Thursday, May 8

CBK Radio 540 Watrous Building Rich with Memories from Another Era

For most listeners of CBC Radio 540 in Saskatchewan, the shows produced in Regina come whithout too much thought about how the content ends up on the airwaves, into their home or car radio. Watrous, Saskatchewan is rather omnipresent as the location of the transmitter and tower for CBC's AM band in the province. Most of us know this, but never ask ourselves why the Watrous connection?

I recently had the opportunity to visit the old transmitter building on the edge of Watrous. Behind it sits a much smaller, newer building where the current transmitor is housed. Yet this old "Art Deco" structure from 1929 is of much greater interest. The local heritage society has published a nice write-up on its history.

The original CBK Radio 540 building in Watrous, Saskatchewan.
The transmitter is apparently to this day the most powerful in Canada, because of the flat surroundings and the airwave conductivity of the soil content I am told. I encourage you to visit the virtual tour organized in collaboration with CBC in 2012. The place came with complete radio studios, an announcer's lounge and temporary living quarters, as the photos from the 2012 tour show. I wonder if these temporary living quarters were not the fall-out shelter from the cold war era that was added in the early 1960s? The operation was completely self-sustaining in terms of back-up generator capacity and life-sustaining staples.

The map of Canada on the floor depicts transmitter locations a mosaic of quarter-inch battleship linoleum.
Today's challenges are not that different from those faced in any heritage conservation project. Asbestos decontamination, building envelope integrity, maintenance and safety. Who knows what the future has in store for this remnant of the past in a fast-evolving industry that has shifted squarely to web casting capacity-building. Let's hope as much as possible of this piece of Saskatchewan history can be saved.

Monday, March 24

Historic Wolseley Courthouse Gets New Lease on Life

Photo: Claude-Jean Harel
The Government of Saskatchewan will soon hand over keys to the Wolseley Courthouse to the Town of Wolseley.  The arrangement will see the community turn it into municipal offices and space for community organizations as part of an effort to protect this 119 year old provincially-designated heritage property.

The building ceased operation as a courthouse in 1909, but continued to serve as a public building in the community for many years.  Although the 3,820 square foot building has been vacant for several decades, the building and grounds have been maintained by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Central Services.

The Town of Wolseley has historically played a very active role in the stewardship of its built heritage assets, including the Opera House and the town’s unique swinging bridge. Wolseley is one of the four Main Street Saskatchewan communities chosen as three-year demonstration projects in 2011, along with Maple Creek, Indian  Head and Prince Albert. Tree of these choices have close associations with the Trans-Canada Highway, and premumably were identified as promising locations partly because of their presumed ability to lure drive-through traffic on Highway #1.

It is also worth noting that Wolseley has a long history of successes in municipal beautification and placemaking undertakings which have earned it many accolades over the years. Wolseley was named one of Canada's prettiest, most historic towns by Harrowsmith Country Life in 2000

The Wolseley Heritage Foundation has proposed three key phases to the Courthouse building rejuvenation initiative:
  • the revitalization of the exterior of the Wolseley Courthouse;
  • the rehabilitation of the interior of the building making it ready for occupancy; and 
  • the move of the municipal government offices and public spaces into the courthouse.

“This is a significant undertaking for our community,” Wolseley Mayor Dennis Fjestad said.  “The Courthouse testifies to the tremendous optimism and forward thinking shared with our first settlers.  Once again we have the opportunity to demonstrate that pioneer spirit.  Acquisition of heritage property carries with it both pride and responsibility.  It creates a great potential for future use of our historic Courthouse and represents a strong commitment for the preservation of our past.”

A joint effort between the Town of Wolseley, the Wolseley Heritage Foundation and the province will help cover the costs of the restoration.  The town has agreed to provide $300,000 and the Wolseley Heritage Foundation has committed to raising $218,000.  Central Services will provide funds of $100,000 a year for three years to help bring the building back up to standards.

Photo: Claude-Jean Harel
Built in 1894-1895, the Wolseley Courthouse is the oldest existing courthouse building in Saskatchewan and the only one built during the era of the Territorial Government.

(written and edited using files from Central Services Communications)

Monday, March 17

Dogsledding Interpretation Gets Creative at RCMP Heritage Centre

Brad Muir (l) and Joel Potié of Sundogs Sled Excursions introduce of of their star Alaskan Huskies.

One would think the RCMP Heritage Centre might face significant hurdles in bringing to life the role dogsledding played historically, as a means of transportation in its more remote detachments. Let's face it, kennels are quite a different matter to manage onsite in a museum setting. Who would prepare the food, feed the dogs and pick all that smelly stuff that comes out the other end? Call it a stroke of genius or just plain common sense, for Sundogs Sled Excursions' and veteran Parks Canada interpreter Brad Muir, developing a game to convey to kids what the amount of work keeping sled dogs really is like, is nothing short of brilliant.

Brad and his guide partner Joel Potié had kids racing around the room with magnum-sized "pooper-scoopers" recently at the RCMP Heritage Centre, as part of the Journées du Patrimoine that was put on for francophone and French immersion students from around Regina. This certainly was a cool way to introduce these young budding adventure travellers to what it's like to drive a dog team. Joel explained to everyone in French what different parts of the sled were from harness configuration to breaking systems, so passengers, guide and dog team get to travel safely along snowy northern trails. That is where these would-be mushers would have to normally go to meet Brad and Joel in action on their staging grounds in Christopher Lake, just north of Prince-Albert. 

Until the time comes, let's just settle in earnest for one of Brad's favourite sayings: "Long may you run!"

Saturday, March 15

Heritage Properties as Meeting Event Venue

St.John's Anglican Cathedral in Saskatoon may well have become one of the beloved buildings of Saskatchewan's heritage community since the local congregation undertook a major conservation projet a few years ago that would help ensure the building is safe an sound for at least another 100 years. The preservation work inside and outside the building may have initially been carried out in the context of its centennial celebrations in 2012, but the exercice itself ended up having much deeper consequences on the people who call this place of worship theirs.

