Saturday, 17 October 2015

Massive Fire on Jasper Avenue and 114 street destroys century-old building

Part of this video was broadcast on CBC News on October 17, 2015 (starts at 2:39)

 Abridged Version

Full video.

Edmonton lost a piece of its heritage this weekend, as the historic Leamington Mansion Apartments went up in flames around 4 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. Fire hoses spread out across several city blocks as over 50 firefighters were on scene to battle the blazing building which had stood for over a century and was undergoing renovations.

Buildings nearby were evacuated and a SUV was overtaken by the flames.

Luckily, there were no tenants occupying the building at the time and no one has been reported injured.

Shot by Eric Bowling on a HTC Amaze 4g.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Pair of Highway 2 crashes claim two

For the Westlock News

 The scene on Highway 2 near the Legal turnoff following an Aug. 17 head-on collision between a minivan and a semi-trailer. The crash claimed the life of the driver of the minivan. Eric Bowling/WN

Highway 2 was deadly last week following a pair of fatal collisions.

Morinville RCMP report that at approximately 11 a.m. on Aug. 17, a southbound minivan crossed the centre line of Highway 2 near the Legal turnoff and collided head-on with a semi-trailer truck, which was pulling a propane tank.

The male driver, who was the lone occupant of the minivan, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A third vehicle which had been following the semi-trailer was struck with debris.

There were no other injuries reported and police are not releasing the identity of the deceased

The highway was closed for several hours over concern that the propane truck might have sprung a leak, however it was determined there was no leak.

Alcohol and road conditions were not factors in the crash and the cause of the accident is still under investigation. Additionally, RCMP say no charges are pending.

Motorcycle crash

A 33-year-old Edmonton man is dead after a single-vehicle accident near Morinville.

Morinville RCMP say that at around 8:35 p.m. on Aug. 19 a motorcyclist was merging onto Highway 2 south of the Secondary Highway 642 overpass when he lost control of his bike and crashed into the west ditch.

Emergency crews, including STARS Air Ambulance, were dispatched to the area and attempted to revive the man, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police continue to investigate the cause of the accident. Road conditions are not believed to be a factor and the name of the deceased was not released.

Elks Bingo a fun way to help the community

For the Westlock News

Hugh Thomson calls numbers during the Westlock Elks Bingo night at the Memorial Hall on Aug. 17. Eric Bowling/WN

“Under the B, three.”

“Under the I, 22.”


It’s Monday night and the Westlock Memorial Hall is packed yet again.

Every week people from across the county and beyond converge at the hall for the weekly night of bingo, which is run by the Westlock Elks.

“I love it. You win money, and it’s something to do in the evening,” said Michelle Whitton. “It’s money for me and money for the people.”

Aside from good times and good company, the weekly bingo serves as a major fundraiser for the Westlock Elks, which in turn funds and promotes numerous charities throughout the region.

Hugh Thomson was the caller for the evening and said they expected to bring in at least $1,200 that night alone, while the Elks raise an average of $60,000 yearly through the bingo.

Elks Exalted Ruler Pat Rufiange, who has been with the Elks for three years, said all the cash goes to local causes.

And the bingo hall is run completely by volunteers as Rufiange estimates that about 50 man-hours go into running each weekly.

“No one gets paid, a portion of the bingo goes to maintaining the hall, though we’re trying to make the hall self-sufficient,” said Rufiange.

Just over 100 people poured into the hall on Aug. 17 and most were quite aware that the bingo was an essential part of the community.

“It’s something to do to get away,” said Daryll Mann, who came out from Barrhead. “But the charity aspect is nice too.”

Rufiange figures bingo night is likely to remain for years to come.

“If we cancel bingo on a long weekend Monday, we get our butts kicked,” Rufiange joked. “We cancelled one last year and we didn’t hear the end of it for a few months.”

What the Elks do

In addition to giving free rent and utilities to the Westlock Food Bank, the Elks help fund the Westlock Gators swim meets, various projects at the Spirit Centre, the activities of iStar — a support group for people with stuttering syndromes — and four separate $1,000 scholarships that are divided between St. Mary and R.F. Staples.

The club’s latest effort is purchasing a pair of “Caroline’s Carts”, special shopping carts designed for people with walking disabilities. The carts will be available in September.

“They’re good for up to 250 pounds,” said Rufiange, “They’re going to be available at the two grocery stores.”

With the average age of Elks members around 70, most of those volunteer hours are offered by retirees. Rufiange noted they would like to get some younger people into the service club.

