All posts by Destinations

The Dragonfly Festival

There is a certain charm about small towns and small town festivals. If they are an agricultural community, the celebration will often center on the predominant crop. Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, where I used to live, has its annual Blueberry Festival. Others may celebrate their heritage with Pioneer Days. Many tie their festivities in with the national holiday – Canada Day or the Fourth of July in the United States. A parade is almost always part of these events.

My son meets Dilly the Clown at the annual Pitt Meadows Day Parade in 1990.

As you drive in to the small village of Wabamun, Alberta (population 682) you encounter a giant dragonfly – a ten metre long sculpture atop a six metre pole. Made of scraps, including parts of an old airplane, it is the largest dragonfly in Canada.

Old airplane wings now serve as dragonfly wings.

The town sits on the edge of Wabamun Lake, a popular destination for Edmontonians and others  in the summer. Every year towards the end of June the town celebrates the Dragonfly Festival. This three day event brings in as many as 10,000 visitors. This year it ran from June 23-25.

Janis and I were visiting her brother and family in Drayton Valley for a couple of days and we drove out to take in the second day’s events.

We arrived about forty-five minutes before the start of the parade and so we took in a bit of the Art Walk before and after.  Like many small-town parades, this one started off with a marching band, a group of Air Cadets.

Cadets lead off Wabamun’s Dragonfly Festival Parade.

This was followed by politicians in cars waving at the crowd and tossing candy to the children. Getting the kiddies ready for when they’re grown up and start clamoring in earnest for free goodies.  There weren’t just politicians. One was a wannabe – a candidate for the nomination to represent the Conservative Party in the next election.

This was followed by another staple of parades everywhere – vintage cars! There were quite a few of them and there were even more on display after the parade. There were some modern cars as well – souped up truck and some expensive roadsters, including a green Lamborghini.

The vintage car parade.

Local businesses were there, some with simple makeshift floats. I rather liked Home Hardware’s giant hammer.

Home Hardware had a giant hammer on the back of a pick-up.

But floats were few and far between. The best effort was Al’s Affordabago – a converted 1934 Chevy Truck. Your rustic camper on wheels. It was also towing a small trailer.

Al’s Affordabago – a converted 1934 Chevy truck.

One got the impression Al was a no-nonsense sort of guy. The front of the truck had a massive chainsaw blade overhanging the engine. There was also a noose hanging from a wash line pole with a sign that read “Some people just need a hug… around the neck… with a rope!”

The truck was festooned with bric-a-brac including a number of antlers, the skull of a steer, a beer keg, an old water pump and a slew of old license plates. I wonder if Al actually goes camping in that contraption!

As parades go, it wasn’t the greatest, but everyone loved it. And almost everyone was tossing out treats for the kids.

The Art Walk featured various Albertan artists, each with their own little tent.

The Art Walk and Vendor’s Market were quite well done. Many Albertan artists had booths displaying their art – mostly paintings but also sculpture. There were 38 artists on display this year, the fourth Dragonfly Festival to feature the walk.  I was quite enchanted by the work of Josh Harnack who painted people with animal heads. Mounties were a favorite subject.

Josh Harnack and his art.
Wolf Mountie

Another artist, Kevin Wilson,  does air-brushed art over metal and featured a Canadian flag with late Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie in place of the maple leaf.

Gord Downie – a true symbol of Canada. The art is by Kevin Wilson.

Not surprisingly, since this is Alberta, Wilson also had colorful ammunition boxes on display.

Kevin Wilson’s ammunition boxes feature scenes from classic movies like Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy as well as scenes from games like Fallout.

The local interest in art stems from the sponsorship of a local art gallery, the Gossamer Treasures Gallery. We went in and it featured a couple of Alberta artists  work for the festival. The theme was indigenous people and artists Reg Faulkner and Henri de Groot both capture native culture well.

The Gossamer Treasures Gallery just before the parade started.