When people get together to raise funds for restauration projects, they start asking themselves who they can ask for help, what partnerships can they envisage to make it happen. They create teams and work as teams to sollicit support, advice and find the necessary expertise. In the process, the congregation becomes stronger and recruits new friends, possibly even... new members. A renewed sense of belonging emerges and contributes to sustaining the momentum. Well, that is the kind of story that resonates and speaks of success, that makes St. John's all the more attractive as a venue for events -- especially those events that celebrate heritage conservation achievements -- such as those held during Heritage Week.

Heritage properties contribute immensely to a community's sense of place. They nurture its pride. When a heritage property is suitable as event venue in its current form, with volunteers, space and exceptional accoustics, then it can do much more for a community. It becomes part of a community's tourism capacity, it can impart that local flavour to meetings and conferences, aspects inherently tied to program development potential.

In an age when the value of walkable cities and neighbourhoods become increasingly attractive to event planners looking for innovation and personalized programs, centrally-located  heritage properties that come with a wide range of human resources and connections are more likely to rise to the top as preferred choices.

Thursday, March 13

Clydesdales Make Laval Winter Carnival Standout

They were lining up to go for a ride at Regina's Laval high school pavillion in North Regina this weekend. That's what it was like all afternoonon this this fine early March saturday, welcome relief after a lenghty cold spell. And while some Carnival participants focused on their snow sculpture creations, others couldn't wait to get on Harvey McFarlane's wagon, pulled by his Sanguine Clydes.

Harvey has always been a bit of a story teller and very few children say no to an invitation to sit in the front with him and take the reins for a moment.

Some kids -- well only one actually -- even get to drive the Clydesdales without the wagon. That's Harvey's granddaughter.

Harvey tells me Jordan has been showing his horses since she was three. It's not hard to believe when one looks at her go.

Let's hope Jordan keeps honing her skills for a few more years yet. An old tradition becomes young again when the young ones take it on as their own!

Thursday, February 13

Peak 2 Peak BASE Jump in Whistler Apparently Leads to Women's Arrest

The young woman featured in this video probably didn't expect this much trouble when she allowed a BASE jumper to film her as he exited the gondola he had boarded with her a few minutes earlier, before exiting through flight. Unfortunately, it appears the gondola's door sustained significant damage as a result of the stunt, and the RCMP has made an arrest, according to a CBC report.

Living dangerously may have its charm, but sometimes charm bears a price higher than one would consider afforbable, especially when one's life is at stake. This time fortunately, it seems the price will be limited to a court appearance and its consequences for those involved.

Friday, January 3

Colorado's Breckenridge Resort - A Real Town

Funny how that is the first thing Breckenridge Resort Chamber's Rachel Zerowin said when I asked her to describe this charming tourism destination:"It's a real town". It certainly feels like it.

First, it was a gold mining settlement on the American Frontier. By the time mining activities tapered somewhat, a community had established itself in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, right in the middle of a triangle between Vail to the West, Denver to the Northeast and Colorado Springs to the Southeast.

With a permanent resident population of roughly 3,500, the place has become a World-class winter sports destination that can attract up to 40,000 people during major events.

I liked Brekenridge, its mining heritage appeal and the local hospitality. I'll be sure to go back in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, November 12

Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation Announces New Manager

REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN - November 4, 2013 -- The Board of Directors of the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation (SHF) are pleased to announce the appointment of Kyle Franz as Manager of the Foundation. Franz is originally from Brooks, Alta., where he has accumulated considerable experience in heritage research and stewardship.

Until recently Franz was a Teaching Fellow at Queen’s University, earning accolades from students and peers. He has published peer-reviewed articles and was awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for his research. He recently received the Alberta Centennial Medal, awarded to those who have positively influenced their community and the well-being of their fellow citizens.

“To be part of a team that values the connection between heritage and quality of life is exciting,” Franz said. “I am eager to start meeting folks and finding ways the Foundation can partner with them to make a difference in their communities.”

One of Franz’s key assignments will be to implement the Strategic Review developed by the SHF and tabled about two years ago.

“The Foundation has been mandated, through the Heritage Property Act, to play an effective role in fostering a culture of heritage conservation in Saskatchewan,” SHF Board Chair Wes Moore said. “Our board welcomes Kyle’s appointment as an opportunity to fulfill the SHF’s mission and vision resulting from the strategic direction identified by the Board for the benefit of Saskatchewan residents and the communities in which they live.”

The SHF is an agent of the Crown created by provincial legislation and directed by a board appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. Established as a major support agency for heritage conservation and development, the mandate of the SHF is to provide financial support to heritage projects at the provincial and community level that seek to conserve, research, interpret, develop and promote Saskatchewan's diverse heritage resources.

For more information, contact:

Suzanne Pambrun
Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation Ph: 306.787.2105


Friday, October 25

Halloween Is More Fun Out In The Country

The growing density of population in urban areas may be one of the reasons why most of the commercially available Halloween-themed activities today seem to take place in rural settings. This observation stems from personal experience.

Yes, city dwellers do go all out decorating their homes with all kinds of manufactured props and visually-stunning displays that light up. But when it comes to activities outside of Trick-or-treating on Halloween night, farms and country business are where the real creativity emerges. From corn maizes to hay rides, the "natural" home of garden products carries the flag with eloquent success it seems.

It is the nature of tourism activities to offer consumers a change of pace and place at an attractive price. If you live in a city, being able to enjoy the woody smells of fall leaf carpets is a welcome replacement for the other less enticing whiffs that are usually found in denser settings.

So be it, get out of town and make the best of Halloween. Move under the umbrella of rural authenticity and have loads of scary Halloween fun!