“We’re trying to get 30 to 50-year-olds,” said Rufiange, adding that there’s currently about 50 Elks in the area.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Library hands out lifetime achievement award

For the Westlock News

Rose Burchett (left) accepts a lifetime achievement award from library board director Tanya Pollard on Aug. 11. Burchett has spent more than 60 years volunteering at the library. Supplied
 A Westlock woman who has spent over 60 years volunteering at the library was recognized for her efforts.

The Westlock Intermunicipal Library Board presented Rose Burchett with a Certificate of Lifetime Achievement Award on Aug. 11 for her lifelong contributions to the library's operations.

“When somebody volunteers for over 60 years, they're dedicated,” said Westlock Libraries Director Doug Whistance-Smith.

“She's a wonderful person.”

Burchett's long relationship with the library began in 1958 through volunteering with the Ladies Book Club, which helped out with the operation of the Westlock library.

“I love books,” said Burchett. “All my life I've been reading anything I could get a hold of.”

In 1963, the library formed the operations committee, of which Burchett was a founding member.

The committee processed books for the library's collection and put on fundraisers to purchase new equipment. It eventually evolved into what's known today as the Friends of the Library.

Currently Burchett is the library's representative at Smithfield Lodge, supplying books for the residents there every week.

“When I came here they offered me the job of librarian,” said Burchett. “I've been here almost 12 years.”

She explained that she receives a cart of both written and audio books weekly and then distributes them to neighbors in the centre.

“She is our connection to the residents at Smithfield for lending books,” said Whistance-Smith.
“We wouldn't be able to do that very well without her. She is that integral.”

Burchett is quite humble about her contributions.

“I feel very honoured,” said Burchett. “It's a quite wonderful feeling, I can tell you that much.”

She said that while she reading all types of books, she is particularly fond of mystery novels.

“Colleen McCullough, she was one of my favorites,” said Burchett. “The older writers are very good.”

She added that she doesn't quite get the use of colourful language in newer novels.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Chase Provencial claims Men's Open title

For the Westlock News

Westlock Men’s Open Championship winner Chase Provencal poses with the Larry Kickham trophy after he won the 54-hole tournament with a total score of 223 strokes. This was Provencal’s first Men’s Open championship. Supplied
It was a beautiful weekend as the 44th annual Westlock Men’s Open on Aug. 1 drew 85 golfers out of the woodwork and ended in a tight finish, with Chase Provencal taking the Championship Flight with a first low gross score of 223 strokes at the Westlock Golf Club.

This is Provencal’s first Men’s Open Championship.

“After day one we had three players tied at even par for the lead,” said head golf pro Kevin Lynes.
“Following day two, Chase had a two stroke lead over his nearest competitor, and through nine holes on day three, he had opened the lead up to five.

“Coming down to the last hole, the lead was down to one, and he ended up beating Aaron McNelly by one stroke. It was an exciting finish,” he said.

McNelly had the first low net score with a score of 225 strokes. Brad Wierenga claimed the second lowest gross score with 235 strokes and Curts Kager held the second lowest net score with 226 strokes. Ryan Coish was the third lowest gross scorer with 237 strokes.

Chad Caron won the first flight with a low gross of 232 strokes and Matt Wood had the low net with 212 strokes. Lee Vager was the second lowest gross scorer with 242 strokes, with Troy Commander taking the third lowest gross with 250 strokes. Tate McNelly was the second lowest net scorer with 223 strokes.

Ryan Hoglander completed the second flight with a gross score of 240 strokes and Vince Andrusiak had the lowest net score of 211 strokes. Jim Wold took the second lowest gross score with 254 strokes and Ken Hickey took the third lowest gross with 259 strokes. The second lowest net scorer was Lynn Perlette with 228 strokes.

John Hutton won the third flight with a gross score of 250 strokes and Devin Brock was the lowest net scorer of the flight with 220 strokes.

The second lowest net scorer was Mike Flette with 222 strokes, and the second and third lowest gross scorers were Andrew Lukens with 251 strokes and Mike Mase with 255 strokes.

Ryan Smith won the fourth flight with 263 strokes as the lowest gross scorer, with Dan Letourneau achieving the second lowest gross with 269 strokes and Robert Rhodes taking the third lowest gross with 276 strokes.

The lowest net scorer for this flight was Bryan Miles with 222 strokes followed by Rob Steppla with 231 strokes.

The fifth flight was led by Donn Smith with a gross score of 265 strokes. Forest Lewko was the second lowest gross scorer with 276 strokes, with Dwayne Christanson finishing with 294 strokes to be the third lowest gross scorer. Derek Holme took the lowest net score with 219 strokes followed by Roger Parsons with 239 strokes.

