Maple Creek capitalizing on its cultural roots

By: Dennis Garreck January, 2012

A couple of years ago a group of community-minded people gathered in maple Creek for a community planning meeting. Twenty-one citizens representing 13 groups in maple Creek drafted a vision at that meeting, "to be leaders in building partnerships for a sustainable community in maple Creek and area".

Advance the clock two years and you have a community excited about working on community engagement and a municipal cultural plan. The community received support from SaskCulture’s municipal Cultural engagement and Planning Grant and in addition, the South West Saskatchewan Old Timer's Association in maple Creek was successful in its bid to be one of four Saskatchewan communities to undertake a main Street Heritage Demonstration Project, funded through the ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport.

According to Adrienne Gradauer, Tourism manager, “The initial community planning meeting two years ago attracted people from the business community, town council, service clubs, education, health region, rural municipality, churches, museum, sport groups, District for Sport, Culture and Recreation, as well as peoplefrom the Newcomers’ Welcoming Committee.” One of the goals was to develop and support more cultural activities, which related directly to the community’s pride in its heritage and culture.”

Participants of this, and other community meetings, commented on their experience as an opportunity to work together. “To have dialogue, to have comments and ideas shared by all, to bring forward great ideas and to hold participatory meetings were important parts of this experience,” Gradauer adds. Also in 2009, maple Creek Town Council designated a downtown Heritage District and the community developed the motto "Where Past is Present".

Today, under the staff leadership of main Street Coordinator, Royce Pettyjohn, and Gradauer, the Cultural Planning and main Street Projects are moving through a process of community engagement and planning to further develop maple Creek's culture, heritage and community identity. One of the other intended results is to create an innovative and vibrant community that uses the knowledge and talents of maple Creek residents to become inclusive and responsive. The main Street Project is essentially a community revitalization initiative centered on heritage conservation. The objectives of the program are to preserve and restore the distinct face of the community with a focus on maple Creek’s historic downtown.

“The historic, 1911 Grand Theatre, with its original colourful tin ceiling tiles, is also on the radar in this plan,” explains Pettyjohn, “and there is community interest to restore The Grand as a gathering place of arts, culture and heritage.” The main Street Project will elevate the economic and tourism potential while enhancing community pride and the quality of life for maple Creek residents.

The two staff people are supported by a number of community leaders, including mayor Barry Rudd, Council member and business leader Tina Creswell, as well as Rachel Casponi, Chair of the Arts, Heritage and Cultural Coalition. These individuals will make up a municipal cultural planning steering committee who will bring together other representatives from all groups and activities to develop and promote cultural activities for the enhancement of the towns' cultural and economic life.

Maple Creek is a community that organizes and supports an incredible number of community events including a Heritage Festival, a Heritage Walking Tour, a multicultural mosaic, a Family Day Winter Festival, Communities in Bloom, The Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a Taste of maple Creek, The Farmer's market, a Cowtown Christmas, the Battle of the Big Puck, a music Festival, museum activities, Canada Day celebrations and most recently the establishment of etoile International Culinary School.