By Steve Hubrecht

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Baton-twirling Columbia Valley resident Karen Gratton was honoured with the Lynda Garland Award for Excellence earlier this year.

Gratton was awarded the honour after a lifetime of dedication to baton twirling that began when she started participating in the sport more than 60 years ago. This expanded to include decades of experience as a coach, judge, adjudicator, positions on multiple national and provincial baton twirling boards and committees, and becoming a competition director as well as an author of several Canadian Baton Twirling Federation (CBTF) publications.

The award is named in honour of Lynda Garland, who was the creator (and first president) of the CBTF, as well as the first president of the World Baton Twirling Federation. Garland retired from that role in 2008, but is still involved with sport. Garland herself chooses the winner of the award from among each year’s nominations.

This year it was Gratton, and the award could not have gone to a more committed recipient.

“Baton is my passion – I love every aspect of it – it’s always been there for me during the good times and the bad times,” she said. “I have made many wonderful friends all over the country and the world. I have had the privilege to work with many baton legends and experts such as Lynda Garland, Ron Kopas, Maureen Johnson and Paola diMarchi. I have taught and judged so many incredible athletes at all levels and each one has a piece of my heart. I appreciate all that this sport has given me and I can’t imagine my life without a baton.” 

Gratton first started baton twirling in 1962 and fell in love with the sport immediately. When she was 16 she started coaching in Alberta (where she lived at the time) and when she was 18 she started her own club, and then later here in the Kootenay region. Her two clubs — the Royalette Baton Club (Alberta) and Kootenay Baton Konnection each became the largest in their respective provinces. After retiring, Gratton spent five winters as a snowbird in Arizona and coached there. She’s still coaching today, in fact, leading a recreational baton program on Wednesdays in Invermere.

She was both an adjudicator and a judge with CBTF for many years, travelling to competitions across Canada. In addition Gratton has acted in more than a dozen provincial and national positions with both the Alberta Baton Twirling Association (ABTA) and CBTF, including several roles that she still currently holds: CBTF first vice-president; Baton Twirling Association of B.C. (BTABC) group representative; CBTF market and communication committee member; and CBTF equity, diversity and inclusivity committee member.

Gratton served as a competition director for 27 years, including as member of three world championship planning committees and was assistant competition director at the 1984 world championships.

Prior to winning the Lynda Garland Award for Excellence, Gratton earned the CBTF Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and was named CBTF volunteer of the year in 1997 and 2022.