada?’. Ron contacted ABANA and he was told that we would have to post a $25,000.00 us bond before ABANA would allow VIBA to host an ABANA conference. To Ron this was out of the question! Ron continued thinking about it and then thought, “What if we hosted a Canadian Blacksmith Conference on the odd-numbered years, because ABANA conferences were all held on the even-numbered years?”. Ron got together with Derry Cook, Ed Parker, Barry Schaeffer and Ed Cushing, who were all VIBA members.

They started organizing for a conference similar to what the NWBA has every Spring and Fall. The first CanIRON Blacksmith Conference was underway for 1997. A lot of the financing was from the pockets of the organizing group, VIBA also helped out with some finances. The invitation went out to anywhere in the world, that the group could think of that were part of the blacksmithing network.

There were some tense moments when they got to the O’Keefe Ranch a week before the event to find that the field they were to use had not been hayed yet. There was a huge scramble to get it hayed, so they could have access to the property. That was the start of the learning curve in the time of crisis. Every hurdle was eventually solved, even if it meant sleep took a back seat. By the time people started showing up, most things were in order and a great time was had by all the participants.

Jerry Culberson was one of the demonstrators and he was also the auctioneer. Before the auction, the
organizing group were in the hole. Jerry managed to sprinkle some ‘pixie dust’ on everyone who was at the auction and by the time the Auction was over, they were no longer in the red. The other demonstrators were, Darryl Nelson, Dorothy Steigler, John Adolph, Derry Cook, John Smith, Berkley Tack and Joe Delisimunovic.

The suggestion had been made earlier that the CanIRON Conference should go from the West to the East. And so it began!!

by Neil Gustafson

Read more about the roots of CanIRON on the History page