Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions has been recognized with the Heritage Award in this year’s Business & Citizenship Awards.
Having marked its 30th anniversary this year, there is no question the organization indeed promotes both the Town of Stettler and the County in a global manner.
As the nomination information puts it, APRE shows, “Great foresight and creativity in creating events to encourage guests outside normal schedules (the Pumpkin Run, Polar Express, Christmas parties, etc.)”
They also support, “Many if not all community organizations, events and activities and also support the community as a whole by giving back with the annual ‘Night Before’ free rides.”
“We are happy about it, and we do try to stay within the heritage aspect of it,” said Don Gillespie, president and CEO of the Alberta Prairie Railway. “When we are loading people onto the train, you take a ticket and a gentleman might step up to go up first. But you put your arm out to hold him back – this is a 1927 train so we try to stay with that protocol,” he added with a smile. “It’s ladies first.”
Gillespie has been with the organization since day one. It’s always been fulfilling work with plenty of purpose as well.
“I grew up in it. I’m 80 years old, so this is just natural,” he said of his passion for local heritage. “The railroad heritage is definitely a very strong (draw). People are fascinated by it.
“Twenty to 25 years ago, just about every family knew somebody or had somebody working in the rail industry,” he said.
As time has passed, that knowledge of the rail industry’s history has diminished, but that’s what fuels Gillespie’s passion to press on with his mission. “I’ve tried to bring that to them through heritage.”
A recent note of thanks says it well. “I had the privilege of travelling on your train..it was my first trip on the train, and I have to say that I was very impressed. I loved the ride, the entertainment, the ‘robbery’ and the humour of your staff.
“The stop in Big Valley and the luncheon also made for a very enjoyable day. Thank you so much – we will definitely suggest this trip to others.”
That’s the kind of feedback that makes it all worthwhile.
Meanwhile, Alberta Prairie Railway has attracted people from not just Canada and the U.S. but from around the world as well. The bulk of that amazing awareness has been fueled by enthusiastic word-of-mouth, added Gillespie.
“We thoroughly appreciate the support that the community has given us. We try to do our best, and to give out as much as we can.”