Tuesday, October 15

Tourism On The Mend in Colorado's Estes Park

Aspen Lodge and SPA wrangler Ryan Fling at work on the trail in 2010.
Last month's heavy rains may have dealt a near catastrophic blow to a number of tourism operations in and around Estes Park, but there are increasing signs that business is slowly returning to normal. October is Prime Time for visitors who usually come to this gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to experience fall colors and elk spotting. Media reports say as many as 10,000 visitor  were ushered through Park gates this weekend. Washed out roads and the Federal government's shutdown made for a perfect storm. Fortunately, RMNP officially re-opened this weekend, and the flow of tourism revenues should start trickling in at least for some area businesses.

One of those tourism operations that is likely to take longer to recover is Aspen Lodge Resort and Spa. This well-known establishment suffered greatly as a result of a mudslide which landed right in the parking lot of the main lodge, disturbing critical utilities infrastructure like the freshwater supply. Getting the Lodge back to market-readiness is likely to take many months.

The historic Aspen Lodge Livery in 2010
The Lodge's livery took a heavy blow when it was blanketed in mud. All the horses escaped. One draft horse which ended up buried in mud up to its hips, according to media reports, was rescued by a crane operator who happened to be in the area. Out of the sorrow resulting from the damage, some positive stories are emerging.

Inside view the heritage Livery building before the mudslide
I was lucky enough to capture a trail ride experience at Aspen Lodge on video in 2010, during a fall tour operator inspection trip. It shows a landscape that must look quite different now than it looked like then. But nature is strong. It will reshape itself, once again, to perfection.

Monday, September 23

Built Heritage Rules in Charlottetown

Beaconsfield Historic House
They say great things come in small packages. It is hard to imagine a more vivid example than Charlottetown. This smallest of Canadian provincial capitals (population 34,000) resonates differently in the hearts of different people. Many Canadians see Charlottetown as the birthplace of Canada. Quebecers think of Charlottetown as a great day-trip from Cavendish Beach during their summer holidays. For a growing number of cruise ship tourists, Charlottetown is a great destination to visit on their cruise through the Maritimes.

Prince Edward Battery
Charlottetown does have a rich history in that its first European settlers originated from French held Louisbourg Fortress on Cape Breton Island. They built Port-La-Joye on this site in 1720. It was the first of a succession of events, which led to present-day Charlottetown. Is because the city hosted the Charlottetown Conference in 1864 that would result in the signing of Canada's Confederation that the people here seem rather keen to preserve their built heritage? Or is is because buildings here on this island landscape tend to occupy a more significant surface area of the viewshed than one might perhaps perceive in a more mountainous terrain? Hard to tell. However, Built heritage seems to matter here.
Historic church built with local pink sandstone
The pink sandstone harvested from the cliffs lining Charlottetown's harbour are particularly striking. Sadly, the sandstone is also vulnerable to the climate, often requiring replacement long before the mortar which binds the blocks together into magnificent structures.

One of many eminently walkable streets, downtown Charlottetown
What also works in Charlottetown's favour is that wherever you go, there are trails for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy a sense of place that is found nowhere else in Canada. It is a place for reflection, for discovery and for understanding what makes places and small cities great!

Sunday, September 15

Worth Exploring: Life is Good in Rimouski

Rimouski in the background, where the Rimouski River meets the St. Lawrence. This salmon river is very dear to the City's inhabitants, with designated walking and cycling trails on each bank.
Rimouski tends to be a pleasant surprise for first time visitors who are more comfortable speaking English than French. It may be the hospitality of the predominantly French-speaking population that wins them over first, but the wilderness character of the urban surroundings is often what finally makes loyal fans of unsuspecting visitors.

There are nearly 50 kilometers of bike paths around town, the vast majority of which are paved. They are sometimes shared with pedestrians and vehicles, but often exclusively available to cyclists, along some of the City's most magnificent venues, including a seaside grand promenade featuring double-decker observatories shaped like ocean liner decks. With only 48,000 inhabitants to drive their development, that's quite an achievement.

Located on the St. Lawrence River, about a 5-hour drive north-east of Montreal, Rimouski boats a University and a number of other post-secondary institutions that make it attractive as an education centre. It's also known as a service centre that values entrepreneurship.

Local residents are proud to note that Rimouski is a great place to retire, especially if you plan to remain active in a more outdoorsy kind of way than perhaps you have been in the past. The best way to verify this to go for a visit first. Fall is a particularly good time to do this -- the fall colors will await you when you are ready.

Saturday, September 14

Public Perception of Rail Transportation Companies Might Benefit From Fresh Approach

If the tragedy at Lac Mégantic this summer, and the recent derailments in Calgary, have brought much attention to regulatory practices in the rail transportation sector -- shaking the foundations of how railway activities are perceived in the eyes of the public -- not much has been said in the media of rail companies' efforts to interpret their role in weaving the fabric of Canada over the years.

Until this summer, unless one does business with CP, the average Canadian's goodwill toward Canadian Pacific was pretty much influenced by a general awareness that CP is one of a few major players in Canadian rail transportation which have made the settlement and economic development of our country possible.

CP's Holiday Train comes through town around Christmas time, raising food, money and awareness for food banks in communities across Canada, bringing Christmas cheers and appreciative visitors each time.

For years, the Canadian Pacific Archives have helped researchers, writers and journalists gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of communications and transportation networks. Let's face it, railways played a critical role in shaping villages, towns and cities everywhere north of the 49th, to various degrees. The original city plan for Regina, Saskatchewan, was actually drafted by a CPR surveyor. From 1883 onwards, the city was effectively built as a settlement and economic growth mechanism, in symbiosis with the CPR main line that crossed it.

The fact is, as road and air transportation networks evolved, and rail networks shrunk - especially in the Great Plains - so has Canadians' awareness levels of the role of rail in their lives.

