Rosebud: A Prairie Gem!

Guest blog by Terry Bachynski

Whenever you are looking for a day away from the city, our natural tendencies in Calgary and Edmonton are to look and head west to the Rockies.  A day of hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing or just taking in the beauty of our Rocky Mountains is always a great respite from the city traffic and pace.

However, there is so much more that our province offers.  My wife, Laura, and I like to explore Alberta randomly.  Just get in the car and head in any direction and see what we can find.  Exploring small towns is one of our favourite ways to spend a free day. 

One such day adventure, near 30 years ago, lead us north and east out of Calgary. We headed for Drumheller and the Badlands.  But, we never got there.  Heading east on Highway 9 we came upon a road sign that said “Rosebud 10 km”. Rosebud?  The name was too tempting. 

We had to see it for ourselves. A south turn onto secondary highway 840 and a short trip down a winding, up and down road finally ended (literally) in a small valley along the Rosebud River and the quaint hamlet of Rosebud.

Along the road to Rosebud

Entering Rosebud from atop the valley you first notice a small grouping of prairie town buildings and the ever present grain elevator to the south. As we approached, we noticed that, unlike other isolated and all too forgotten prairie hamlets, this cluster of buildings looked in reasonably good shape and in use! 

We quickly determined that Rosebud was more than what met the eye.  The entire town exists and thrives beyond its history of farming and coal mining.  The town is a hub of artistic creativity.  That first accidental visit found us arriving just in time for the buffet dinner and stage show.  We grabbed a couple of tickets, enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner and then crossed the street to the opera house for the live show.

The economic and creative anchor for the town is the Rosebud School of the Arts and Rosebud Theatre.  Doing a little research for this blog, I discovered that the artistic heartbeat of the town started with a “one-off” summer camp for high school kids in 1977.  Since then, the Rosebud School of the Arts has grown into a post-secondary educational institution focused on development of theatre arts. 

The Rosebud Theatre offers a full year of live stage productions in the restored and renovated prairie opera house as well as second studio stage.  The productions are far ranging - dramas, musicals, comedies - and always family friendly. We’ve seen dozen of shows over the years and we are never disappointed with the production quality and talent on the stage.  These actors have chops!

Over the years, we have come to know many of the people who work and live in Rosebud.  It is always a treat to visit and spend a couple of days in the area.  When you go, you’ve got plenty of options for comfortable and welcoming accommodations. 

Link: Discover Rosebud

B&B Fun....

The Rosebud Country Inn is run by BJ.  She’s a sweetheart and took over the Country Inn 7 or 8 years ago.  It’s a great place to stay with delicious afternoon tea and pie served up most afternoons.

Rosebud Country Inn. Love the porch!

Rosebud Country Inn. Love the porch!

If BJ’s is full, there are several other options.  The Actor’s Studio B&B is operated by Nathan and Cassia, both excellent actors who frequent the boards on the Rosebud stage.  Nathan also makes a mean apple pancake breakfast that just makes your mouth water.  Delicious!

The Rose Cottage Bed and Breakfast is a unique experience every time you visit.  John and Sue decorate the breakfast room in the theme of the current mainstage show at the time.  On our last visit, the entire room was dressed up like a set from Downton Abbey. 

Sue’s home town cooking is delicious.  During our last visit, they invited us to have dinner with them and we were fed a feast fit for a harvest crew.  In fact, that is what it was.  Sue and John also provide hot dinners to the harvest crew of a local farmer every night during harvest season and deliver the meal to the workers in the field.  They invited us to join them. 

Thankfully, for us, the “on location” dinner was canceled because a cold front moved in.  (We didn’t have the right clothes for the field.) So, we just pulled up to their kitchen table and chowed down on delicious sausage, root vegetables, purple cabbage and a spectacular apple crisp accented with a zest of orange.  What a treat!

Link: Rosebud Country Inn B&B

Link: Actor's Studio B&B

A hearty Rosebud breakfast...

A hearty Rosebud breakfast...

Art Fun.....

The hamlet also swings way above its weight class with the various shops available to theatre patrons.  The Mercantile, Kith and Kin and other shops offer lovely, artistic and unique products, many created by local artisans.  You are certain to find something special that you will not find “in the mall” back home.

