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    Categories: Arts & Culture

Grain Elevator Park ready for Dominion Day

Whether by tractor or by train

The scaffolding, the construction workers, the big holes in the ground on the historic site on Meadowview Drive — that’s all that most of St. Albert has seen of the two grain elevators for quite some time.

That’s all about to change in time for Canada Day. The fully restored silver elevator is set to re-open with a schedule of family programming to prove once again the city’s 150th anniversary is a milestone year.

“It’s not a party; it’s a grand re-opening,” said Ann Ramsden, director of the Musée Héritage Museum, the organization that manages the site for the city. The site closed last year to begin the process that was hampered by a long, harsh winter. Otherwise there were few delays and surprises.

The green 1929 Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, also known as Elevator No. 1, and the silver 1906 Alberta Grain Company elevator, or Elevator No. 2, were both designated as Provincial Historic Resources in January 2007. The site also features the St. Albert Train Station and Visitor Centre. It was built six years ago as a modernized but historically accurate replica of the former train station building constructed in 1909. The original was moved more than three decades ago to the Alberta Railway Museum.

The St. Albert Grain Elevator Park became fully operational in 2005.

“It was a fairly unique project and there have been quite a few challenges to overcome but it will re-open for July 1st. It’s looking in beautiful shape.”

Among the details of the $1.7-million project include exterior repainting, replacement of drive shed doors, safety upgrades, a rebuilt loading platform and some gravel landscaping around the buildings themselves. Funding was provided by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation to help with the preservation of the elevators.

In about a month, the green elevator will re-open as the silver one closes briefly for a few late touch-ups. By August, both should be fully open and accessible to the public.

“Then we’ll have the official celebrations in September.”

As for Friday’s festivities, historical interpreters will give public tours of the 1906 elevator, taking them through the site and showing them how the elevators worked with details about the restoration. People can look through the restoration workshop in the Quonset hut and look at a display that includes samples of the rotten wood that, up until recently, used to be a part of the elevators.

For the kids, there will be a flag decorating competition and lantern designs, along with a musician, a magician and a balloon artist to provide entertainment. You can enjoy old-fashioned root beer and kettle corn as well.

“We’re very proud of the restoration,” Ramsden said. “It’s a legacy for us. They will remain as landmarks in the community for many years to come.”

Other celebrations down the street

The Michif Cultural and Resource Institute is hosting its own party the same day. Former senator Thelma Chalifoux, the facility’s director, hopes to see many people come out for its annual celebration. This year is special, she says, not just because of the city’s major anniversary.

“We’ve got a lot of things happening here on Canada Day,” she said, referring to new additions of an RCMP and an aboriginal veterans’ display, a music display and a women’s display as well. Teepee poles will be set up with and the famous Red River cart will also be out for viewing. Visitors can receive a guided tour of the site.

Apart from the artifacts, there will be live entertainment with either Métis fiddlers or singers.

Dominion Day at the St. Albert Grain Elevator Park

Step back in time and celebrate the enactment of the British North America Act like it’s 1867!
From noon to 5 p.m., visitors can try their hands at dotting and dashing out Morse code messages at the 1909 replica train station and see how the station agents lived during the 1920s.
Historic interpreters will also give guided tours inside the iconic and newly restored grain elevators.
Families are welcome to enjoy children’s activities and performers. There will be food vendors on site as well.
The St. Albert Grain Elevator Park is located at 4 Meadowview Dr.
Call the Musée Héritage Museum at 780-459-1528 for more information.

The Michif Cultural and Resources Institute is also celebrating the day. Visitors can drop by the Métis Living Museum and experience live entertainment and taste fresh bannock and jam before exploring the museum.
The site is located in historic Juneau House at 9 Mission Ave.
Call 780-651-8176 for more information.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.