When Kathy MacKerricher received an email saying The Price is Right wanted to showcase New Westminster, B.C., on the venerable game show, she was as surprised as anyone.
“At first I thought, this isn’t real,” said the general manager of Inn at the Quay, the waterfront hotel at the centre of one of the Price is Right prizes on their Nov. 13 show.
“But we verified it was, and it seemed like a great opportunity. So we put the package together … and here we are. There seems to be a lot of buzz.”
Ultimately the prize — a flight from Los Angeles to Vancouver, with a rental car to get the winner to New West to stay at the inn — wasn’t won by the contestant, known only as Phillip.
But the city is enjoying a temporary surge of notoriety from the appearance — along with a surge of social media jabs.
OMFG Price is Right giving away a trip to New Westminster!<br><br>The guy lost because he overshot the value and Drew qipped “we haven’t had a trip worth that little in a while” <a href=”https://t.co/qhk4RZfqC8″>pic.twitter.com/qhk4RZfqC8</a>
“I’d imagine that if he had won he would have been quite disappointed,” said the top comment on the British Columbia Reddit post about the event.
“With dinner and entertainment at the legendary Mugs & Jugs!” joked one person, referencing the infamous but long-shuttered strip club.
New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone said he understands most of the jabs were in good fun, but argued that his city is an ideal place for a tourist to experience all the area has to offer.
“If you’re going to see this beautiful coast, this is a great place, it’s right on the SkyTrain, it’s easy to get to, and we’ve got a lot of great things to offer.”
Don’t call it a suburb
New Westminster joins Prince George, Cranbrook, Nelson and Salmon Arm as B.C. municipalities that have appeared on The Price is Right since 2019, each of which had similar online banter around their moment on the show.
But a professor who has researched the history of B.C. tourism said it’s a rare opportunity for such towns to get on the map south of the border.
“People in the United States, if they know any cities in British Columbia, it’s going to be the two largest ones in the southwest corner,” said University of Guelph history professor Ben Bradley, referring to Vancouver and Victoria.
“American daytime TV is going to be seen by many millions of people. But are they going to, after seeing [New West], actually change their travel and their consumption behaviour?”
Tourism New Westminster is responding to the publicity by running a campaign to try to find Phillip, offering the previous prize along with several other attractions.
Bradley says it’s a chance for the Royal City to flex its pride, having mostly been bypassed as a tourist stop since the 1960s after the opening of the original Port Mann Bridge and reconfiguration of highways.
“New Westminster was the oldest city on the mainland, and Vancouver was its only real competitor for decades before World War II for being an urban centre … now it’s very unfortunately all too easy for tourists [in cars] to miss.”
But whatever you do, says the mayor, don’t call the city the “s” word.
“I’m going to correct you on suburb,” said Johnstone.
“This was the first downtown … and still the heart of the Greater Vancouver area.”