By Marcia Love
It takes many individuals, businesses and groups working together to make a strong, vibrant community. The contributions of several local volunteers, businesses and groups were applauded at the inaugural Maple Creek Community Awards Gala last week.
The first annual celebration – which combines the Citizen of the Year Award (previously co-ordinated by the Maple Creek News-Times) and the Maple Creek Business Awards of Excellence (previously co-ordinated by the Maple Creek Main Street Program) – was held at the Glascock Building on March 25. Hosted by the Maple Creek Chamber of Commerce, the Community Awards recognized seven local individuals, businesses, groups and organizations that have made Maple Creek a great place to live, visit and do business.
Southwest TV News’ Carol Andrews was the mistress of ceremonies, with Chamber of Commerce president Blaine Filthaut opening the evening and Mayor Barry Rudd bringing greetings from the town. Each award presented featured a unique 360-degree photograph of the downtown by local photographer Lew Bevan.
This year’s recipients of the Citizen of the Year Award were Ross and Connie Martin, who have volunteered their time and efforts with numerous community groups and committees over the years, including Maple Creek Multiple 4-H, the Southwest Sask. Oldtimers’ Museum and the Murraydale Stampede & Picnic Society. (Full story found in today’s Maple Creek Advance Times)
The 2015 Business of the Year Award was presented to the Rockin’ Horse Cookhouse & Bar, which has supported the community in many ways. Owners Ralph Saemann and Laurie Leigh have hosted many successful steak night fundraisers for various community groups, as well as donating gift certificates to sporting and cultural events, raising funds for the Southwest Healthcare Trust, and supporting events such as the Cowtown Pro Rodeo and Taste of Maple Creek. (Full story found in today’s Maple Creek Advance Times)
Five other community recognition awards were presented during the evening to the Commercial Hotel, Communities in Bloom Steering Committee, Hair Barn Salon Spa & Tanning, Maple Creek Volunteer Taxi and the Maple Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Art & Gear Show Committee.
The Commercial Hotel was recognized for bringing Greyhound bus services back to town. Licadel Hotel Group Ltd., which owns the hotel, brought the service back into the community in December 2013. Previously, passengers and those shipping and receiving parcels by bus were required to travel out to the junction to catch the Greyhound.
It has been many years since the bus stopped right in town, but with its return it also brings economic benefits to businesses and raises awareness of everything Maple Creek has to offer to travellers.
Licadel Hotel Group’s Jayson Catalasan offered thanks to Pat Armstrong for assisting the hotel in securing the bus service. The group was happy to bring Greyhound services back to the community to benefit it in so many ways.
The CiB Steering Committee was recognized for their role in Maple Creek earning the 2014 Communities in Bloom Provincial Championship for the population category of 2,001-3,000 with five out of five blooms. Over the last several years, the committee has been outstanding in improving the overall appeal of the town. Several of their projects include the community garden, post office pocket park, Land of Living Skies Park, the Five for Five Program and Earth Day spring community clean-up, Block Beautification Contest and Yard of the Week Program, whiskey barrel planter program, Centennial Park’s flower bed, CiB spring lecture series and the annual CiB Soiree.
“It’s just been our passion to help the community look better,” said member Nola Sanderson, noting they didn’t even consider all the benefits it would bring to the town. “We just have fun and do what we do, and it’s a good time.”
The committee thanked all of its volunteers and the residents and business owners who do their part in making Maple Creek beautiful.
Hair Barn earned a community award for its excellent rehabilitation of the former Knodel’s Jewelry store building. As Maple Creek’s first facade restoration completed through the Main Street Program, it has contributed greatly to maintaining the town’s distinctive heritage.
Owner Lana Major was commended for working with local contractor Dan Sellinger to mirror the building as closely as possible to its original appearance – which included custom-milled cedar siding and a custom-made cornice. It not only improves the look of the building itself, but the downtown as a whole.
Major thanked those who assisted with the project and those who nominated the business for the award.
Maple Creek’s volunteer taxi drivers received an award for offering an essential service to the community.
The group of four full-time and three part-time drivers provide a lifeline to many seniors in town. The volunteers use their own vehicles and serve two to 20 people a day for a nominal $2.50 flat rate.
Treating their passengers as family, they help them in and out of the vehicle and would drive them as far as the junction when the Greyhound bus stopped there.
Volunteer driver Judy Moore thanked the drivers who operated the service in the past and those who started the taxi service.
The Cowboy Poetry Gathering Committee earned an award for their dedication to preserving western culture through the popular annual event. Marking its 25th anniversary last fall, the event is a result of the commitment of the volunteers.
Every year the gathering brings talented musicians, poets and artisans to the community. The committee has also worked collaboratively with local restaurants to offer live entertainment, expanding the reach of the event and benefiting local businesses.
The Cowboy Poetry Gathering is gaining recognition across the province, with last year’s event attended by the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation and the CEO of Tourism Saskatchewan specifically to reference the gathering during the Heritage Saskatchewan Forum.
Cowgirl poet Doris Bircham, who was among the performers at the first gathering, gave thanks to Kim Taylor for bringing the event to Maple Creek in 1989.
“When Kim and I had this vision, we never dreamed that it would go on for 25 years,” Bircham said. “So thank you for supporting it, and we hope you continue to do so.”
Filthaut noted the Chamber of Commerce was very pleased with the number of nominations that were submitted for the first annual community awards.
“There’s just so many great things that happen in Maple Creek, and what you saw was just seven of many,” he stated. “Every year there’s more. We’re heading in the right direction, and it’s exciting.”