Sylvan Lake’s Thomas and Heather Lavoie, along with two-year-old Jackson, look at some of the animals at Sunnybrook farm during Pioneer Days on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Sylvan Lake’s Thomas and Heather Lavoie, along with two-year-old Jackson, look at some of the animals at Sunnybrook farm during Pioneer Days on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

‘This is what we’re about’: Pioneer Days Festival returns in Red Deer

Central Albertans experienced a slice of pioneer life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer over the weekend.

Sunnybrook hosted its annual Pioneer Days Festival Saturday and Sunday, featuring a tractor pull, games, baby animals and more. This is the first time the general public has been able to attend the event since 2019, as the 2020 Pioneer Days was invite-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The tractor pullers came with their families because we had that limit of 200 people last summer, so this is our first real event in two years. It’s really great to have the general public out,” said Ian Warwick, museum executive director.

The volunteers were happy to be out as well, Warwick added.

“There’s a whole social element for our volunteers, as they work and do things together – they’ve missed that. They get to visit their friends, they’ve been cooped up (indoors) and now they can come out and do this. It’s pretty exciting.”

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This year’s event won’t bring in exactly the same revenue as it has in the past because it was brought together “fairly quickly,” said Warwick.

“We don’t have a silent auction, we don’t have advertising sales and things like that. It’ll be about 75 per cent of what it was in the past. But it’s just great to have people here. This is what we’re about: showcasing these antique tractors, pioneer activities and the blacksmiths working in the shop,” he said.

Pioneer Days also featured an antique car show on Saturday.

While the pandemic has created challenges, the supports available for Sunnybrook Farm Museum “have been great,” said Warwick.

“The city, the province, the federal government have given us excellent support during the pandemic,” he said.

“Our income was down 50 per cent because we weren’t doing fundraising events – a lot of our revenue comes from fundraising activities like these events, so that’s a challenge.

“But then our expenses were down. The actual grants that came in helped us break even last year in terms of our budget. We weren’t losing money, but that’s not what we’re here to do. We want to program, we want to showcase, we want to have fun.”

Warwick said it’s been nice to have day camps open in July and August for children and to be able to host Pioneer Days again.

“Who knows what the fall’s going to bring, but we’re doing OK. We’re going to be here 10 years from now, just like we’ve been here for 30 years,” he said, adding revenues this past July was higher than all of last summer.

Sunnybrook Farm Museum is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the end of August.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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