Ross Smith is a long-serving volunteer at Sunnybrook Farm Museum (photo by Lana Michelin, Advocate staff).

Red Deer’s ingenious Sunnybrook Farm volunteers rise to another challenge

The dedicated crew are rebuilding a much-photographed pioneer wagon

Jack-of-all-trades Sunnybrook Farm volunteers are firing up their tablesaw to rebuild the wooden wagon from the Sounds the Alarm sculpture beside Red Deer’s downtown library.

No written instructions are required for this seasoned crew who, on Thursday, transported the weather-rotted wagon to the farm to begin their two-week project.

Recreating a pioneer wagon falls as much within their scope of talents as refurbishing a century-old plough, installing a petting zoo, building a garage and general store, or even restoring the one-room school house — the next major farm project set to begin this summer.

Whenever a hand is needed around Red Deer’s interpretive farm museum — whether with baking pies, repairing a 1920s tractor, demonstrating butter churning, or mowing acres of grass — executive-director Ian Warwick can can rely on about 85 male and female volunteers, who are mostly retirees.

Warwick admitted activities would grind to a halt without these talented individuals, who devote more than 9,000 hours a year — the equivalent of about five-full-time jobs — to doing whatever needs to be done.

The farm, billed as being “like grandma and grandpa’s!” teaches about Alberta’s rural roots with summer-time demonstrations in blacksmithing, milking and baking bread.

Most importantly, it shows city kids that their food does not come from a grocery store, said Ross Smith, one of the longest-serving volunteers. “They learn eggs come from hens, pork comes from pigs…”

Smith has been at the farm museum since retiring from his agriculture inspection job in 1997. “My wife says I spend every day of the week here, but I like to help out,” he said. Raised on a farm in Ontario, Smith knows his way around equipment — like the old ploughs he’s helped restore by rebuilding worn parts.

“People talk about this as being ‘antique’ — but I used all that stuff!” he said, with a chuckle.

Smith has also helped prepare animal pens for the incoming livestock petting zoo and done general repairs and maintenance. One of the perks is getting to chum around with fellow volunteers, and meet visitors of all ages. “You never know what kids are going to say,” he added.

Wayne Blenkhorn, who’s leading the wagon rebuilding project, has helped refurbish most of the farm buildings and displays since 2010. The civil engineer admitted he had a lot of trouble staying retired since leaving his job in the military — until he began volunteering at the farm museum (and in the winter, with the Christmas Bureau).

“I like the camaraderie” and sense of purpose volunteering provides, explained the Nova Scotia native, who’s carefully measuring planks and drill holes so an exact replica can be made of the wagon that’s being “pulled” by the bronze sculptural horses in downtown Red Deer.

The only difference is that thicker new planks are being used this time, so the wagon will be able to sustain a few more years of weathering before being replaced next time around. Blenkhorn expects it will be attached to the sculpture in the second week in May.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

 

Sunnybrook Farm volunteer Wayne Blenkhorn is leading the wagon replacement project (photo by Lana Michelin, Advocate staff).

Just Posted

BREAKING: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Canada, U.S. lead call for enforcement of sanctions against North Korea

VANCOUVER — Canada and the U.S. led calls Tuesday for the global… Continue reading

Donald Trump aces mental aptitude test designed by an immigrant to Canada

WASHINGTON — When the White House released the results of a test… Continue reading

Food industry fails to meet most voluntary sodium reduction targets: Health Canada

TORONTO — Voluntary sodium targets for the food industry have failed to… Continue reading

Feds long way from restarting or scraping missing, murdered women inquiry: PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is a long… Continue reading

WATCH: Rebels play floor hockey with Annie L. Gaetz students

The Rebels may be on a losing streak but they were definitely… Continue reading

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

This robotic maid takes us one step closer to ‘The Jetsons’

Imagine this: You’re rushing to get ready for work — juggling emails,… Continue reading

Milan line offers canine couture for pampered pooches

Milan has long been the world’s ready-to-wear fashion leader. Now, dogs are… Continue reading

Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye welcome baby girl

NEW YORK — It’s a girl for Kim Kardashian West and her… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month