Walt Lockhart

Walt Lockhart

Elks Club celebrates 90 years of service in Red Deer

Ninety years ago, the first purple hats, complete with their white tassels, started to sprout up around Red Deer. The heads they sat on became easily recognized around the city over the years as the Elks, usually decked out in various shades of violet. The Elks are one of the oldest community organizations in Central Alberta.

Ninety years ago, the first purple hats, complete with their white tassels, started to sprout up around Red Deer.

The heads they sat on became easily recognized around the city over the years as the Elks, usually decked out in various shades of violet. The Elks are one of the oldest community organizations in Central Alberta.

On Saturday, 165 guests and members of the Red Deer Elks Lodge No. 85 are gathering for dinner, drinks, speeches and live entertainment in honour of the 90th anniversary. The event is sold out.

“We’ve had a big impact in Red Deer and it will be a celebration of that,” said Nick Henger, the Elks secretary-treasurer and a past leader or “exalted ruler” of Elkdom in Red Deer.

“Most organizations don’t make it that long,” added Gene Watson, also a former exalted ruler and a well-know developer.

The Elks, a national, fraternal and charitable organization dedicated to families and improving the community, was first established in Canada in 1912. The Red Deer Elks Lodge was granted a charter on May 14, 1924, during a time when citizens couldn’t depend on the government for recreational services or even improvements to infrastructure. The Elks Lodge was one of the groups to step up, donating funds to build a children’s wading pool, among other projects in education and health care.

Over the years, they contributed money to the Salvation Army, the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, the Red Deer Food Bank and various sport organizations, including ringette, minor hockey, soccer, junior golf and the Special Olympics. They continue to donate to these groups and will be presenting the final cheque to the Ronald McDonald House of Central Alberta on Saturday, marking the last installment of the Elks’ five-year donation of $200,000 to the Magic Room.

The focus of all Elks’ contributions and work is “family and children,” said Henger, who joined in 1976 after hearing about the group from a coworker.

In 1927, the Elks founded a popular carnival known for its cart and harness races. It morphed into an annual fair in 1945, helped out by affiliate Order of the Royal Purple (a organization celebrating its centennial this year) and featured wrestling and boxing matches. There were also the sponsors behind many local stampedes and chuckwagon races in the early 1950s, Watson said, which really elevated the lodge’s reputation.

Watson was recruited by his father in-law, Camille Lerouge — the same Lerouge who the local Catholic high school was later named after — when he was 27. Part of what attracted him was the fact that you didn’t have to be of a particular religion to join and membership was open to anyone of any ethnicity and background.

The Elks were also the original sponsor of the Edmonton Eskimos — which is “why they’re so good,” said Watson with a wink.

The lodge started with just 121 men but ballooned to 2,800 in its heydey, said Watson. There are about 130 now.

The biggest challenge is “staying alive,” said member Al Delmage, as retention and recruitment are no walks in the park currently.

“Thirty to 35 years ago when we joined, there was a necessity for a group like us because of a lack of government involvement. Now, they hand out a number of grants. … And anyone can host a casino night and get $20,000 out of it. Licensed fundraising has killed us,” said Delmage, who was an Elks transfer to Red Deer when he moved from Yellowknife, over 10 years ago. His daughter and son are still involved with the Elks and the Royal Purple in Yellowknife.

For more information, visit www.elksreddeer.ca or drop into the lodge at 6315 Horn St. during one of Elks nights held every second and fourth Monday of the month, or regular meetings held every second Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

EDMONTON — A criminologist says a recent court order that allows Alberta… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is distancing himself from a decision… Continue reading

Rental units in Red Deer continued to be some of the most affordable in Canada, according to the National Rent Report from Rental.ca. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Red Deer rent up year over year, still among lowest in Canada

Rent in Red Deer is up nearly six per cent but is… Continue reading

Rebels logo.
Red Deer Rebels trade last year’s first overall selection in U.S. Prospects Draft

The Red Deer Rebels have traded their first overall selection from the… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. A judge is expected to rule this morning on a challenge of the United Conservative government’s inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta’s oil industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

CALGARY — A judge has dismissed an attempt to quash the United… Continue reading

Unifor National President Jerry Dias is seen at a meeting in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. The head of the country’s largest private-sector union says Parliament should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and possibly put future increases into the hands of an independent commission. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Business, labour groups clash at Senate committee over $15 federal minimum wage

OTTAWA — The head of the country’s largest private-sector union says Parliament… Continue reading

In this file photo dated Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for COVID-19 sit in vials at the Fiocruz Foundation after being bottled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Some health experts are questioning Canada's decision to accept thousands of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week just for them to sit in freezers in an Ontario warehouse because provinces have shunned the idea of using any more of them for first doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bruna Prado, FILE
Experts call on Canada to use COVAX doses of AstraZeneca or give them back

OTTAWA — Some health experts are questioning Canada’s decision to accept thousands… Continue reading

In this image from video, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. A U.S. lawmaker who has made a political crusade out of getting the border with Canada reopened is once again pressing his case with President Joe Biden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-House Television via AP
New CDC guidance makes it clear: time to reopen Canada-U.S. border, congressman says

WASHINGTON — A U.S. lawmaker who has made a political crusade out… Continue reading

A used protective face mask is seen discarded on the ground in Vancouver, B.C. in May 2020. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Medical exception letters required for Albertans who don’t wear masks in public areas

EDMONTON — Alberta has moved to close loopholes people might use as… Continue reading

Team Canada’s head coach Troy Ryan talks with players before the start of the of the Rivalry Series at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, February 3, 2020. Ryan of Spryfield, N.S., has been named head coach of Canada’s women’s hockey team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Troy Ryan to coach Canadian women’s hockey team in 2022 Winter Olympics

Ryan was Canada’s assistant coach from 2016 to 2019

FILE- In this April 19, 2021, file photo, people wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait to test for COVID-19 at a hospital in Hyderabad, India. Misinformation about the coronavirus is surging in India as the death toll from COVID-19 rises. Fueled by anguish, distrust and political polarization, the claims are further compounding India’s crisis. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A, File)
Misinformation surges amid India’s COVID-19 calamity

Distrust of Western vaccines and health care also driving misinformation

Most Read