But I was particularly taken by a book and art work on the lives of emergency first responders by artist Daniel Sundahl who signs his work as DanSun. The artist is himself a paramedic and firefighter in the City of Leduc, Alberta. These were very evocative and emotional works capturing both the dedication and the agony of doing such work.

Portraits of an Emergency by DanSun.

Wandering around the Vendors Market, we came across Signature Silk  where you could silk-screen your own silk scarf. My wife decided to have a go and her sister-in-law sponsored her granddaughter’s effort.

My wife and my grand niece try their hand at silk-screening a scarf.

Colours are added to a bath of special solution. The colours can then be swirled with a rod to create patterns. More drops of colour can be added. When the artiste is satisfied, the silk is dropped over the solution where the colours then adhere. It is removed and voila – a silkscreened scarf.

After that we went to check out the vintage car display when it started to rain. We escaped under the tent of The  Green Lambo Guy who is actually a professional motivator and personal life coach. His Lambo is a symbol of what a determined person can achieve.

The green Lamborghini

After the rain let up we called it a day. My wife and I were on the road again the next day, but the closing day of the festival featured an all day (3:00 PM to 9:00 PM) event called Up!Fest at the waterfront park. This was largely a music festival featuring local artists and culminating with a show by iconic Canadian rock band Loverboy (The Kid is Hot Tonite, Working for the Weekend).

Not bad for a small town of 682!

Check out the Photo Gallery for more!

Links of Interest

 

 

Photo Gallery: Dragonfly Festival

Here are some additional photos of the Dragonfly Festival. Since the Dragonfly Festival pics don’t show the lake, I’m starting with a photo from 2000 from a previous visit.

Daughter Sarah and her cousins Shaun and Eric on Wabamun Lake in the summer of 2000.
Front of the Dragonfly Festival event guide
The town’s dragonfly statue is made of scrap metal.
One of the high-powered roadsters in the parade.
And one of the classic cars
Kevin Wilson and his airbrushed metal art
Another artist whose work I liked was Kevin Bigelow. He had a number of space related works though he had never been to Cape Canaveral. His website is Kevin Bigelow Art.
I particularly liked Kevin’s picture of the Tardis.
DanSun painting called Man Made Angel shows the anguish of a paramedic after he loses a patient.
My grand niece designing her scarf
Janis showing her finished scarf – nice pastels!
Heading to the classic car display
Vintage car display
Souped up pickup truck carrying a SeaDoo
I just liked the name of this fish and chips stand in an old bus. Oh My Cod!
Just a sleepy little town that roars to life for the Dragonfly Festival

 

The Heart of Regina

When our son accepted a transfer to Regina to help open a new store we were flummoxed. Sure it was a good career move, but why would anyone want to live in Regina? Nevertheless, I joined him to share the driving a few months ago as we embarked on the two day and a half journey from Vancouver.

His company put him up in a hotel until he could find permanent digs. We quickly discovered one of the benefits of Regina. Within a week he had sold his one bedroom and den apartment in suburban Vancouver and bought a two bedroom townhouse with finished basement and detached garage in Regina.  The price differential was enough for him to knock $15,000 off his mortgage, pay off his car, buy new furniture and still have money left over.

Housing is much cheaper in Regina than Vancouver, one of its advantages. My son bought this two bedroom townhouse (third unit from the left) for about 80% of what he got for his one bedroom and den apartment in suburban Vancouver.

Regina is a small town compared to Greater Vancouver with a population of 236,481 for the metropolitan area. Our son’s house is in a development in the farthest western area of the city, just a 25 minute drive to his work in the farthest eastern part of the city.

While the downtown is usually considered the heart of most cities, that is not the case in Regina.

My wife and I drove out to visit in June. We spent one afternoon while our son was working checking out the real heart of Regina – the magnificent Wascana Centre  and the neighbouring legislature building. Regina is the capital of the province and the legislature is its most impressive building, the vision of the first premier of Saskatchewan, Walter Scott (not the author!)

