So long Town of Lacombe! Hello City of Lacombe!
That’s right. This historic community is now officially Alberta’s 17th city.
The model community that prides itself as friendly, progressive, down-to-earth and overall a great place to live, graduated to city status after exceeding that magic 10,000 population mark. Its 2009 municipal census placed the number of residents at 11,733.
On Tuesday, around 500 citizens and visitors gathered for a ceremony to say goodbye to the town and look forward to the future as a city.
“Keep saying: ‘City of Lacombe, City of Lacombe, City of Lacombe’,” joked Mayor Judy Gordon to the crowd as she wrapped up celebrations.
It will take a while for the new status to sink in, but longtime residents are greeting the new challenge with enthusiasm, while praising the community for its attributes.
Retired TV shop owner Eilert Rebne, 83, a resident there for 50 years, said the new status is a good sign his community will move forward.
Rebne loves his hometown.
“This is as close to Utopia a guy will find on this earth,” he said. “We’ve got everything here. We’ve got lakes. We’ve got fishing. You want a nice scenic drive, you drive in any direction out of town and you’ll get it.”
Retired teacher Lorraine Oliphant said most of the school children who attended Tuesday’s celebration will likely not feel a big impact in the change of status at the moment, but will cherish the memories over time.
“I think it is a very exciting time for the people of the City of Lacombe to look forward to more growth, more recreation areas, more walking trails, paths and more commercial growth,” said Oliphant.
The active minds of some of Lacombe’s younger citizens also recognize the importance of the new status.
Grade 6 student Julianne Goings, one of about 200 school children who attended the ceremonies, said she feels the community has taken an important step, both politically and historically. Goings, born in Lacombe, said she will be sure to tell her children and grandchildren about this grand event.
Lacombe, historically, has always been looked upon as a community of choice if one desired to set their roots down in a friendly atmosphere of small-town flavour.
In the early years, it attracted area rural residents, and others from surrounding villages, like a magnet for shopping and medical services. Then, Red Deer was considered a long haul.
Many longtime area residents were born in the Lacombe Hospital. Lacombe’s dentist office tended to many toothaches. And there was the clothing stores where kids were suited with fresh, new clothes for that first day at school.
Of major importance as well, Lacombe has always embraced its senior citizens with respect and loving care. It’s the Utopia that Rebne speaks highly of.
Lacombe’s seniors have always been a lively, imaginative bunch. The establishment years ago of their drop-in centre, called Kozy Korner, was testimony to that fact. Through its ongoing activities it proved that just because you retire doesn’t mean you retire from living.
Lacombe has gained recognition for its preservation of unique, historical structures, such as the diamond-shaped brick complex on main street that houses numerous businesses and services.
But where Lacombe really shines is the effort it has poured into maintaining a friendly, small-town character.
Mayor Gordon and Lacombe city council has placed as a priority holding onto that reputation, while managing a growing city.
Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.