Canadian National (CN), in particular, has undertaken to reverse that course, by spearheading a drive to raise awareness of the role it plays for a number of reasons. First, educating the public about things like career opportunities in the company, has a positive influence on staff recruitment efforts and the availability of rail transportation training. Secondly, sharing how CN makes a difference environmentally, socially and economically in the communities where the railway operates, has a direct impact on how the CN brand is perceived. Thirdly, investors will be attracted to a vehicle that will generate revenue while remaining an exemplary corporate citizen more, than by one that is under regular public scrutiny.

Explaining to members of the public how railway activities today influence their quality of life, their livelihood and their ability to succeed in their careers, as members of their community, should be the preferred course in an economy that is more than ever emphasizing the need for beneficial and responsible business practices. Telling that story well, consistently and in a manner that resonates with Canadians is likely to become the path of choice from here on.

Monday, September 2

In the Northwest Territories, even domestic tourists are long-haul

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Photo: Northwest Territories Tourism

With the Japanese market down these days, it is not surprising that Northwest Territories Tourism (NWT) director of marketing Ron Ostrom is looking elsewhere for growth. He finds solace that demand for outdoor adventures from German-speaking Europe is going strong, but the largest number of people coming to the NWT continues to be from Canada, followed by travellers from the US, Japan and Germany.

“In Canada, people come from Alberta, British Columbia and then Ontario,” Ostrum points out, while hinting at a renewed interest in the North as a result of the 2007 Canada Winter Games held in Whitehorse (a collaboration between Nunavut, the NWT and Yukon), which generated huge media exposure. “Border traffic was up this year for the first time in a while; people are actually driving up and checking things out. Our outdoor adventure market is definitely growing here as well. Because everything is long-haul coming here, the average visitor stay is usually a week. It may vary for business travellers,” he points out. “They make up a valuable segment of the industry, even if much of that is just the hotel stays. We are working harder to get people to stay longer and do more things.”

Ostrom says many visitors to the NWT often fly into Yukon, rent a vehicle and drive the Dempster highway to Inuvik. “It is a really big draw for us. Once they are here, Nahanni National Park and Fort Simpson have much appeal. Hay River is another popular destination, as is Wood Buffalo National Park on the south side of Great Slave Lake.”

Tourism is fast evolving in the NWT, according to Ostrom. “This past year was down a little, but overall it is growing. $100 million comes into the tourism industry here each year, which is considerable given our population of only 40,000 people. Budgets are increasing for marketing and tourism product development; there is a lot going on, but obviously - because we have diamond mining and oil and gas - the industry is still not a top priority.”

Outdoor adventure and business markets have the greatest potential, he says. “Aurora tourism is well suited for the domestic market, and it is starting to expand now to North America.” Ostrom is concentrating marketing efforts especially in Alberta.

Northwest Territories Tourism is putting greater emphasis on high yield markets, he explains, “because of the cost of vacations up here. We have been going after the wealthy boomers and the active escapist market in some key geographic pockets in Toronto, Los Angeles and New York.”

Not surprisingly, this coincides with some of the Canadian Tourism Commission targets. “We are coming in after the CTC campaigns to capitalize on some of the exposure the CTC is already getting, but we develop our own print and web advertising.”

Saskatchewan's Regional Park Model Provides Food for Thought

Having spent a significant portion of my summer at Dunnet Regional Park just south of Avonlea, I realized how significant this resource is for the surrounding communities. It turns out the park means a lot for area residents who use it to capacity summer after summer.

The co-managed regional parks require the collaboration of local municipalities and provincial authorities to provide camping, resource stewardship and revenue-generating mechanism that will ensure their sustainability for future generations.

Essentially, regional parks are economically socially and environtally responsible operations. They benefit local residents by providing them a place of leisure, they certainly at prevent harming the environment in the sense that the intensity of their use is monitored by authorities. There are now recycling programs in place in many locations. And, the parts create summer jobs for local residents. That works too.

Travel Trade: Revisit how you approach the Youth Market

(Originally published in TOURISM)

Martin Cash of the Winnipeg Free Press writes: "The first clue that you're not cool is when you try to tell young prospective customers that you or your product is cool," and "The next clue is when you try to figure out what's not cool about it."

Cash's article (Don't say it's cool; ask them) refers to an address by Doyle Buehler, founder of Winnipeg's myTEGO Inc, given at a meeting of the Advertising Association of Winnipeg. He says many companies have to throw out what they thought they knew about marketing and go for an emotional approach: "You have to immerse yourself in the youth culture. Get them to describe your product or your service. Listen to what they have to say about your company." Buehler stresses that young people are not impressed by who you are or where you're coming from; they care about how your product will affect them.

Ogema's Sala Italia: Gastronomical Discovery in Rural Saskatchewan

My family came across a rather unexpected discovery this summer while travelling to Ogema in Southeastern Saskatchewan. Sala Italia opened up on August 3, 2013. They are not quite listed on the town's website, yet. They had just opened when my wife and I stopped in to check it out. The owners are a local couple with quite the history. He is originally from Italy and she was raised locally, lived in Italy for three years, learned Italian and fell in love with the person who would become her business partner. What a team!

They acquired an old quonset building. Her father being a drywaller, did a fantastic remodelling job. Perhaps I should tell you what they offer. They make lovely italian sausages using lamb or pork casings. We ended up coming home with four kilos of of fresh truffle oil & fennel sausage. When we showed up, they offered us a freshly-ground cup of Italian coffee -- which they import -- while they prepared our order.  When we got home, I believe we were the only family in Regina eating this fresh an Italian sausage that night... unless someone else makes them too.

Their plans are to start offering them to a few of Regina's finer restaurants in the near future. They also hope to start offering take-out Italian pizzas as well. Pizzas with fewer toppings perhaps, but with truly flavorful themes. We anticipate being back in Ogema for these in the very near future.

