Canada’s 150th birthday voyageur canoe race from Rocky Mountain House will be historic

Canadians will be able to travel aboard, by way of electronic registration, with voyageurs.

Rocky Mountain House will be putting on a celebration next year the likes of which have not been seen in all 150 years of Confederation.

Among other things, Canadians across the country will be able to travel aboard — in the form of an electronic registration — with modern-day voyageurs as they race down wild waterways from Rocky Mountain House all the way to The Pas, Man., next summer.

The Confluence Heritage Society in Rocky recently received a $624,000 grant from the federal government’s Canada 150 Fund. It’s only one of three in all of Western Canada approved recently by the Canadian Heritage ministry to be used for special celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday.

Laura Andreas, chairperson of the Canada 150 Voyageurs Rendezvous 2017 and president of the Confluence Heritage Society, said Thursday that her group was “ecstatic” when they learned they were getting the grant. It was the Confluence Heritage Society that applied for it.

Planned celebrations, while still not completely finalized, will turn Rocky into a hub of celebrations during 2017.

Andreas said celebrations begin on the February Family Day weekend in Rocky, when the Rupert’s Land Express certificate program will be launched. Canadians will be able to register online for free to have their names included in electronic information that will be carried on canoes during the race that takes place later in the year.

There will also be packets sold where actual envelopes will travel along in canoes and stamped along the way.

There will be a 150th birthday keepsake at the end when certificates can be obtained after the race is completed, Andreas said.

The Family Day weekend will have a variety of activities including Metis dancing, sled dogs, cultural games, a yet-to-be named major entertainer, fireworks and a banquet. Most of the events will be held at the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Andreas said.

“It’s open to everybody.”

Then in June, a fur trade paddle school education program will be launched. Schools from across Canada will be able to tune in online to learn all about the 1967 5,250-km Centennial Canoe Race, and the important history of the area, such as the role explorer David Thompson played in the fur trade.

Later in the month, from June 24-28, the Rocky Mountain Canoe Brigade will launch from the Kootenay Plains Campground and travel 190 km to the Rocky historic site.

Various celebrations will take place before the Rupert’s Land Canoe Express Race starts on June 28. There will also be a big-name entertainer at this.

“There will be tons of events,” Andreas said, and planning is well underway.

The canoe race, which promises to become part of the country’s history as the centennial race did, will run for 1,600 km, and involves teams paddling a total of 19 laps all the way from Rocky to the finish line in Manitoba.

Andreas said the Rocky activities are a major combined effort involving the Confluence Heritage Society, Alberta Parks, Parks Canada, Town of Rocky, Clearwater County, Rocky Mountain House Canoe Club, Friends of the David Thompson Corridor Society, the Chamber of Commerce, the two school districts, and others.

For more information, Andreas can be contacted at 403-418-8207 or by email at plandrea@telus.net

Vic Maxwell is the canoe events chairman and he can be contacted at 403-846-1242, or by email at vmaxwell67@gmail.com

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