EXPLORING THE PAST – Mackenzie Smithson

EXPLORING THE PAST – Mackenzie Smithson

Fort Normandeau Days this weekend

Fort Normandeau is sure to be busy this weekend as the facility hosts the annual celebration of the area’s history.

From 12 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 22nd and 23rd a variety of activities will be set up around the historical centre to celebrate the history and legacy of the grounds. Entrance fees are $3 per person, $10 for a family of four and $15 per carload for a group of six people or more.

“These days are a celebration of the three founding cultures for our area: the Métis, the First Nations and Europeans,” said facility summer student Josh Cormier.

“We’re going to have battle re-enactments and children’s activities, and pumpkin pie eating contests both days to kind of get into the fall groove. We’re going to have Dance Magic come out here as well to do a little dance class, which is new.

“Of course, we’ll have live entertainment – we’ve got a local Red Deer artist Timmy James coming and we have some Métis jigging that will take place.”

New this year is the addition of food and material vendors. Cool Beans will be on location selling their food, as well as the Cozy Stitch Pie Company with individual pies. Handcrafted Creations will be at the Fort as well. All vendors will be set up next to the Interpretive Centre.

“We wanted to try to get the community involved and see if we could create an opportunity for people who wanted to sell things to do with the ‘fall spirit’ in the atmosphere of the event,” Cormier said.

Also new this year is a boot camp activity that will be facilitated by members of the Canadian Army Reserve.

Members of the 65th Mount Royal Rifles group, based in Québec, facilitate the battle re-enactments. Members of the battalion join members of the Métis and First Nations community to share the history with visitors in an interactive way.

“The 65th Mount Royal Rifles were the militia sent out here when the Fort was used as a Fort, back in 1885. That group still exists today – it’s a group from Quebec who come out here for Fort Normandeau Days. They come out to Red Deer and put on a really great battle enactment with some local First Nations and Metis people,” explained Cormier.

“It gets really intense,” he laughed. “The people who come out to watch set up their lawn chairs on the hill and it’s usually the highlight of the weekend here.”

Last year, over 350 members of the community came out to witness the battle re-enactments.

Visitors may also choose to explore the Interpretive Centre, as it was completely renovated last year with new exhibits and expansions.

Fort Normandeau was founded in 1885 during the Louis Riel Rebellion and was named for Lieutenant J.E. Bedard Normandeau. Originally, the site was a stopping house – a hotel of the time – created by Robert McClellan and Addison McPherson.

“The stopping house was sort of the Gasoline Alley of the modern day,” Cormier said.

“It was only a fort for about two months. The people who were living here at the time were very frightened by the rebellion and many people went to Fort Edmonton. The Fort building was turned into a North West Mounted Police detachment until 1893. This was when Leonard Gaetz sold half of his land in Red Deer for the railway to come through. Eventually he moved Red Deer to where it is now,” explained Cormier.

Fort Normandeau is located seven km west of Red Deer, at the end of Range Road 280.