Reflections of Ponoka: A visit to our museum and a walk in the park

A relaxing family treat for a summer afternoon in our friendly community is a visit to the pristine Lions’ Centennial Park

Fort Ostell Museum summer staff Caitlin McLaren and Melissa Gartner stand beside the new Photo Booth display which they have just completed. People of all ages are welcome to drop in and enjoy this and many other historical artifacts depicting the early years of our town and surrounding districts.

A relaxing family treat for a summer afternoon in our friendly community is a visit to the pristine Lions’ Centennial Park along Highway 2A next to Fort Ostell Museum. Activities for all ages in this spacious area include a casual stroll along the paths, a real wet adventure for the kids in the new splash park, a game of mini-golf, fun at the playground, a tour of our historical museum treasures and a picnic to end a perfect day.

The Fort Ostell Museum was established in 1976 to honour the colorful history, founders and pioneers of Ponoka and Ponoka County, and through the kindly donations of artifacts from generations of area families, organizations and individuals, has steadily grown to become an exciting milestone and salute to our long and proud heritage. With the great support of the town and county councils, the museum is a busy year-round operation that is on summer hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Fridays and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. Your congenial hostesses are museum co-ordinator Sandy Allsopp, manager Barb Greshner, and summer staff Caitlin McLaren and Melisa Gartner, with help from many volunteers.

As well as greeting visitors from near and far and hosting special functions, the staff are always busy sorting through incoming historical treasures, as well as preparing informative displays that vividly depict the humble beginnings, growth, and successes of more than a century from in and around the Ponoka that we cherish so much. Everyone is welcome to casually browse through the vast and always interesting collection of old newspapers, pictures and exciting treasures and characters of our past. Many annual visitors have also been thrilled when the museum staff have been able to assist them with finding the colorful early chapters of their family generations all the way back to when they arrived here with many others settlers to carve out their new homestead and raise their large families.

Throughout the year at the Fort Ostell Museum plays host to many excited and always inquisitive school classes, who can enjoy a hands-on approach to the displays, as well as have the opportunity to churn butter and to make and taste bannock just like it was done in those pioneer kitchens so many decades ago. Groups are also cordially invited to book the museum for their meetings, which usually also features tea, treats and a tour. Some of the feature events at the museum include their annual winter cookie sale, the delightful Heritage weekend High Tea on Aug. 3 to welcome new Canadians and families, the Ponoka Youth Centre Summer program on Aug. 14. Those interested in hosting a special event at the Fort Ostell Museum or seeking more information on their programs are welcome to contact Sandy Allsopp at 403-783-5224.

The new photo booth display

The newest display at the Fort Ostell Museum is a nifty booth that remembers the early era of photography. Featured are advertisements that introduce the speedy progression in film, cameras, the exciting arrival of the first movie cameras and Bell and Howell projectors, as well as an amazing 3-D picture viewer, and the first Baby Brownie for just $3.15. Many of the historic original items are a part of this authentic photographic display, including the Agro-Flex, the newest from Polaroid, the magic of the kaleidoscope, and much more. Also being prepared for future guests is a magnificent old doll collection, which also includes carriages and other accessories that little girls played with and pampered for countless hours so many years ago!

Ponoka resident Caitlin McLaren is looking forward to her second summer season on the museum staff, and then will enter Grade 12 at the Ponoka Secondary Campus in the fall. Melissa Gartner, who has spent her entire life in the Ponoka area, is in her first summer at Fort Ostell, and has exciting plans for the future. “I have just graduated for St. Augustine School, will be attending the University of Lethbridge in the fall to obtain a bachelor’s degree in history, will then go on to pursue my master’s degree in history and then attend the University of Calgary to achieve a degree in museum curation.” Melissa feels that her present job at the Ponoka museum is a great opportunity to gain valuable experience for her future career and is enjoying every minute of it.

Take a little time to drop in and visit the staff of the Fort Ostell Museum, who will be more than happy to share the colorful and interesting history of our vibrant town and districts with everyone.

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