Hospitality with character in Igloolik, Nunavut

Elijah Evaluarjuk proudly displays the narwhal tusk his son gave him, from an animal he hunted.
Anyone who has spent quality time in Canada’s Arctic will appreciate the challenges of running a hotel in a remote setting. It takes determination, and Elijah Evaluarjuk has loads of it. He is the owner of the Tujurmivik Hotel in Igloolik, Nunavut.

“Tujurmivik means 'a place to stay' in Inuktitut,” he explains. “My father started the hotel in 1970 and I started helping him out. He served four terms as an MLA with the Legislature in the NWT days. He needed somebody to take care of the hotel, so in 1985, I quit my job with the municipal government and went to work for him.”

What Elijah didn’t expect was that his father would pass away prematurely in 2002. Suddenly, Elijah found himself in the driver’s seat.

“Cost is a very big thing here. We don’t have roads like in southern Canada. We get our produce by air. Every week we order from a supplier near Montréal. You have to plan ahead. We try to get most of our supplies like dry and canned goods on Sealift, a ship that comes once a year. We make sure that as much of the everyday supplies we need are ordered through that service; enough to last us the whole year.”

I met Elijah at the Aboriginal Tourism Canada Conference in Québec City earlier this year. He is a quiet, friendly man with a generous nature. The way he wears his handcrafted sealskin tie says lots about how he values his Inuit heritage. He is not alone: 95% of Igloolik’s 1600 residents speak Inuktitut. The town is located on a small island just off the Melville Peninsula, to the west of Baffin Island. Igloolik means "a place with houses", probably because of the sod houses Elijah’s ancestors used to build there. “Igloolik is probably one of the oldest communities in Nunavut, dating back 4,000 years,” he proudly claims.

Not surprisingly, the Tujurmikik Hotel had humble beginnings. Elijah recalls: “There were these two old hostel buildings. One was a cookhouse; the other was just rooms with honey buckets (5‑gallon pails with a toilet seat, common in the arctic to this day). We didn’t have flush toilets. We started renovating the place; there are 8 rooms in the hotel now so we can take 15 people all at once. There is a dining room and a nice lounge where our guests can watch TV. We try to make it home away from home.

“We hung these old black and white photos I had from the early 20th century in each room. There is a big Ulu (a women’s knife) hanging on the wall in the dining room. It is a king‑sized one made out of tin. In December, narwhal come close by (about 25 miles north from here) and there are many carved narwhal tusks around. I bought a tusk and I’m going to hang it on the wall so people can see it.”

When the Nunavut government was created in 1999 (the territorial boundaries were set in 1993), and Iqaluit established as the capital, it was decided that instead of having just one location for government offices, they should be decentralized. This is how Igloolik came to be one of the 10 communities where government offices are located, explains Elijah. “We have 5 or 6 departments in Igloolik. But our biggest market is construction workers, usually in the fall. We bring in trades people like electricians and plumbers. Many will stay in our hotel from the beginning of September until Christmas. Plus, we get a lot of government guests and sports hunters (for walrus and polar bear in the spring).

“I have 8 people on my staff. One of my cousins is our chef. My brother works part time here, as does my 12‑year‑old daughter during the summer. I let her work for three hours a week to get the experience. That is how I started in the business when I was 13 years old. I was mopping the floor. I have five kids ranging in age from 5 to 18 years old (3 boys and 2 girls) and 3 of them are adopted. Part of our tradition is to adopt children from relatives; two of my adopted ones are from my sister and one of our daughters is adopted from my wife’s side of the family. It doesn’t have to be from our relatives, but it happens a lot.”

Elijah Evaluarjuk says many people from other Arctic communities look up to Igloolik for the way it is preserving its language and culture. Just call the hotel and you will be greeted in Inuktitut. Elijah is hoping to capitalize on that heritage more and more.

“There are many talented artists and good carvers here. We could develop more tourism products. We have such wildlife, and waters are close by. That is why a long time ago people came to settle here; it was easy living off the land. When guests who come here for business want to stay a little longer, we take them out for day trips to different sites, either by snowmobile or dog sled.”

Finding a local outfitter may involve a little creativity: “When sports hunters come in, sometimes an announcement is made at the local radio station. Anybody who wants to do some guiding or take a dog team out is invited to come forward. From the list of those who answer, suppliers are selected to take them out. Starting in April, we can take people out to the floe edge in 30 to 45 minutes—this is where the water stays open all year around—to wait for the seals to come up. We can use snowmobiles until the middle of June. And then, the snow gets in again at the end of September or at the beginning of October.”

After a day out on the land, guests are invited to sample some of the local treats: “We can serve walrus or seal meat. We wouldn’t necessarily cook it at the hotel, but we can make that available upon request. Our dining room is only open for our guests, but every Friday we are open to the public for breakfast. And just last year, we started pizza delivery in town and that is going over very well.”

Not just any ordinary pizza; arctic char pizza. You see, for the longest time the Tujurmivik Hotel was the only game in town, until a few years ago when the local Co‑op also opened a hotel.

“There are now two hotels in town. What makes a difference for us when it comes to marketing is word‑of‑mouth. We have clients that have stayed with us (since) 25‑30 years ago. They always stay with us regardless of whether there is another hotel in town. I just did a lot of work last summer fixing up the rooms, new paint job, new carpet. I think my father would be happy to see how we are keeping the hotel running.”

There is comfort in knowing that even north of the 69th, success in the hospitality sector still hinges on an operator’s ability to seize new market opportunities without losing sight of the business’ root values. There are a few wisdoms worth exploring at Igloolik’s Tujurmivik Hotel.

Sunday, September 1

Customer Service First and Foremost at Donnelly's Minnitaki Lodge

I will admit up front that I am a distant relative of the Lodge owners through marriage, from Saskatchewan. Having witnessed on a number of occasions the level of commitment the family invests in the culture of hospitality that is at the heart of what guests experience daily, I am truly in awe of this place. I would never hesitate to describe their customer service practices as exemplary. Donnelly family members tell me their secret is they treat guests like family coming home for the holidays. The number of repeat guests over decades and across generations, litterally, attests to the quality of their "Canadian" experience. Having quizzed a number American guests recently about their attachment to Donnelly's Minnitaki Lodge, I have to come to realize that coming here has become over time their quintessential "Canadian" holiday. I believe that says a lot!

