When antique car collector Ron Carey donated his $10-million collection to Heritage Park Historical Village 10 years ago, the Calgary museum had very little room to house it. Today, the donation, which includes such gems as a 1931 Cord L-29, is on glistening display in the museum’s newly improved “Gasoline Alley.” The 75,000-square-foot space is part of a recent renovation that doubled the park’s size to 51 hectares.
On the main floor, visitors get an up-close look at a Carey’s collection of restored vehicles, gas pumps, road signs and other “petroliania,” including the flashy orange Cord L-29 and a baby blue 1932 Auburn, each valued at half a million. A growing number of gas pumps – 77 at last count – contend for the largest collection in the world.
Along with the makeover of Gasoline Alley, the renos added a town square, brewery and replica Canadian Pacific Railway railway station. If you haven’t been to the village since grade school, it’s time to plan a field trip. –Tracy Hyatt
Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary; http://www.heritagepark.ca, 403-268-8500
Polka Dot Your Calendar
Grab your dancing shoes and practise your four-step count. October 22-23 marks Medicine Hat’s 15th annual Polka Fest. The dancing runs Friday from 7 to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 11 p.m at the German-Canadian Harmony Club in Redcliff, just outside Medicine Hat. Saturday’s event includes “a big meal,” says organizer Ernie Hiddle. (Expect a smorg with bratwurst and cabbage rolls.) The dance isn’t a competition, but as Hiddle says, “Most of the dancers tend to know how to polka already.” This year’s music will be provided by local bands the Country Squires and the Rhythm Tones. - Kristine Kowalchuk
Words to Chew On
Back at the Ranche
You have to admire the audacity of Pat and Connie O’Connor. At a time when over- styled modern restaurants are the norm, the husband-and-wife duo, founders and owners of Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts, offer a step back in time at the Ranche. Located in beautiful Fish Creek Provincial Park, in a ranch house built in 1896, the restaurant has long been a Calgary brunch favourite. Although meat is a menu mainstay, dishes sidestep the usual breakfast sausage in favour of smoked elk ham, beef tenderloin and prosciutto ham sourced from local producers and Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts’ own game farm. And, proving meatless dishes too can be bountiful and beautiful, the Ranche serves up banana bread French toast with warm bumbleberry compote, whipped cream and organic maple syrup. If ever there was a good reason to visit Fish Creek Provincial Park, the Ranche is it. –Tracy Hyatt
Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary, 403-225-3939, http://www.crmr.com
Many people care about preserving history — only a few do something about it. Ray Boyer is one of the latter. In 1993, he and a group of former classmates, concerned that their childhood schoolhouse, languishing in disrepair on a local farm, would burn down or be vandalized, applied for a grant and permit to move the circa 1919 structure to Kleskun Hill Park, 20 kilometres northeast of Grande Prairie.
The grant came through in 1997. After they’d moved and fixed the schoolhouse, Boyer says, someone told him: “You’d better start a museum.” So he did. Today, Kleskun Hill Park is the site of nine historic buildings gathered from surrounding areas, including the schoolhouse; a gas station; Manning House, built in 1914; Turner Barn, built in 1929; and a circa 1947 Roman Catholic church (pictured above). There are also wagon ruts dating back to 1911. (Every year when the snow melts, water runs through the ruts, preserving them, says Boyer.)
If you decide to visit, the surrounding park is also worth a stroll: it contains rare-for-the-area badlands with wild cacti and dinosaur fossils. - Kristine Kowalchuk
Tours run Saturdays and Sundays, or by appointment. Call Ray Boyer at 780-539-0874
E-Ville On Wheels
As anyone who saw 2009’S Whip It starring Ellen Page knows, roller derby’s all about attitude. But it’s also a high-speed contact sport geared to spectators.
“This is a real sport, with rules and penalties, and it’s one of the only sports in the world that’s dominated by women,” says E-Ville Roller Derby organizer Wyanita Fath, a.k.a. Peaches. • Played in the Edmonton Sports Dome, the derby began four years ago. Games now draw hundreds of spectators. Theatrics abound: players adopt tough-girl alter egos with cheeky nicknames and outfits to match – E-Ville’s roster includes the likes of “Dee Vicious,” “part pitbull, part vixen” and “Tigra Banks, America’s own top throttle.”
And they get even tougher on the track. Two teams of five players whiz around a 72-metre circuit, with “blockers” and “pivots” working to help their “jammer” break away from the pack. Points are scored for each opposing team member the lead jammer laps. To stop the opposing team’s jammer, players can block using body parts above the mid-thigh, except forearms, elbows, hands and head — like a body-check in hockey.
E-Ville’s season runs September to June, kicking off this September 25. Check the website for player bios, tickets and other upcoming events.
In 2005, Cécile and Sandy Mactaggart donated their
private collection of more than 700 historic Chinese textiles, paintings and scrolls to the University of Alberta, with the aim of creating a world-class museum in Edmonton. While the museum is yet to be realized, the University of Alberta has held several exhibits to profile portions of the collection – one selection so stunning it merited a book: Emblems of Empire: Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection by John E. Vollmer and Jacqueline Simcox (University of Alberta Press and University of Alberta Museums, 2009).
Focusing on items from the Quing Dynasty (1644 to 1911), Emblems of Empire offers a fascinating read on the importance of sericulture (moth cultivation and silk production) and the complex symbolism of dress in Chinese history. Accompanied by helpful maps and timelines, the book is generously illustrated with photos of more than 70 artifacts: military badges of winged tigers, saddle blankets bearing dragons with scales of seed pearls and throne cushion-covers of peacock-feather-wrapped, silk-thread chrysanthemums. Also of note is Cécile Mactaggart’s passionate introduction, which tells the story of the couple’s foray into collecting Chinese art. - Kristine Kowalchuk
A visit to high river may mean a detour off Hwy. 2 between Calgary and Nanton, but the town offers a perfect excuse to get out and stretch your legs. In the 1990s a local society commissioned a group of artists to paint murals on downtown buildings. The result: 16 works offering insight into the town’s fascinating history.
Subjects range from polo (pictured left) — a sport popular in the area until the First World War — to W.O. Mitchell, who lived in High River for more than 20 years and is buried in the local cemetery. A walking map with explanations of the murals is available at the visitor information centre in Sheppard Family Park, at the town museum or online: highriver.ca/uploads/pdfs/Tourism/Mural_brochure.pdf. - Kristine Kowalchuk
High River Tourist Information Centre: 877-603-3101