The Saskatchewan Legislature Buildings seen from across Wascana Lake

The city had already served as the capital of the Northwest Territories before Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. The lieutenant-governor of the territory rejected other more favorable locations for a piece of scrub land actually known as Pile-of-Bones (Wascana in Cree) “distinguished only by collections of bison bones near a small spring run-off creek”.  The LG, a fellow named Dewdney, had bought property there adjacent to where the planned CP Railway line was to go. The obvious graft caused a scandal, but there was no legislature. Dewdney was a virtual dictator and could do what he liked.

But despite its barrenness – nothing but flat prairie as far a the eye can see, visionary planners dammed Wascana Creek with a weir (it’s adjacent to the current Albert Street Bridge) resulting in the formation of Wascana Lake.

The weir that forms Wascana Lake is just beside the Albert Street Bridge

The first premier of the new province, Walter Scott, had a vision of a legislature building on the shore of Wascana Lake, then a wilderness a few kilometers from the downtown area.  A design competition was launched and the winning design by Montreal architects, the Maxwell Brothers, was chosen.

Statue of Premier Walter Scott envisioning a legislature building on the shores of Wascana Lake

Construction began in 1908 and was completed in 1912 at a cost of $1.75 million. That’s about $800 million today. It remains the largest of the provincial legislatures in Canada.

Old sepia photo of the construction of the central dome of the legislature

My wife and I took a walk around the shore of the lake across the bridge to the other side and back before touring the legislature itself. Tours are free. Immediately upon entering the building one is impressed by the richness of the entrance.

The entrance to the legislature

Our guide took us up the steps to the rotunda which features marble from around the world. The rotunda also features two murals high above. And it features the busts of three Saskatchewan political icons – each from a different political party.

Only Prime Minister from Saskatchewan, John Diefenbaker (Conservative)

Longtime Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas (New Democrat)

First premier of Saskatchewan, Walter Scott (Liberal)

From there we were given a look into the legislative chamber. Scott and his fellow politicians had a much bolder vision for Saskatchewan than eventually transpired and the legislature was built to accommodate 125 members. In fact, the population has not grown as expected and the number of representatives currently stands at 58.

This photo of the legislature is a composite of four other photos merged in Photo Shop

From the floor of the legislature we went down a flight of stairs to the legislature’s library. There was someone using it at the time so I couldn’t take a picture, but I did get a photo of an historic Canadian artifact housed there – the conference table used at the Quebec Conference in 1864 when the Fathers of Confederation were negotiating Canada’s independence.

Painting of the Quebec Conference

Whether this is the actual Confederation Table is speculative.  What is known is that it was used by the Privy Council in Ottawa in 1865 after being moved with other furnishings from Quebec. And it was the right size to have been the original table.

Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney brought the table to Regina sometime between 1883 and 1892. The sixteen foot table wouldn’t fit in the room assigned for it and six feet were lopped off in the middle. That part of the table was discarded. Eventually the shortened table was brought to the legislature library where it now resides.

The truncated Confederation Table

Continuing our tour we visited two galleries. Saskatchewan has had a long history of cordial relations with indigenous peoples and in 1909, the government commissioned noted portrait painter Edmund Morris to do portraits of fifteen native chiefs. Those pictures hang in the Assiniboine Gallery.

The Assiniboine Gallery

Morris was the son of Alexander Morris, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba who was responsible for negotiating many treaties with indigenous peoples. He had previously been commissioned by the Government of Ontario to do portraits of the Ojibway in the north of that province. He also did similar work for the Government of Alberta. His paintings are considered historically significant records of native history in Canada.

Chief Pie-a-Pot was an Algonkin-Cree leader

The other gallery featured portraits of the premiers of Saskatchewan.

Portraits of the Premiers of Saskatchewan

We ended our tour at another gallery, the Cumberland Gallery. Displays vary but when we were there it featured some works from the Saskatchewan Arts Board which has been promoting art in Saskatchewan since 1948. They have over 3000 works in their permanent collection.