We have spent a valentine’s weekend in Rosebud where the entire town pulled together to create a wonderful experience for couples.  We, along with several other couples who flocked to Rosebud for Valentine’s Day enjoyed many special events created by the community for us.

Of course, we took in the dinner theatre and second stage productions.  However, we also enjoyed bonfires, hay rides, cooking classes, coffee tasting classes (just like wine tasting, but with varieties of coffees – we learned so much about the art of coffee making), live music performances and many other special experiences created just for the town’s guests.

Since accidentally stumbling upon this prairie gem, Laura and I have become more connected with the community.  We are both artists and retired actors, ourselves, so, perhaps our connection to the community has something to do with our personal interests.  

This connection, however, has created an opportunity for us as well. The community supports artists.  We currently have our art hanging in the Akokiniskiway Art Gallery through to the end of October.  All proceeds from the sale of our art go to support the Rosebud School of the Arts. 

Terry Bachynski's playful prairie paintings inspired by trips to Rosebud, Alberta

Terry Bachynski's playful prairie paintings inspired by trips to Rosebud, Alberta

Laura Bachynski's nostalgic photos inspired by years of exploring Alberta's back roads. 

Laura Bachynski's nostalgic photos inspired by years of exploring Alberta's back roads. 

A Prairie Success Story

Of course, so many people would say there is nothing to do in a small, isolated prairie hamlet.  How could you possibly keep yourself engaged and interested when you can literally walk from one end of town to the other in less than five minutes? I can promise you that Rosebud will surprise and delight you.  

Rosebud is a prairie success story.  A small hamlet that has re-invented itself and has created an oasis of creativity and community generosity.  The entire town thrives because they care about what they have created. 

So, take a couple of days, book a room at a local B&B, take in the current stage production, enjoy dinner, take a walk down the main street and explore the Akokiniskiway Art Gallery.  Get to know Rosebud. 

You’ll come back for more.

Editor's Note: 

"Gentle Scenes Gentle Dreams" is the title of Laura and Terry's exhibition at the Akokiniskiway Art Gallery until the end of October 2016. Below is their artists' statement: 

Laura and Terry Bachynski are both heavily influenced by their daily experiences from their travels within and beyond Alberta’s boarders. The married couple travel often and widely, frequently with paints and canvas in tow, seeking out new experiences. 

Laura is often drawn to the stories of intimate spaces and images that translate to the detailed attention to mood and personal experience in her images. Often you feel that you can sit and rest inside one of Laura’s paintings and become a part of the setting.

Terry looks at the landscape as an inspiration to allow his imagination to create images of flowing skies, rolling hills and distant horizons.  Many of his paintings, although inspired by his experience in the landscape, manifest in an almost abstract interpretation of all that surrounds us.

Laura’s artistic expression is founded in the intimacies of life’s scenes while Terry’s interpretations look beyond the physical space and explore the energy that lies behind it.  Both artists, in their own way, praise God for the beauty around us and endeavor to share their experience of The Great Creation with others through their works.

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Editor’s Note: Regular visitors to the Everyday Tourist website will know we are keen to celebrate Calgary’s unique history and sense of place within the context of the larger world we share.  We love to do pieces on Calgary’s history and pleased to publish guest editorials from time to time that provide a fresh perspective on our city.  Recently, the idea of being more creative with our street names has struck a cord with our readers, with two submissions for guest blogs.

Celebrating the history of the First Nations 

It may be because I spent two summers living on the prairie north of Rosemary, Alberta. We lived in a 20-foot trailer and my job in the summer of 1975 was to break up 960-acres of prairie sod. I went over every inch of this land three times with my Massey Fergusson tractor and 22-foot cultivator. The following year, we planted our first crop of wheat and canola and irrigated it with water from the creek.

I could smell the sage and sweet grass growing along the Matsawin Creek, which flowed through our land. The deer visited in the morning and the evening. The coyotes could sometimes be seen during the day but most often heard at night. I watched the eagles hunt for rabbits and gophers. Occasionally, a skittish herd of antelope would warily circle our property. The wind was ever present as was a great big sky.

