Margaret Atwood Visits Remarkable Val Marie

by Laureen on June 26, 2013


Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson chat with guests at Prairie Wind & Silver Sage in Val Marie

“When does the town get…busy?” the visitors asked, looking at Centre Street, almost empty of cars. “Grad?” I thought. “Rodeo?” But I knew what they meant. Used to national parks like Banff, they were looking for traffic, pedestrians, other visitors like them. They were looking for bustle.

Though Val Marie is the gateway to Grasslands National Park, it almost never bustles. The number of local residents is too few, and visitors to the park are out in the hills. It’s one of the pleasures of living here. Val Marie isn’t noisy. But it’s a mistake to confuse quiet with inactive. You can’t always see it happening, but Val Marie is active almost all the time.

Take this week for example. Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, two of Canada’s most acclaimed authors, came to visit. On a tour to Saskatchewan’s grasslands to raise awareness of grasslands bird habitat and the need for conservation in after changes in the management of publicly held community pastures, now transferred to the province of Saskatchewan, they spent three nights in Val Marie. They toured the pastures, watched birds, ate at the local restaurants and met local people during a reception at Prairie Wind & Silver Sage, our museum/public art gallery/gift shop/espresso bar. And they told the world how special it all is.

Ian Davidson, Executive Director of Nature Canada was here too. Nature Canada is a non-profit conservation organization with a network of 40,000 supporters and more than 350 naturalist organizations across Canada, and a mission to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature.

Ian McCreary, a fourth-generation Saskatchewan cattle producer and president of the Community Pastures Association of Saskatchewan, was here. He’s giving his time in order to ensure that the prairie pastures can remain for generations to come. “You have a remarkable little town,” he said. He’s right. We do.

For it isn’t just during nationally-broadcast events that Val Marie is active. We’re active all the time. In a town of about 100 people, with maybe another 100 scattered in the trading area, everyone has to be active. Staff at local offices and businesses are active. So are volunteers, on the boards and committees that make everything run, from the community Hall to the Rink, from our community-owned share corporation Whitemud Grocery to the Seniors’ Centre, from the Lions’ Club to the Elevator Committee preservation project to Prairie Wind & Silver Sage. People volunteer on the school council. They volunteer during hockey season and at rodeo and at the movies on weekends. They keep sewers healthy and streets cleaned of snowdrifts in the winter and systems running in the grocery store and they cook for special events in the Hall. And then they do more after that. Without any bustle, everything that a very small town needs to get done to function, gets done.

Busy? Maybe. Remarkable? You bet.

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Know someone who’d like to see this? Please feel free to share!

The blog is a series of posts from one artist/art gallery owner’s life in her community in one of Canada’s most beautiful and remote wilderness regions. I hope you will find yourself and your spirit reflected in it.


Kimberley June 27, 2013 at 9:53 am

You have described Val Marie and all small towns in this area to a tee! We are special because we are small, in my opinion at least.

Fiona Woods June 27, 2013 at 10:48 am

All the best people go to Val Marie eventually!

Laureen June 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

I think so too! Thanks.

Laureen June 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

We will expect you next!

Kristy Reimers-Loader June 27, 2013 at 4:29 pm


Laureen June 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Seems like it to me, too 🙂

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