The Cumberland Gallery

There were some striking works on display. One of the more intriguing was by Zhong-Yang Huang called Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well. It was striking because it seemed almost out of place among the more traditional works on display.

Inside the Cumberland Gallery

There is a story behind the painting, of course. Huang was born in China and showed an aptitude for art from age four. This talent was stifled by the Cultural Revolution which discouraged individual creativity. The fifteen year old Huang was forced to work as a laborer.

After the Cultural Revolution, Huang continued his studies, earning a Masters Degree in art. In 1984 he traveled to Canada and earned a second Masters at the University of Regina.

Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well

Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well was part of a solo exhibition in 2011 called The Shadow of Mao. It shows Chairman Mao having a smoke while Liu Shaoqui, Chairman of State and the second most powerful man in China at the time, looks down the Zhen Fei Well.

During the Qing Dynasty, the Dowager Empress had Zhen Fei, one of her husband’s concubines, thrown down the well. The information sheet beside the painting adds “Mao later had Liu removed from office and executed. A seemingly peaceful night scene taking on a more ominous tone  within the historical context.”

A gnarled tree on the banks of Wescana Lake

Let’s return briefly to Wescana Centre. The hub of the city revolves around Wescana Lake. In 1962, the University of Regina needed to expand. It needed a site for that expansion and decided on an area south-east of the lake. In conjunction with the province and the city, the Wescana Centre Authority was formed to create a multi-use oasis in the centre of the city. The result was a 930 hectare (2300 acre) area surrounding the 120 hectare (300 acre) lake. This green space includes the legislature as well as the university, and also includes two art galleries, a performing arts centre, a science centre, a museum and lots of parkland.

Wescana Lake is also a wildlife preserve and has an abundance of wildlife including Canada geese and a critter that is as common as raccoons – the jackrabbit.

By the late 1990s, however, silt had built up enough in the lake that it started to turn into a swamp. A major project dubbed The Big Dig was undertaken in 2003. A large part of the lake was dredged to a depth of five and a half metres, a depth at which weeds cannot root. One area was dredged to seven and a half metres so that northern pike and perch could survive Regina’s cold winter. Boardwalks and other amenities were added.

Today Wescana Centre is the rejuvenated heart of the city. An oasis in a flat  prairie of wheat fields.

You’ll find more pictures on the following photo gallery.

Photo Gallery: Regina’s Wescana Centre and More

Here are some additional photos around and about Regina. One of the notable attractions is the RCMP Heritage Centre which I will cover in a separate post. The photo above is a panoramic view of Wescana Lake stretching from the north-west corner to the legislature. 

A gazebo in the park
The Saskatchewan Legislature from the northern shore of the lake
A statue of a young Queen Elizabeth on horseback stands in front of the legislature
A view of the legislature showing the beautiful landscaping in front
One of the murals in the rotunda of the legislature shows a native tribe in the Qu’Appelle Valley just north of the city
The other mural in the rotunda shows canoers in northern Saskatchewan
An interesting note – the glasses on the bust of Tommy Douglas are his actual glasses, not part of the statue
The mace on the Speaker’s table
Down a hallway beside the Cumberland Gallery is a display of old photoraphs showing the construction of the legislature as well as this scale model
Inside the Cumberland Gallery
This painting, entitled Coming Home, is by artist Ann Horbuz. It is somewhat reminiscent of the style of Grandma Moses.
This work is called Somme Nation and depicts horses in the Battle of the Somme in WWI. Artist Grant McConnell is known for his depictions of Canadian history.
This work by Michele Mackesy is called Glenna Grandberg honouring her late son Cody.
Another distinctive Regina landmark is the First Nations University of Canada with its stylized tepee atrium
The atrium of the First Nations University
Another landmark in Regina is Mosaic Stadium, home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team

And we leave you with a couple of photos of jackrabbits. They are as common as raccoons in Regina, and indeed, throughout the prairie provinces.

