More than 1000 school children were busy hauling water, making butter and playing tug of war at this year’s Peoples of the North Saskatchewan festival.
The May 15 – 16 event gave grades 4 to 6 students from schools in Fort Saskatchewan, Sherwood Park and Edmonton a cost-free, hands-on way to see for themselves how people lived over 100 years ago.
This marks the 11th time the Fort Saskatchewan Historical Society has organized the annual event, with members working to find sponsors, recruit volunteers and set up 25 learning stations and activities in and around the North West Mounted Police Fort.
“There are a number of activities that go on,” said historical society president Stuart McGowan. “Butter making, bannock making. We have a Red River cart. We've got blacksmith shops, candle making, and tug of wars, water hauling and so on.”
The Peoples of the North Saskatchewan started in 2008 as the David Thompson Brigade, a one-day festival in Turner Park, but due to demand was expanded to a two-day event held every May.
Over 200 volunteers help out at the festival, running activity centres and sharing stories of a time in local history when there were no handheld electronics or 24-hour convenience stores.
McGowan said that many of the volunteers return year after year to take part. Nineteen-year-old Ian Novakowski, who helped out at a butter-making centre at this year’s festival, said he has been volunteering for four or five years.
“I’ve been to a couple different booths over the years. It’s been a good time,” he said, adding that he likes to come out in support of the historical society.
Also returning this year were dancers from the Alexander First Nation who performed in the gazebo behind the Warden’s House.
“We ask them to come every year and they oblige us by coming and demonstrating and explaining things for the people that watch,” McGowan said.
A number of groups helped fund Peoples of the North Saskatchewan, including the Legion, the Royal Purple Society, Heritage Alberta and local businesses like Twice but Nice.