Canada Day is more than just a day off of work, or at least it should be. It’s the one day out of the entire calendar when everyone gets offered the chance to reflect on why this country is good, why it’s great, what still needs to be fixed, and even why it became a country in the first place.
Granted, there is no shortage of topics of discussion for each of those items.
The good news is that there is a plethora of activities and events taking place throughout the city to help the citizenry to come together and celebrate our collective heritage in myriad ways.
Before the fireworks take over the night, Arts and Heritage St. Albert has a day filled with family fun at three prominent and historically important locations.
“All three of the heritage sites are open that day,” said Shari Strachan, the director of the Musée Héritage Museum, referring to the Grain Elevator Park, the Father Lacombe Chapel, and Little White School.
These significant pieces of architecture are vital pieces of our culture, but that doesn’t make them museum pieces. They are vastly popular centres for school groups, for tourists, for history nerds and for festival goers, and for all occasions.
“It’s hopping this year with lots of new faces. We’ve had 12 weddings! We actually had someone who was at the food truck event last weekend and they called to say that they’ve got a 60th anniversary. ‘That would be the perfect place for our family because we’re a farming family.'”
“It’s all those kinds of things. It’s really important because it’s for the community. That’s why we have them there.”
She noted that having Canada Day festivities and other events also helps to renew an interest in history.
St. Albert Grain Elevator Park – 4 Meadowview Dr.
Attendees can tour the provincially designated grain elevators, participate in children’s activities, and enjoy the live music provided by buskers courtesy of Innovations Music!
There will be free watermelon and ice cream courtesy of Dairy Queen will be available “to cool everybody off because it looks like it might be warm.”
“We’re going to do scavenger hunts for Dilly Bars.”
Events take place on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Father Lacombe Chapel – Mission Hill, next to the St. Albert Parish
There’s nothing like Canada Day at the oldest building in the province.
“It’s still standing … all wood,” Strachan noted.
Just make sure that you are there to celebrate Dominion Day.
“That’s because that’s when the mission was there!” Strachan exclaimed. “The mission existed before Dominion Day existed. It was there before Canada was a country. We forget how old our community is sometimes. For Western Canada, it’s a significantly old place.”
Dominion Day was the name of the holiday that originally commemorated the formation of the country on July 1, 1867. Of course, the St. Albert mission was established in 1861 and the chapel was the first order of business.
The interpreters will offer special ‘Oh Canada’ tours of Mission Hill and Dominion Day activities for the kids. They will even churn up some of their famous homemade ice cream.
Events take place on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Little White School – 2 Madonna Dr.
Everybody loves the old school on the hill, especially on July 1 when school is out and cookies are in. Kids can take part in maple leaf cookie decorating, as well as fun art activities and face painting from noon to 4 p.m.
There will also be a little bit of an historical reenactment too, something that seems to be gathering steam especially as our flag celebrates its 50th anniversary.
“We’re doing our annual Great Flag debate where kids or adults talk about 1964 to 1965 when they were debating what flag Canada would have. They just squeezed it in. There were a lot of submissions! A lot of them did have the maple leaf but some were a blue maple leaf with a white background. Lots of interesting things.”
There will be prizes for different age categories for the debaters.
People can call the museum at 780-459-1528 or visit www.museeheritage.ca for more information.
Elsewhere around the city
There are other activities going on at all corners of St. Albert. There’s a pancake breakfast at école la Mission from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. plus bannock and berries from noon to 4 p.m. at the Métis Living Museum, 9 Mission Ave.
People can play in the Woodlands Splash Park and get free popsicles from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then go down the road to get strawberries, cake and ice cream at the St. Albert Botanic Park, 265 Sturgeon Rd. In Grandin, there are water smart activities at the Grosvenor Outdoor Pool from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Down at the Rotary Park in Riel Park, there will be oodles of fun things for families with kids to do from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Don’t forget the fireworks display starting at 11 p.m., weather permitting of course. Visit www.stalbert.ca for all details.
At the legislature grounds
If you’re looking to hit the capital city for the day’s festivities, then the Alberta legislature should be your prime destination. It has more than just 30 points of historic and cultural interest around the landsite, not to mention the big marble Beaux Arts building itself.
“Everyone is invited to the Alberta legislature on Canada Day to celebrate all the things that make our great nation united, strong and free,” said Robert E. Wanner, Speaker of the Alberta Legislative Assembly, in a prepared statement.
“Canada Day serves as a reminder to all of us of our good fortune as a nation and as Albertans.”
As the nation puts 148 candles on its birthday cake, the province is putting on a party to honour its place and highlight what makes Alberta unique at the same time. In fact, the day has “Alberta” written all over it.
There will programs going on at the legislature grounds from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with three main performance areas and more than 20 live acts to enjoy. Some of the province’s top music and dance talent will perform on the aptly named Alberta Diversity and Alberta Discovered stages, the latter of which will be hosted by CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence. The music starts at 12:40 p.m. and will last until 7 p.m.
There’s also the Alberta Family fun zone, located on the south grounds, which will have fun and educational pursuits including music, comedy, puppetry, arts and crafts and more for kids and their parents as they await musical performances and appearances by their favourite CBC kids’ characters.
The 21-gun salute will take place on the west side of the building at noon, which will immediately precede the welcome ceremony on the front steps. That’s where the Royal Canadian Artillery Band will perform their signature musical program.
From 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., attendees can enjoy the open house. They can explore the historic building, learn more about its amazing architecture and even check out where their MLAs sit on the chamber floor.
The visitor centre will be open during the same timeframe. Located on the main floor of the historic and newly reopened Federal Building, its featured spaces include the Pehonan Theatre, the Agora Interpretive Centre and the Alberta Branded gift shop.
There will also be a retinue of roving performers to help keep everyone entertained and approximately 40 food vendors will also be stationed around the grounds. The Lord Strathcona House will host an exhibit of military gear and vehicles at one location.
Parking on site and on nearby streets will be extremely limited. Public transportation to the grounds is recommended. A free bicycle lot will be available, courtesy of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society.
More details can be found online at www.assembly.ab.ca/canadaday.
Of course, being at the legislature also gives you a perfect front row seat for the city of Edmonton’s fireworks display, set to go off at 11 p.m., timed perfectly for the lighting of the High Level Bridge with 55,000 LED lights.
There are numerous other events going on in E-town. People can check them all out here: www.edmonton.ca/attractions_events/celebrate-canada-day-in-edmonton.aspx.