 

 

Historic Fremantle

The City of Fremantle in Western Australia teems with history. Founded by Swan River colonists in 1829, it officially became a city a century later. Indeed, much of the architecture in downtown Fremantle dates from the 19th century. The Esplanade Hotel shown above, for example, was originally used to house convicts while the Fremantle Prison was built. In 1892 it became a hotel. It underwent numerous renovations and expansions over the years including 1985 for the America’s Cup. It now has 300 rooms and is designated as a heritage site.

Fremantle is a quaint little city of just 27,000, but it is a bustling one. Located at the mouth of the Swan River, it serves as the seaport for the metropolis of Perth about 18 kilometers upriver.

Downtown Fremantle is compact with all major venues within walking distance. In the map below, for example, the distance from Fremantle Prison to the WA Maritime Museum is just two kilometers or a 25 minute walk.

In a previous post I related our night time tour of the Fremantle Prison which served as a maximum security penitentiary until 1991. But there is much more than the prison to see here.

On our first visit, we parked near the Fremantle Oval and visited the Fremantle Markets. Founded in 1897, these public markets feature farm fresh produce, a variety of artisans and crafts, restaurants featuring Aussie cuisine, and, of course, buskers. We were much amused by a young woman on stilts in an emu costume that day.

The emu lady strutting around the Fremantle Markets

One of the fast food joints called itself the Bush Food Cafe and featured roo dogs, croc dogs and a sample stick containing roo, croc and emu!

On our first visit we saw  a busker playing a lively rag on the piano and on another visit we saw a seven year old guitar prodigy.

Outside there were a variety of street entertainers and promoters of various causes, including the Falun Gong.

Advocates looking for support for the Falun Gong

On leaving the markets we walked down a street of wall-to-wall restaurants towards the waterfront. We passed through Esplanade Park across from the hotel on the way. A permanent Ferris wheel is tucked into a corner of the park.

A number of craft breweries lined the shore road (Mews Road) and we ate at one of them that first visit. Passing between a couple of them brings you to the wooden boardwalk that goes around the inner harbor. This is a popular venue for its many fine restaurants. One notable eatery is Kailis Fish Market Café, serving “award-winning fish & chips” since 1928.

A wooden boardwalk surrounds the Fremantle harbor.

We were surprised to find a statue of Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC who passed away in 1980. The base of the statue hails the singer as “the greatest frontman of all time” as noted in the magazine Classic Rock.  Although born in Scotland, Scott moved to Australia with his family at age six and grew up in Fremantle.

Bon Scott, one of Fremantle’s favorite sons

On our second visit to Fremantle, Janis and I had taken the train to Perth and then a cruise down the Swan River to Fremantle. Not far from the railroad station is Bathers Beach. Atop a bluff beside the beach you’ll find the Round House.

Built in 1830, the Round House was the first permanent structure in the Swan River Colony. It was built as a small prison with eight cells and a jailer’s residence.

The Round House sits atop a bluff near Bathers Beach
The Whalers Tunnel and the Round House

Those of a philosophical bent will be interested to note its design was based on the Panopticon, a blueprint for an ideal prison  designed by British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The cells are arranged in a semi-circle so one jailer can observe all prisoners at once. Bentham theorized that since the prisoner never knew if he was being watched, he self-regulated his behaviour.

Inside you can see the cells as well as a stocks. A placard indicates the offenses that could land you in the Round House as well as remarking that only one prisoner was ever hanged at the Round House – sadly the condemned was only fifteen at the time.

The stocks at the Round House

The detailed information sign for the stocks tells you that the prisoner was held immobile by the hand holds and leg-irons. Sometimes the subject’s ears were nailed to the frame so he could not move to avoid rotten tomatoes and other debris thrown at him by the jeering crowd.

