How I spent Canada Day – In Rosemary Alberta

Lawrence Braul, guest blogger, July 2, 2014

For many city residents, the way the country folk celebrate Canada Day is a mystery.  We know the city has hundreds of events and we can pick and chose the ones that are nearby or attend the ones that sound most interesting.  How does this differ from what the country folks do on Canada Day?

This Canada Day we celebrated with family and friends in Rosemary, Alberta (180 kilometres south and east of Calgary Alberta on highway #550). We return to our agricultural roots on Canada Day because it is fun and a great time to reconnect with family and friends who are too busy farming during summer to take any time off. We also rekindle what it feels like to be in a friendly rural community that is far “closer” than anything in the city.

When Neil Klassen pulls up with his red 1952 Ford two ton for the Parade, everyone will know that he spent time in the winter developing something new. This year he added a perpetual pump on the back of the flat deck. The pump ran continuously but never filled up the pail!

Zelma, now in her 80’s, is driving the truck that idles down the street in perfect condition. She tosses candies out the window, waves, and shakes her head as if to say, “He is still making me do this wacky stuff!” but she smiles and loves it too. You can just tell that they both enjoy Canada Day. When Neil’s truck isn’t in the Rosemary Canada Day Parade, there will be some sadness too.

The Baerg family has a large tree lot and why not advertise in the Parade? They found a way to build a little forest and put up a picnic scene on their trailer to simply say, “and why are you not sitting in the shade?”

And of course there are restored cars, trucks, and tractors all of which are the product of a winter project over the years. My personal favorite is a big 1950 Diamond T semi truck with a small sleeper that truckers used to use for a quick nap or sleep on the road.  It still looks like it can kick some ass.

The Big Show

As the parade winds down, the cars line the street for the Annual Rosemary Show and Shine. There is a wide assortment of hot rods, antiques, and someone’s 1984 Chevy ½ ton that the owner still thinks looks pretty special.  Nephew, Jason Baerg, has his restored 1973 VW Bug entered in the Show and Shine. He has it in every year and some year he might even win something. That’s why you enter the big show.

The food tents pop up and some are out to raise money for a good cause.  Stars Air Ambulance is featured by one family whose son was ejected from a side-by-side and suffered major injuries including a ruptured spleen and a brain hemorrhage. They have pictures of the lad in the hospital and he is there laughing and talking to folks who are filing by for either chicken on a bun or on a skewer.

Canada Food Grains bank is popular in the area and a local farmer, Erv Dyck, has donated the proceeds of a ¼ section. Everyone is volunteering to do some of the work to bring the crop in. Every bushel donated is matched 4 to 1 so the gift adds up to something pretty substantial.

Rosemary is an interesting village. With a population of less than 700, it is a unique agricultural area that is gaining a reputation for the production of high quality seed, alfalfa, and leaf cutter bees. The Eastern Irrigation District expanded into the Rosemary district after the Bassano dam was built in 1914. Hot summers and less wind mean the farmers here can grow crops that don’t do as well elsewhere.

Bees Knees

If you are driving past a farm and see lots of shelters in the field, chances are that the farmer is raising leaf cutter bees for export. US farmers can’t keep their bees disease free and bees are necessary to pollinate crops.  Farmers in the Rosemary area have been raising leaf cutter bees for 50 years and they are now really taking off as a specialty crop. Honey bees are pollinators too and their population has collapsed in recent years.  

Leaf cutter bees are great pollinators and next week, brother-in-law Rob Baerg is hosting an Agricultural Study tour on his farm for up to 450 farmers who want to know more about this industrious insect. They get their name from the fact that they cut alfalfa leaves to use as nesting material for the eggs that are laid by the female bees. There is no queen bee in a hive and if you saw one you would say they look like a large brown fly. They fill small bore holes in a large tray that the farmer takes inside after it is full of freshly laid eggs. 

Every year there is something new in the Parade. This year someone decided to build a model of the Bassano dam. The dam was threatened in the historic June 2013 flood of the Bow and Elbow River. The combined force of these two rivers almost knocked out the dam and without a dam, you don’t have an irrigation system. In appreciation, he made a model complete with running water and water means alot to the farmers in the EID.

On this warm July day, many are running back and forth to check the sprinklers and pivots they have running. Live, work, play takes on a different meaning in rural communities. 

Everyday Tourist Footnote:

There is an old saying "everyone loves a parade" and it is certainly true in small towns everywhere.  On Canada Day, I was golfing in Redwood Meadows, 35 kilometres west of Calgary and about 11 am we heard the fire engine tooting its horn and dozens of kids following behind on their bikes decorated with Canadian flags.  

It is true, there is a different sense of "community and country" in rural communities than urban ones.  While their is a strong pioneer spirit across the prairies, it is much stronger in small towns and villages where "everybody does know your name" is not just a moniker for some TV bar in downtown Boston. Life is not as abstract in rural communities.

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