When summer is nearing its end and a longer holiday is not feasible day trips from one’s home base are a great option for a change of scenery. Today we joined our friends on the way to Willow Bunch, SK.
Willow Bunch? Yes – that’s the name! It is a small town in Southern Saskatchewan, the 2011 census informs that 286 citizens call this town home. Despite great efforts by locals this number appears to be decreasing. We were informed that the local CO-OP was closing and the Connexus Credit Union is also pulling up stakes this year. The closest shopping and banking available will be in Assiniboia, 30+ minutes away in good weather… and we all know how long Saskatchewan winters last! It is a shame to see another small town decline… but what will be the turning point to reverse this trend?
Our main reason for traveling to Willow Bunch today was to visit the Museum. It is located in the former Convent of the Sisters of the Cross, built from 1914 – 1921. We made our way up the path following the Giant’s foot prints. We all agreed: “The Museum has been beautifully maintained!”
I was more fortunate when it came to the large statue to the right of the entrance. It depicts Édouard Beaupré, also known as the Willow Bunch Giant. Born in the town on January 9th, 1881 he grew to be 8’3″. Read more about Édouard here.
As we ascended the stairs to the entrance the sign told us that the museum is open, however, this late in the season the door was locked. A quick call to the number provided connected us with Nichole, the president of the museum board, who opened the door for us in under five minutes. We stepped back in history, and after we paid the very reasonable admission fee of $ 5.00/person were granted permission to explore.
Two hours went by quickly as we moved from display to display. Established in 1972 the museum has two full floors with a total of eight exhibits. These are individually dedicated to Édouard Beaupré, pioneers, the chapel, town archives, homemakers on the prairie, Métis, Northwest Mounted Police, tools and technology, and the hospital. Local and former residents donated the artifacts of which many of them are still packed away in boxes waiting to be displayed.
The archives are well maintained and one of the friends we traveled with was able to find her grandfather listed in the old town registers. Her left Willow Bunch in 1937, a victim of the Great Depression and Dirty Thirties Dust Storms. A gift shop offers visitors mementos like T-shirts, historic record books, calendars, and other trinkets. It was surprisingly well stocked. The maps of Canada and the world situated in the foyer provided everyone with pins to mark their home base.
Our trip continued to Assiniboia, the town closest for shopping and medical help for the citizens of Willow Bunch. A visit to Assiniboia is not complete unless we make time for the Shurniak Art Gallery.
We only had about 30 minutes to view the art work by the time we arrived. We were pleased to take in Larry Easton’s photographic exhibition “Legacy of Worship”.