We walked on through the town taking in a variety of city sights. We passed the University of Notre Dame and its beautiful red brick buildings, past shops and iconic hotels like Rosie O’Grady’s which was undergoing some renovations.

The University of Notre Dame
Rosie O’Grady’s (formerly the Federal Hotel)

We ended up at Fremantle Oval, home of the Fremantle Dockers football (soccer) team.  One of Janis’s friends from work was a huge Dockers fan so we thought we’d get a souvenir for her. When we got there, a few players were on the field being interviewed by a television news reporter.

The Fremantle Oval, practice field for the Fremantle Dockers

While Janis was busy buying the souvenir, I popped out and noticed the players coming off the field. I approached them and explained that my wife’s friend was a Dockers fan in Canada and asked if I could get a picture of them with my wife. They kindly agreed. I quickly got Janis and the picture.

Janis and three players from the Fremantle Dockers – big fellows all!

Needless to say, her friend loved the picture and had it blown up and posted it on the store’s bulletin board.

Fremantle is an old city which has managed to maintain its colonial charm. No buildings are more than a few stories in height and many sport period architecture, including some with sweeping second floor balconies. There are a lot of restaurants, several craft breweries, a marvelous waterfront, historic prisons and a fair amount of public art. You can easily spend a day or two exploring the old town.

You’ll find a couple of photo galleries linked after this article, but I leave you with one final iconic building – the Norfolk Hotel. The building is pretty non-descript but is notable for the haunting mural on its side – the face of  woman.

The Norfolk Hotel

Built in 1887 as the Oddfellow Hotel, the building was refurbished and re-opened as the Norfolk 100 years later in preparation for the America’s Cup. It has a long history as one of Fremantle’s favorite watering holes. Indeed, for over fifty years it was owned by the Swan Brewery.

After a succession of owners, the hotel is now owned by a noted hotel company and the lease has been held since 1989 by the partner in another brewery. The mural is actually a bas relief sculpture by Portuguese sculptor Vhils of Australia’s first female senator, Dorothy Tangney.

Mural of Dame Dorothy Tangney, DBE, first female Australian senator

Below are some additional links, including two photo galleries. If you are on the front page of this website, you just have to scroll down to see the photo galleries.

 

Photo Gallery: Places and Buildings Around Fremantle

Fremantle has many interesting places and buildings.  The photo above  shows the Whalers Tunnel and the Round House from the city side. Here are a few more.

Bathers Beach
The Whalers Tunnel – a plaque says the tunnel was excavated by the Fremantle Whaling Company in 1837 “to facilitate the transport of whale oil and merchandise between Bathers Bay and the town of Fremantle”.
Going through the Whalers Tunnel
A mannequin in one of the cells in the Round House
Janis and I on the gun parapet at the Round House
The distinctive Maritime Museum seen from the river. We never did get around to visiting it.
A typical street looking towards the river. You can see gantry cranes in the distance.
The National Hotel
Balcony and sign at Rosie O’Grady’s. This sort of architecture makes me think of New Orleans.
The Fremantle Technical School
Another street scene near the University of Notre Dame
Fremantle Presbyterian Church
One end of the Esplanade Hotel
Esplanade Park
The Ferris wheel
And on the outskirts of town while driving in, I was much amused by this iconic flour mill. That’s a terrific logo!

Photo Gallery: The Fremantle Markets and the Waterfront

The photo above shows the harbor as seen from the outdoor patio at Kailis’ Fish Market Café. Below are some more photos from the waterfront and the Fremantle Markets.

One of the craft breweries along Mews Road. The path between the two buildings leads to the boardwalk along the harbor.
Inside the craft brewery
You can order a sample tray of all their different brews
The boardwalk at Fremantle Harbor

 

This is an active harbor. Fish boats constantly supply fresh fish to the restaurants
Lunch on the patio
Seagulls hover near by looking for scraps
The back entrance to the Fremantle Markets (across from the Fremantle Oval)