Why Rural Communities Matter?
By Todd O'Keefe
Are you making plans for your next vacation? This year, why not make it an Alberta Staycation - and head out on a road trip? It makes perfect sense when you have one of the world's most beautiful landscapes right here in your own backyard. And who could resist the temptation from some of the great local fare on the Eat East of Edmonton culinary trails.
There are many roadside attractions to see east of Edmonton, from the World's Largest Sausage in Mundare, to the World's Largest Easter Egg in Vegreville, or even the World's Largest Pyrogy in Glendon. Why not visit one of the numerous country fairs and rodeos such as the one held annually in Lamont, or appease the foodie in your bunch with a visit to the Garlic Festival in Andrew, or the Pumpkin Festival in Smoky Lake. There are so many places to stop along the way and see what these small towns have to offer. And, being that 2017 is Canada's 150-year birthday, even Elk Island National Park is offering a free gate pass all year long. Just imagine the bison you will see!
Tourism is always a boost for Alberta because in the short-term, it creates an experience for you, the visitor; but in the long-term, it creates jobs for people in rural communities. It is essential for helping to develop and grow our overall economy. There are many people, businesses, and organizations that are directly and indirectly impacted positively by tourism. Your contribution to the local economy also helps provide a future for our youth. *One out of five people, aged 15-24 years-old, works in the restaurant industry, with countless more working indirect jobs in related industries.
But, maybe most importantly, our small towns are the backbone to our heritage. The settlers who founded these communities planted the seeds, tended the crop, and shared the harvest with the rest of the province. They are the pioneers who shaped our modern direction, while still paying homage to their history. From the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian settlers, to the multicultural generations we now interact with on a daily basis – each community you visit has its own unique identity and culture for you to discover.
And, just remember, no road trip is complete without snacks! So, this year, as you make your way east of Edmonton and pass along fields of golden wheat, be sure to stop by in Mundare; a community rich with Ukrainian culture and heritage. It is there that you will find some world famous sausage, lots of friendly smiles, and plenty of authentic Ukrainian foods for your road trip.
Yes, there's always a good reason to visit your Alberta, but it's never been a better time than right now. Our dollar is much stronger here at home, and there are many sights and sounds waiting for a quick photo and share to your favourite social media platforms. So, stretch out your legs, pack everyone in the car, and get some sun on your face. Browse some roadside attractions, check out a festival, and walk some quaint small town streets. A road trip only takes one day, but your memories will last forever.
*Source: Restaurants Canada & Statistics Canada in 2016.