At age 24, Guy Lamarche threw his hat in the ring for the executive director position for the James Bay Frontier Travel Association. While he was busy making a name for the region that he was promoting, he also made a name for himself. Lamarche was the youngest person hired under the Ontario Travel Association Program — and the most senior when he left 21 years later — to become the brand manager for the Northern Tourism Marketing Company.
Then Lamarche became the director of operations, marketing and sales for Eagle’s Earth Cree & Ojibway Historical Centre, where he was responsible for overseeing and promoting the $12-million multi-use tourism development. From there, he worked for the City of Timmins, as the municipal communications co-ordinator, and since 2010 he has held the position of manager of tourism and events.
"It's been a good ride and run," said Lamarche. "Even when I moved away from tourism to communications, it wasn't long before I agreed to lend a hand on a project that pulled me back in…and the rest, as they say, is history."
The project was the Great Canadian Kayak Challenge & Festival (GCKC), an event that has become synonymous with Lamarche.
"Retired city clerk Jack Watson and I started the Great Canadian Kayak Challenge & Festival as part of the city’s centennial celebrations. I'm proud that it is non-gated, and does not discriminate by virtue of one’s wallet size… everyone can attend and enjoy the event. To see the one-day event grow to three days, where just under 20,000 people attend, is surreal."
The event has been recognized as a four-time winner of Festival and Event Ontario’s Top 100 and last year was the runner up as best event in Ontario sponsored by Attractions Ontario.
"It's very rewarding to see all of the happy faces at the event and to be on the receiving end of such complimentary feedback."
Lamarche believes that leading by example is key to his success. He is known as a man of action and can often be heard saying, "Lead, follow or get out of the way," or "We accomplish in proportion to what we attempt." Given that, Lamarche has attempted, and achieved, much to improve the region.
He has served in a variety of capacities on numerous committees, including as president of Northeastern Ontario Tourism, a member of the Ontario Marketing Partnership Program Northern Committee, director at Northeastern Ontario Tourism, and director of Attractions Ontario.
He also is chair of the City of Timmins Summer Concert Series, chair of the Great Canadian Kayak Challenge & Festival, and co-chair of Rogers Hometown Hockey, Timmins.
Hard work is a big part of his recipe for success. Lamarche credits his father and mother for his work ethic and perseverance. He also values creativity, compassion, enthusiasm, and integrity. Lamarche wants to continue to be a role model for his grandsons, Wilson and Deacon, and states that the importance of family is paramount to him.
"It's not about being recognized… it's about wanting to make a difference for those who call Timmins home, and to build a good life for my family. That's what drives me."
Yet he has been recognized with the first annual Presidents Award, presented by Northern Ontario Tourism, and the Award of Distinction Northeastern Ontario Recreational Association (NEORA).
Lamarche graduated from Ottawa University in 1977 with a BA in social sciences. In February of 2006, he completed a continuing education course from Indianapolis, Purdue University and received an American Bus Association Certified Travel Industry Specialist certificate.
"I've seen many properties built… restaurants, attractions, and leisure opportunities developed…and the great majority have been successful. All of this development not only helps our quality of life, but increases the number of people visiting the area, realizing all that we have to offer."
On the cusp of retirement, Lamarche looks forward to soon having a lot more time to get out and enjoy many of those developments with his wife, children, and grandchildren.