Centennial celebrations in Sylvan Lake were kicked off in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon as several councillors and other local ‘characters’ performed a series of vignettes or short stories about the community’s history.
The highlight of the afternoon was definitely the intriguingly choreographed sampling of music and stories of past years.
École H. J. Cody High School band did a fabulous job providing music suitable to various eras portrayed.
Historian and storyteller Michael Dawe was the narrator setting the scene as the audience was moved through the decades with stories written by Judy Hinshaw who was assisted in her research by members of Sylvan Lake & District Archives Society.
The multiplex was gaily decorated with historic pictures of the community and its activities of the past.
Following brief speeches and presentations by dignitaries, the afternoon’s entertainment opened with a re-enactment of the first village council meeting.
Then it was on to the years of World War I which put a halt to Sylvan Lake’s growth, and then into the 1920s when the community again began to roar and the Charleston was popular. Electric lights, phone service, construction of two elevators and the new Women’s Institute Pier marked that decade.
The depression didn’t harm the reputation of Sylvan Lake as a tourist resort or the reputation of the dance halls. The band played the Beer Barrel Polka for this episode.
Fun in the sun, Sylvan’s teachers, years of tremendous growth and the loss of landmarks such as the boat house, Varsity Hall and the grain elevators were remembered.
The performance ended with John Treleaven, in the character of village founder Alexandre Loiselle, remarking in a monologue on the many changes which have taken place over the past century. “It’s hard to believe this was the wooded shore of 1913.”
Loiselle’s first trip from Red Deer took four arduous days — now with a paved highway that trip takes “the same amount of time as a walk from my hotel to the railway station”, Loiselle said.
He lamented traffic is so constant Main Street could never be used for a tobogganing hill as it used to be.
“How educated Sylvan Lake has become. Kids go to school to Grade 12, we thought the three R’s could be taught by Grade 8.” And they teach in French.
Yet with change, Loiselle remained struck by the lake’s beauty. “How I remember the tranquility of early morning.
“The burnished trail of a sunset across the water. The sudden dark ferocity of a summer storm. The reflection of autumn leaves burning the water into liquid gold, and the sharp crystalline beauty of winter ice … Beneath all of its unfamiliarity, the heart of my 1913 lake still beats.”
The performances were followed by a beef on a bun barbecue and music by Wooden Nickel. Over 500 tickets were sold for the barbecue.
In the arena, history boards created by about 60 groups and organizations were displayed. They’ll also be displayed at Centennial events which are planned for this weekend.