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Valour Park gears up for military vehicle display in St. Albert

Arts and Heritage Foundation's Father's Day event exhibits up to 20 vintage military vehicles operated from Second World War to present day

Some dads get tools for Father’s Day. Others go golfing or receive gift certificates to download music. But what if you could put a smile on Dad’s face by giving him the ultimate gift — posing beside a military tank or in the driver’s seat of a convoy truck.

The Arts and Heritage Foundation (AHF) of St. Albert has partnered with Valour Park Association to display up to 20 vintage military vehicles at the city’s Historic River Lots and Grain Elevators on Sunday, June 16. 

AHF traditionally presents history-based events from St. Albert and Sturgeon County's past. However, this is the first time AHF hosts an event with an international military focus. 

“We’ve been talking with Valour Park since 2022. Timing is everything and with D-Day celebrations, it was a great opportunity to work with them,” said Ann Ramsden, AHF executive director. 

Ramsden refers to the 80th anniversary honouring the original D-Day battle where Allied leaders including Prime Minister Trudeau and veterans converged in France to honour the fallen. It was June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy, attacking and repelling the German High Command. 

The Valour Park Association is a non-profit group of volunteers dedicated to restoring and preserving Canada's decommissioned military vehicles, equipment and accessories. 

“We look to display where people can visit and learn about Canadian history,” said Scott Collacutt, director of Valour Park Association. He is heavily invested in securing a 40,000-square-foot building at Villeneuve that would function as a museum and test track for the association’s vast collection. 

Collacutt retired as Master Corporal in 2001 after 21 years of service in the military. He was dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from a tour in the Balkans and Bosnia. 

“We were starting the cleanup in Sarajevo and recovering bodies in mass graves. As soldiers, we were trained to go to war. But we were not prepared for the civilian casualties — seeing children and the elderly murdered.” 

Today, he volunteers close to 60 hours a week at the museum. As he fixes and finds a home for each vehicle, it brings back memories of the close camaraderie and bonds soldiers developed in the field. 

“I restore vehicles and in putting something broken back together again, I’m fixing myself in the process. We find it very therapeutic. We bring something broken back to life and it tells a story.” 

The retired Master Corporal provided a sampling of five vehicles that will be on display. One of the more prominent vehicles will be the Deuce-and-a-Half truck. This workhorse carries two-and-one-half tons of material rolling with equal ease on asphalt, gravel, and mud-rutted roads. 

“It was used during the Korean War to carry food, supplies, water, fuel and troops,” Collacutt said. 

Another workhorse is a 1942 Willys Jeep that developed a reputation for toughness, durability and versatility. It was used in every aspect of the war from messaging to pulling trailers carrying anti-tank guns. 

“This one was an airborne jeep. Similar ones to this one landed on D-Day. They were brought in by landing crafts and gliders and unloaded.” 

In more recent years, a Swedish company designed the Hagglund BV206, an amphibious vehicle running on tracks that operates during wartime operations and peacetime events. 

“It can float. It has a light footprint, and it’s one of the most environmentally friendly vehicles on the planet. Firefighters were even using it during the Fort McMurray fires.” 

Germany’s ILTIS (German for Polecat) Jeep has a Canadian connection after Bombardier received the rights to manufacture it in the mid-1980s. It served in the military up to the 2000s where it was deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. 

“It was a reconnaissance vehicle where you could keep your eye on the enemy and report back.” 

The boxy LSVW, a light support vehicle, was used by all combat arms to transport supplies, cargo, troops and parts. 

“You could turn it into an office and relay command instructions. It was a communication centre with maps and information where senior officials could sit in the back and direct troops. There were a variety of things it could do. It was a water hauler and an equipment hauler.” 

Trained as a soldier first and a peacekeeper second, Collacut quickly points out that although vehicles carried battle equipment, they also transported troops and materials to build schools. 

“It was important to project Canadian values and that there was someone out there who valued other people.”  

AHF is issuing a sound alert since a military cannon will fire blank ammunition at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. 

This Canadian military themed event is also an opportunity to tour the historic homes and grain elevators. In addition, a beer tent and three food trucks will be on site. 

This free Father’s Day event runs on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 4 Meadowview Drive. 

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