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L.A. Beat

Fort Whoop-Up features special summer programming

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 A lot has changed at Fort Whoop- Up since the Galt Museum took it over three years ago.: Fort Whoop Up interpreter Keiran Swayn and Graham Ruttan give a rope making demonstration at Fort Whoop Up. Photo by Richard Amery
 This summer they have been having special programs every Thursday night, alternating between performances by local musician Floyd Sillito and a historical story telling program spearheaded by Andrew Legg and featuring  local actors DJ Gellatly and Kathy Zaborsky, who will be taking over from Gellatly in August.
“It’s called Trader Tales. And really the credit goes to Andrew Legg who created this character from the 1860s-70s who would have been around  Fort Whoop Up at the time,” Gellatly said, adding he has enjoyed spending the summer telling stories around the campfire.


“This character tells story around the campfire about some of the characters who would have been around the Fort at the time,” he continued, adding he has enjoyed learning about the history of the Fort.
“I had never been down here until I started doing this. I think that’s true of a lot of people. They have never been to the Fort,” he observed.
“It really was the wild west here. So it has been really cool learning about it. It’s very interesting the North West Mounted Police formed to stop the whiskey trading happening at  Fort Whoop up,” he continued, adding he dresses in 1860s-70s style for the program.


“I wear a real 1860’s moose hide jerkin,” he said.
The program starts at 7:30 p.m. July 26 was Gellatly’s last performance. New West Theatre veteran Kathy Zaborsky takes over in August.
“She’s created a female character from that era,“ he said.
“It’s really Andrew Legg’s baby,” Gellatly said.

Lethbridge has a fascinating history of buffalo robe trading/ whiskey trading and the formation of the Northwest Mounted Police in order to stop it. The Fort features a variety of interactive displays in which you can get a feel for how people lived in the 1860s and 70s.
In addition to the special events on Thursdays, Fort Whoop Up is open seven days a week until Sept. 2 with a variety of activities happening including rope making, wagon rides,a  mini horse petting zoo,  candle dipping, live blacksmithing demonstrations and bannock making over the fire.


“People come here just because we’re making bannock,” said Galt Museum Marketing Communication officer Graham Ruttan, adding they are working on other alternatives when extreme heat  causes a fire ban to be implemented.
“We’re working with the folks at the Yates including Jason Eveleigh,” he continued adding Eveleigh has designed new audio presentations for each of the rooms in the fort, including NWMP headquarters, a bunkhouse, kitchen, blacksmith room featuring a blacksmith demonstration from Tim Wickstrom, who is selling what he makes on site in the gift shop, and of course the trading centre and store.
 They have a brand new well as well.  DJ Gellatly has enjoyed being part of  Trader Tales this summer. Photo by Richard Amery
“The Wood Turning guild built us a new rope making device,” he said.


“We also have all new artifacts since we took over,” he said, adding, unfortunately they don’t have a cannon any more as the previous board owned it and took it with them.
 Last week, July 22,  Fort Whoop Up  took on even more of a Wild West feel by featuring the Fort Whoop Up Black Powder Club and South Alberta Horse Artillery who bring a replica cannon similar to the cannon at the actual Fort Whoop up in the 1800s, for a demonstration of 1860s era weapons.


“We’re also planning a big event for Heritage Day. There will be fun for the whole family,” he said.


Heritage Day is the ideal holiday to come to the Fort,” wrote Site Coordinator Natasha Gray in a press release.

“We help visitors experience the lived heritage of the peoples who lived in southern Alberta in the 1800s including the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), other First Nations, Métis, Canadians, Americans, and British.”

In addition to going through the exhibit spaces in the Fort, visitors can sample traditional mint tea and berry soup, and bannock, experiment with our rope making machine built by the Chinook Woodturning Guild, and have fun with our balloon shaving activities. We’ll also be dipping candles, selling chili and bison smokies, and enjoying our mini petting zoo.

In celebration of the region’s pioneer heritage we will be having covered wagon rides around the Fort at 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30 pm.

If you’re looking for a place to celebrate southern Alberta history and culture this Heritage Day, there is no better place to do it than Fort Whoop-Up.

In addition to the special events on Thursdays, Fort Whoop Up is open seven days a week until Sept. 2 with a variety of activities happening including rope making, wagon rides,a  mini horse petting zoo,  candle dipping, live blacksmithing demonstrations and bannock making over the fire.
Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $5 for youth and post secondary students.

A version of this story appears in the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper

— by Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor
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