The Forks in Winnipeg - Manitoba, Canada

There is no doubt in my mind that Winnipeg has much to offer visitors seeking authenticity. This city at the fork of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers played a historic role in opening up what used to me called Rupert's Land, from the days of the fur trade to those of railway development, prairie settlement and commerce. What I particularly like about Winnipeg is the way the local tourism industry harnesses that authentic character and renders into themes suitable for business meetings and events. The way Winnipeg events themselves seem inspired by local culture and natural history -- essentially Winnipeg's Sense of place -- ensure that Èfeu sacré" is there"

My personal favourite is the Festival du Voyageur organized each winter by Saint-Boniface's francophone community. A vivid two-week party where music, dance, celebration of traditions through traditional skills give a special flavour to the entire city of Winnipeg during that window. February is the month!

Charlottetown: The Perfect Filet at Water Street Fish & Chips

Check out Water Street Fish & Chips when in Charlottetown, PEI.


A 6 ounce filet of halibut with home fries, served the traditional way, on print. The perfect conclusion to a great day spent exploring Charlottetown (PEI), one of the most truly charming cities of Canada.

Saturday, August 31

Feeding Practice of Bear Safari Business Sent the Wrong Message

Screen capture of CBC story image on MSNBC story
The story about a safari operator in New Brunswick who is hand-feeding black bear as part of the tours he offers made it around the world before it was reported on CBC that he would stop the practice, after a wildlife biologist described it as "asinine" and dangerous. It is the right thing to do.

We teach our children not to feed wild animals. What message does it send in an age when travellers want to make a difference in their choice of activities during their holidays. What questions do travellers ask themselves? How does this practice benefit the local community? Presumably, this brings revenue for a local entrepreneur and perhaps for those who provide them food and accommodation services for the duration of their stay.

The practice benefits the community economically, but only marginally at a social level.  From a fairly universally agreed upon principle expressing the need to keep wild animals wild because wild animals fear humans -- and animals who are used to humans don't -- this practice sends the wrong message.

Lastly, from an environmental perspective, the practice also sends the wrong message because it ultimately puts the bear's lives at risk. A bear who is used to humans will learn to come to them first in times of need.

People in different places think of bear differently. Some think of them as scavengers who visit the dump to feed and destroy crops in the fall to do the same. It's is true. They can be pests to some, and seem like pets to others. I prefer viewing bear in the wild. I believe that's when they look their best. From a tourism branding perspective, it is also a more attractive product.

Camping in Alberta: Albertans Take Advantage of Summer's Last Long Weekend

Children playing in the public fountain downtown Drumheller

There is a good likelihood that Albertans are taking advantage of summer's last long weekend right now by going camping. The current hot spell takes away from the need to plan for fall, and CBC is reporting that despite the short availability of campsites in the most popular of the province's campgrounds, there are likely quite a few more off-the-beaten path locations where last minute campers might just find an ideal spot for them to enjoy.

So enjoy... This isn't going to last forever... Winter is just around the corner!

Harness Racing Touch of Class: Red Shores Racetrack & Casino in Charlottetown

Difficult to ignore a tradition with such deep roots. Harness racing is a big deal on PEI. Everyone has a relative or friend who is in one way or another associated with the industry.

While few trainers manage to earn a full-time living through harness racing, but it is something horse owners, trainers, grooms and drivers are willing to support, because it is part of who they are.

They have a top notch facility at Red Shores, including some rather significant built heritage works.

But it takes more than tradition to build dreams. Red Shores claims to be the first state-of-the-art entertainment facility in Atlantic Canada which combines Harness Racing, Dining and Gaming all under one roof.

Well, there is a lot of truth that claim: excellent food, great live entertainment and off the track -- the budding cruise ship capacity in town is no stranger to the high dreams of success that are rather contagious around here.

Kudos to Charlottetown and to those business leaders in the city who have figured out that authenticity of experience is what every success is made of in tourism.

Granby Zoo Truly Impresses Returning Visitor After A 40-Year Absence

The zebra section at Granby Zoo never ceases to be a hit with children, young and old
Sad to say but it has been that long since I was at the Granby Zoo last, in the early 70s. Growing-up in Quebec, the Zoo was part of the ethos of a generation of children who believed that it had to be the best zoo in the world. Going to visit the zoo as a family was the next best thing to taking a holiday as a family. It likely would get hot, there would be funny animals to look at, a little bit of stench, it would be great!

Well recently, I did that again with my own family. Le Zoo de Granby did not disappoint. My first impression was that this was a "serious" zoo. I guess the zoo expanded over the years, just as my expectations of what a modern-day zoo should be like today had evolved to be. Great facilities, great programs for children and families, and that Amazoo Waterpark just blew me away.

This was more than I expected. When planning a visit to the zoo next time, I will be sure to schedule in a couple of days for a more complete experience. To be honest, it was nice to discover that even adults who can become jaded about going to the zoo, can still find a little bit of childhood in their heart when they travel to Granby.

Sunday, November 25

Regina Mobile Tire: What a Great Concept!

Whether you are a newcomer to Regina or a long-time resident hesitating to leave you motor vehicle for three days on a lot while someone installs your snow tires, give the folk at Regina Mobile Tire a call. They couldn't arrive at a better time in the roadside tire service business.

They say they will look after your tires at home or at work....

We had two vehicles with different needs. We'd heard about Regina Mobile Tire from friends and colleagues who were happy with the services. I wondered if what I had heard was true... that these guys would show up and perform the tasks at hand with the expected level of customer service. Well... It's all true!

