Neiman: Small contributions to a big celebration

Fifty years ago, I was in what today is called middle school. That year was overtaken by class projects around Canada’s Centennial.

We sang Ca-Na-Da endlessly, though in our small town, the kids never got to actually follow Bobby Gimby and his jewelled trumpet through the streets. Geometry lessons revolved around precisely drawing the interlocked triangles that made up the Expo 67 logo. We all knew where Expo 67 was. It was on TV.

Every village, town and city had a Centennial project. Lord knows how many Centennial Parks, Centennial Centres or Centennial Libraries still survive, but if your town didn’t have one in 1967, people might wonder about your patriotism.

This year is Canada’s 150th anniversary, but for some reason, we’re not competing to see who has the greatest or most interesting personal or municipal project going to mark the event.

So far, only the federal government seems to be interested in celebrating that Canada has been a nation for 150 years. No, that’s not entirely true; there are others with their eye on the calendar, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

For Red Deer, I think our best efforts should go toward becoming great hosts for the Canada Winter Games. Not exactly on the 150th birthday of Canada, is it? But 2019 is close enough, and we have a whole lot of work to do, that will leave a lasting legacy for this city.

To find celebration projects in Alberta, I went to the official web site There’s a tab labelled Events, and a filter for locations. I typed in “Alberta,” searched and got … no events.

I know there must be some special events planned here, but somehow they’re not listed.

So I’ll add one for all of us. The people who brought us the TransCanada Trail have been working very hard for a very long time to complete the 21,452 km of official trail connecting all 13 of Canada’s provinces and territories from sea-to-sea-to-sea, in time for the nation’s 150th birthday.

The entire trail is mapped, with 90 per cent of it connected so far. There are gaps — most notably in Alberta — but in theory, you can get on your bike on any of Red Deer’s city trails, and wind up in Vancouver, or St. John’s, or Inuvik — all along the Great Trail.

So my family’s resolution for the New Year, for our 150th Anniversary of Confederation — and for our general health — we plan to discover how much of that 21,452 km we can cover in 2017.

We will be visiting all the local attractions possible in our area, without having to get there by car.

Markerville is a lovely destination, and Stephenson House is nearby. The regional trail (part of the official TransCanada) to Lacombe is very attractive, and there are nice stops in Blackfalds and Lacombe for rest and refreshment along the way. This isn’t a race.

But it could be a beer run. Red Deer has two craft breweries to visit, and then there’s one in Lacombe. Now there’s a nice day-long group ride for a warm summer day. Who’s up for that?

Sylvan Lake and Spruce View are also reachable by bike. We’ve been visiting Delburne every year since 2009 on a charity ride, and have passed by the ice cream shop every time.

If lunch is what you seek, the Ellis Bluebird Farm is as good a stop and rest area as you can find in all of Canada. There is virtue in pie and ice cream, if you ride through the river valley to get it.

Hwy 11 from Saskatchewan River Crossing heading east is one of the great bike rides in all of Canada. A reasonably fit cyclist on a good day can leave after an early breakfast and get to Nordegg for an extra-large burger and fries for a late lunch .

But on the whole, our voyage will be more virtual than actual trekking the Great Trail. With the help of tracking technology, all our walking, skiing, cycling and paddling — all our fitness activity — can be recorded and the distances plotted against the Trail map.

It’s a trip you can take, too. For enjoyment, fitness and discovery. And as a stay-cation with a story you can share 50 years later.

The people who created and supported the TransCanada Trail have given us a great gift. Let’s make the most of it in its inaugural year, 2017.

Follow Greg Neiman at

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