Hundreds reunite for Donalda’s centennial

Filled with history as the home of “the world’s largest lamp,” Donalda was in the spotlight as about 1,000 people celebrated

A symbolic birthday-cake float marked the 100th anniversary of Donalda

Filled with history as the home of “the world’s largest lamp,” Donalda was in the spotlight as about 1,000 people celebrated the village’s centennial during the Canada Day weekend.

“We figured we had about 1,000 people on Saturday and about 550 on Canada Day, and about 100 entries for the parade,” said Beth Fulton, who chaired the organizing committee.

Historic and Canada Day themes mixed in the parade, which was about 45 minutes long.

“People were very impressed that a community this small could host such a big event,” Fulton said.

With a population of 259, locals welcomed former residents back home to reflect on Donalda’s past and eye the future of a village that was incorporated on Dec. 30, 1912.

“It was a fantastic reunion for former residents,” said Mayor Bruce Gartside, who moved to Donalda just four years ago, and also served on the centennial organizing committee.

“I saw people meeting other people for the first time in 50 years — some people who thought they would never see each other again.”

At 96 years young, Rosie Vallet and Don McKay were honoured in the parade as the oldest residents, though McKay was unable to attend.

Life in the past was celebrated as 15 former Klondike Queens and many past mayors were featured in the parade, along with new Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman, Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson, and officials from neighbouring municipalities, businesses, organizations and many vintage vehicles.

The parade also featured a 100-year-old freight wagon restored by Phil and Joyce Racine of Donalda, with the wheels refurbished by Chris Jenson of Bashaw, and is now located in the front lawn of the Donalda Museum.

“We heard a lot of stories about the history of Donalda, and I would have like to have heard more,” said Mayor Gartside.

With a stable population, while other small communities are dying, he said this centennial could be an inspirational point for the future of Donalda.

“It’s important for our memories and to see that this community is surviving,” Gartside said. “We have shown that the community can survive.”

“We have enough to keep this community alive, and to increase the population to 300.”

Two other former mayors suggested that newcomers and younger people would help Donalda grow in the future.

“I never thought it would die, because you always have to have a positive attitude,” said Bob Conibear, who served as mayor from 1987 to 1993 to close out 15 years on council.

Lower costs of housing and taxes will further attract new residents, said Conibear and Garry Clement, who served as mayor from 1968 to 1978.

“I hope to see Donalda maintain its identity and keep operating as a village,” Clement said.

Historic buildings, the big lamp, the museum and the train are key features that he said would not only attract tourists, but also new residents.

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