I called the night before and booked an appointment for the next morning. They showed up on time, with a better deal than the one we'd agreed upon over the phone.

Regina Mobile Tire switched one set of tires on the first car. They then moved to work on the other vehicle in the garage. These folks have a top of the line balancer, a compressor and all the equipment you'd expect in a tire shop right in their brand new truck.

They work fast and well. They take payment just like the pros would, right on site: major credit cards and debit. You can even book appointments online through their website. They are on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

With their business savvy and their forthcoming attitude to customer service, I figure Regina Mobile Tire has a bright future ahead. I wish them well.

Thursday, November 15

Canadian Western Agribition is next week in Regina

Attending the Canadian Western Agribition has pretty much become an annual pilgrimage in our family. The program has changed so much over the years that I sometimes wonder what the future holds for this quintessential tourism event for Regina.

The draft horse competition is gone but the horse pulls remain, along with the Stock Dog show. New activities have been established, yet the Rodeo event still is an effective lure for those longing for excitement in their NHL-deprived lives these days.

The Agri-Ed Showcase is always a hit with school children, who then ask their parents to take them back to Agribition on the weekend.

Once we have wandered through the barns and trade show portions, after we have looked the international buyers from places as far away as Argentina and Kazakhstan, one of our favorite activities is to enjoy the Team Penning competition. This is a treat every year. There is an eminently palpable cowboy/cowgirl culture on display during this competition that never fails to move me. The audience cheers confirms that others share this sentiment.

Some might argue that Regina weather in mid-November  is not conducive to showcasing the city's best features, but this is a time of the year when there is a sufficient inventory of hotel rooms available to house the out-of-town visitors. When in Saskatchewan, visitors become like locals in any case. Many visit CowTown to get the right gear! We could do worse than to try and instill more of this western spirit throughout the year.

Hey, I think going to Agribition for the day is one of the most meaningful activities one can undertake. It does remind us not only of a critical facet of Saskatchewan's economy, but also of the roots of our farming and ranching communities -- of the expertise agricultural producers in Western Canada have developed since the early days of Plains settlement. First Nations included.

I bet attending this year's edition of Agribition will also provide visitors a chance to take a different look at the new face of Saskatchewan. Agribition is a microcosm of the province in away. Especially when we live in cities, few events can draw as many, from as many demographic segments - man, women, children and people of all ethnic origins. There is much to be learned from taking it all in.

Saturday, October 6

Videofied Cameras an Effective Deterrent to Farm Theft

Every year at this time, we hear reports of farm theft and cattle rustling. Leaving in rural areas means property owners must travel greater distances more frequently to keep an eye on their assets. Recently there was a report in Saskatchewan of an agricultural producer who caught fuel thieves in the act with a trail camera commonly used by hunters to trail deer movement, even in the dark. That got me thinking about how a monitored camera might have also helped catch those thieves, when I wrote this article....

SecurTek Videofied Technology Helps Reduce Post-Harvest Thefts 

The last days of harvest are high risk times for agricultural producers seeking to protect their valuable commodities from agricultural theft. SecurTek Monitoring Solutions reminds farm and ranch operators that real-time video alerts are a cost-effective way to deter burglaries and even catch thieves in the act.

"The shorter days, increased crop hauling traffic and busy schedule of agricultural producers around this time of the year make it difficult for farm operators to maintain their usual vigilance", according to Claude-Jean Harel, a Product Research Analyst with SecurTek. "The cost of guard solutions, land lines and conventional security systems make it sometimes prohibitively expensive for farmers to adopt these technologies and protect their fuel, tools, machinery, grain or livestock."

In times of high commodity prices like these, risks of theft are compounded. If police authorities do their best to raise awareness about farm theft and investigate these crimes when they occur, the responsibility of protecting agricultural assets ultimately rests with owners who are advised to work together, walk around their property putting themselves in the shoes of a thief, set up locked gates and avoid leaving unattended machinery or baled feed in fields for extended periods.

Unfortunately, any farm operation can become the target of burglars. When controlling access to vulnerable sites seems unfeasible,
SecurTek’s Videofied system may be the right tool, believes Brigadier Security’s Pat Thompson:

"Now the buzz word in the industry is Verified Video. So when the perpetrator enters the premises, it sends a video clip to SecurTek or the client who can immediately access it on his smartphone. They can see exactly who's there. Is it a guy with a hoodie? Is it a cat? Or just an employee that's wandering around on the property."

Polices forces increasingly require that alarms be verified before they actually respond, especially in rural areas, notes Thompson. "We've rolled it out in Canada, and we've had success with it. There's locations that we've put systems in where they've had to hire a guard 24 hours a day, so you can imagine the expense of that. Now, you replace that with a couple of cameras that are basically the eyes and ears of the guard, and they realized the savings with video, versus hiring a full-time person."

Videofied systems feature battery-powered cameras, independent of the power grid and ideal for isolated settings. They are also moveable, allowing farmers to relocate them strategically to better serve their needs through harvest season and beyond.

Cold Temperatures Mean Higher Risks of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

It feels like fall these days. Which means its is the furnace that's kicking in, rather that the air conditioning unit. It is the end of summer for adults and a sign that snow is on it's way. Kids anticipate this time while parents are scrambling to cook and freeze garden crops, rake leaves, blow sprinklers out and everything else. But don't forget a few other chores that need to be looked after, including maintaining your furnace in top shape. I found out a few scary facts when researching this article earlier this week.

Colder Weather Highlights Need For Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Awareness Warns SecurTek 

As colder weather sets in this fall, tens of millions of furnaces are being called back into service across North America. October is a busy month fo SecurTek monitoring station attendants, who always assign a high priority status to carbon monoxide alarms.

Station attendants know lives may depend on rapid intervention by emergency responders, according to SecurTek’s Director of Stations Wendy Zaporosky:

"When night falls, especially, our teams know a lot of people depend on us to keep watch over them in their homes. When carbon monoxide alarms are triggered in the middle of the night, our monitoring station attendants know rapid intervention makes a difference."