Reconnecting & Celebrating The Past

It didn’t occur to me until much later that my experience of prairie was similar to those who hunted on this land hundreds or even thousands of years earlier. I was living in the territory of the Siksika people, whose reserve is now 40 miles to the west. I never thought about the previous owners at the time. We were farmers intent on getting our land ready for our crops.

Fast-forward to today and I feel a strong need to reconnect not only to the recent past, but the ancient one of the First Nations. I want to honour their wisdom, their vigour and their stewardship of this land.

It has taken me awhile to appreciate the importance of our relationship with the First Nations people who lived here long before we came along to lay claim to the land and shape it to suit our purposes.

I recently attended the screening of “Elder in the Making” (elderinthemaking.com). This is a moving documentary about a Chinese newcomer to Canada, Chris Hsiung, and a young Blackfoot man, Cowboy SmithX, and it tells the history of the land occupied by the Blackfoot tribes of Southern Alberta.

As a Chinese immigrant, the filmmaker had no knowledge of the people who lived on this land for thousands of year. Hsiung did note we use various First Nation names for our highways, but he didn't know the history or significance of these names. I doubt he is alone in this. For a long time, Calgary has named our major thoroughfares using the English names of famous Aboriginal leaders such as Crowfoot or the First Nation's name like Sarcee, even though T’suu Tina’ is the proper term.

Weasel Calf (name given to him by settlers) and his wife.

Better Process

The City of Calgary has recently proposed a revision of its naming policy. If approved, the policy will require aboriginal names to be used on all freeways and expressways constructed in Calgary. While a change in policy is welcomed, I suggest that further discussion is needed. There may be occasions when a non-Aboriginal name is preferred for an expressway (e.g. Memorial Drive).  We may wish to honour someone whose name and reputation stands the test of time (e.g. Peter Lougheed).  

We need to include First Nations elders in the naming and blessing of expressways or “trails”. A participatory approach has been adopted throughout New Zealand resulting in the extensive use of Maori place names. Honouring First Nations people with appropriate names for places and “trails” might lead to other efforts to include and honour the Treaty 7 peoples and the special places where they lived, worked, and played.   

The policy should also allow for the renaming of existing expressways. For example, Blackfoot Trail could add “Siksika Trail,” or simply become Siksika Trail.  Sarcee Trail could become "T’suu Tina Trail".   

Bow River (Makhabn River) looking west with Prince's Island and Eau Claire lumber mill in the distance.  This photo is from the current exhibition at the Lougheed House. 

Better Context

Maybe we can do better by providing the appropriate First Nations name to a particular place. Do we begin to use the Siksika word “Makhabn also spelt Manachban” which means “river where bow reeds grow” as an alternative name for the Bow River (it is kinda of dumb to have both a Bow and Elbow River)?  Mokintsis is the First Nation name for the Elbow River, it means, “elbow” and is based on the sharp elbow-like turn it makes at Stampede Park before entering the Makahabn River (whoops) Bow River. 

The confluence of the Bow and the Elbow Rivers might be called Ako-katssinn (Siksika for a place where all come to camp) to celebrate its earliest human occupation alongside the historic Fort Calgary site. Ako-katssinn would be a great name for the new pedestrian bridge at the confluence.

We already use some First Nation language, but not in the right context. For example Mewata Armoury serves a military use, yet “mewata” means “to be happy, pleasant place or be joyful.” Similarly, “paskapoo” means blindman and I am not sure what that has to do with sandstone and “shaganappi” means “raw hide” which makes no sense to how we use it today.

Last word

The fact we have retained the term “trails” rather than using the term freeways or numbered highways for our major roads (as is the case for most cities), is exactly what I am talking about.  It may seem like a small token of appreciation for the past, but it is part of what makes Calgary unique and proper names can bring new context and vitality to a place. 

Maybe we could start by renaming West Village, Mewata Village – who wouldn’t want to live work and play in “a happy, pleasant, joyful place?” 

A few days after this blog was posted I found this tweet announcing the City of Edmonton has renamed one of its streets using an authentic Enoch Cree Nation name.  This is what I am talking about 

About Lawrence Braul

Lawrence currently works as the CEO of Trinity Place Foundation of Alberta. He was born and raised in Calgary. He believes the old adage, "You can take the boy out of the prairie, but you can't take the prairie out of the boy."

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