In the United States, households can expect to average one home fire every 15 years, or five fires in an average lifetime. According to the
National Fire Protection Association, one home fire is reported every 85 seconds in the US. In a 2007 report published by the Council of Canadian Fire Marshalls and Fire Commissioners, it was estimated that 73 per cent of all fire deaths in Canada resulted from home fires. Risks of fire casualties in cold-climate regions are particularly heightened when heating systems are reactivated in the fall.

Ask yourself these questions: when was your furnace serviced last? have you changed the filter lately? A dirty filter might result in the heat exchanger becoming hotter, causing cracks through which carbon monoxide could escape to critical area in your home, while you sleep.

"Fire response organizations everywhere recommend the use of carbon monoxide detectors bearing the certifications in effect in their jurisdiction," notes Vito Valentini of
Guardian Security Solutions in Calgary. His company installs wired models equipped with battery backups, an essential component of residential security systems. "They will emit an alarm signal when the level of carbon monoxide is high enough to pose a major health risk and poison human beings."

Think of them as a key line of defense in the preservation of safe conditions for life in your home. When coupled with working smoke detectors on every floor of your home, integrated monitored systems ensure that if the alarm goes off, someone notifies the fire department and makes sure responders get to your home -- both when you’re not there, and when you are there but unable to call for help yourself.

On November 4, when you set clocks back one-hour around your house, why not use the opportunity to check or replace batteries on all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. You will be set and safe for winter.

SecurTek's Medical Alert for Elderly Parents Allows Caregivers to Take Holidays

When writing this article on fall prevention education lately, I asked myself how many children of older parents don't leave town for holidays for fear of what might happen to their parents while they are away. Everyone needs a holiday, but it's not a holiday if you spend it worrying about how your mother or father is doing at home.

Fall Prevention Education Helps Reduce Risks of Injury at Home

Educating families and caregivers about the risks and consequences of falls in home settings is one of the best ways to keep North American households safe, according to safety experts. Fall prevention should also include discussions to establish protocols and signals on how to react in case falls and injuries do occur.

"Find something that works" says Michael Brenholen, Director of Operations and Client Services for
St. John Ambulance in Saskatchewan. "Make sure the people who know about the signal, know what to do when they get the signal and follow-up if something does happen."

Brenholen has delivered injury prevention training for years. He points out that -- whether the victim of an accident or providing assistance -- knowing one’s limits is key:

"Getting help is a primary goal in any emergency situation where somebody gets hurt, calling 911 as soon as possible can be critical. We don’t want people dealing with a situation on their own, if it is above what they are capable of doing. There are a number of issues that need to be adressed. If they can’t reach the phone themselves, somehow that help needs to be recruited."

While he emphasizes the need to maintain safe home environment, free of obstacles or features like sharp drops on the floor, Brenholen recognizes the role communication systems among neighbours, family members or through paid monitoring services like SecurTek’s Medical Alert can play in emergencies. "It is good to have back-up plans. Most people haven’t thought it out or don’t have a plan," he notes.

According to the
Public Health Agency of Canada, one-third of people age 65 and over have a fall every year, with half of them experiencing more than one fall. Falls are the most common cause of injury among seniors who are nine times more likely to be hurt in a fall than someone under age 65. Nearly two-thirds of injury related hospitalizations for seniors are the result of falls, and roughly half of all falls occur in a home setting.

Jeff Beer knows first hand the toll falls take on seniors and their caregivers. He runs
Independent Living, a supplier of mobility aids and personal care products to the elderly and persons with disabilities:

"We all too often see people walk into our store after they have sustained an injury. Their bruises tell their story more vividly than anything could. They are often accompanied by a family caregiver, concerned about ensuring their safety and limiting risks of greater injury down the road."

As a result, Beer started offering
SecurTek’s Medical Alert to his clients. It is a monitored solution available 24 hours a day to respond when help is needed. The client wears a communication bracelet or pendant linked to a control panel in the home, equiped with a strong two-way speaker. In the event of a fall or personal emergency, the wearer presses a personal help button which will prompt immediate response by a trained attendant who can call family, friends or the appropriate emergency services, depending on the client’s needs.

For someone who is unable to pick up the phone to call for help, Medical Alert provides that extra peace of mind. For the growing number of family members and caregivers who worry about a loved-one’s safety. Systems like SecurTek’s Medical Alert provide that extra reassurance that they will no longer be alone in times of need.

Friday, September 14

Saskatoon's St. John's Anglican Cathedral Celebrates New Lease on Life

It is a sign of the times: dwindling congregations, major need of renovations and of innovative funding solutions -- but that's what was required in order to save a key element in the architectural landscape of a Prairie city.

St. John the Evangelist Anglican Cathedral in Saskatoon has been a key feature of the west bank riverfront for a century. However, years of exposure to the elements had taken their toll on the magnificent red brick structure with a tall steeple.

Until this fall, St. John's Cathedral likely gave vied for the title of the draftiest building in Saskatoon.

The Cathedral is undergoing a major facelift after the congregation raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to plug holes in the roof and carry out massive restoration work that is shedding new light on the heritage character of this prayer house.

This critical work prompted parishioners to look at their spiritual  gathering place through a different lens: heritage value.

Wesley Moore, Chair, Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation
It seemed organizations like the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation were rather willing to partner with Saskatoon's Anglican community to ensure the cathedral would be around and functional as a sacred building for many more years beyond now. 

That collaboration between funders, benefactors, owners and heritage artisans has brought out the best in heritage restoration excellence.

On September 7, the congregation welcomed to a special Open House function all those who have made a difference in ensuring St. John's Anglican Cathedral would be presentable to the public on the occasion of its centennial celebrations.

A full weekend of commemoration activities would follow and help ensure efforts to restore St. John's Cathedral to its original state continue in the months to come.