Andrew Coish dominated the sixth flight with a gross score of 292 strokes, edging past Mark Smith with a gross score of 293 strokes. Ralph Leriger had the third lowest gross score with 295 strokes. Josh Arnold was the lowest net scorer with 227 strokes and Jeff Melnyk was a single stroke away with 228 strokes.

The tournament also featured several smaller competitions, including three hole-in-one contests with brand new trucks offered as prizes.

No one managed to sink his ball off the tee this weekend, however.

“Nobody got the hole in one,” said Lynes. ”So nobody won them.”

Roger Parsons of Westlock won the Closest to the Pin competition by landing a drive three feet and six inches from the hole.

Golfers will have many more chances to get their game on this summer. The Women’s Open was held over the Aug. 8 weekend, and the Mixed Net Best Ball will take place on Aug. 15. The Club Championship will be held on Sept. 12.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Local runners enter Death Race and live to talk about it

For the Westlock News

Sheldon Wilcox makes his way through the Death Race on Aug. 1. He finished the race in just under 24 hours. Supplied
The most grueling race in the country was held over the August long weekend, and no less than eight Westlock residents are among the few and proud to have finished it.

The Canadian Death Race, held every year in Grande Cache, Atla. on Aug. 1, is actually two separate races, consisting of both a team relay version and a solo competition.

Westlock is home to survivors of both events.

During the race, competitors must cross five rivers and move between 17,000 feet of elevation. They must complete the race in 24 hours, which includes ascending and descending three separate mountains.

“There are three summits you have to make on the course – Flood Mountain, Grande Mountain and Hamel Mountain — and they’re all six to seven thousand feet in elevation,” said Sheldon Wilcox, one of 121 competitors who managed to finish the 125-kilometre solo race.

Wilcox finished 115th overall and completed the race with a total time of 23:25:58.

“It’s a tough race,” said Wilcox. “It’s not meant to be raced or finished by just anyone. It’s unapologetically difficult.”

Wilcox, who broke his ankle running in May, said he’s happy he even finished.

“I wasn’t expecting this to be my best performance,” said Wilcox. “I’ve been four weeks out of the air cast, so I was very happy to just finish this year.”

Also in the solo race was Westlock Elementary School teacher Robert Weiss, who lives in Morinville. He finished 86th overall, completing the journey in 22:28:40.

The solo race drew 326 competitors from across the planet, with people traveling from as far away as Australia and Japan to test their might on the marathon.

The relay race, which drew 162 teams, also had good representation from Westlock. Murray Tuininga helped his team, the SpringDocs, finish 13th overall with a final time of 14:41:44.

Also returning triumphantly to Westlock is Victor Gunn, who played on the five-man relay team JLL that placed 49th overall, finishing the race in 16:50:38.

An all-Westlock team consisting of Coreen Rivard, Tammie Rogers, Megan Balascak and Tammy Round joined forces to become the Wonder Women, who placed 99th overall and finished the course in 18:46:03.

“It’s beautiful, but challenging,” said Rivard, who completed two of five legs during the relay.
“The amount of climbing that you’re doing puts a lot of tax on your system. It takes a lot more strength and determination to get to the top of that mountain, then of course the technical stuff coming down takes a lot out of your body.”

This was Rivard’s third year in the death race.

The grueling competition is not just a physical one. Racers are also required to carry coins with them to pay a ferryman to cross Smokey River – a nod to the Greek myth about the river Styx and the mythical passage to Hades.

“You have to have a coin to present to the ferryman as you cross the Smokey River, at about 110 kilometres into the course,” said Wilcox.

Wilcox has now completed three death races solo and one death race as part of a team.

“It’s unusual to compete in three death races and complete all three,” said Wilcox. “So I’m feeling pretty good.”

Wilcox added that he’s proud of his accomplishment, but he’s glad it’s finally over.

“It’s always a great feeling to be done,” said Wilcox.

“I’m exhausted. It’s going to take a few days to be able to walk normally. I’ll be glad to be wearing shoes again in a day or two.”

Return of the King

For the Westlock News

Elvis impersonators will once again flock to Busby to take part in the annual Blue Suede Festival Aug. 21-23. WN File

The Hamlet of Busby will soon be swarmed by devils in disguise as the Blue Suede Music Festival is set to rock out its seventh year at the Busby Sports Grounds on Aug. 21-23.

What began as a simple house concert has blossomed into one of the biggest event in the county with an expected 4,000-plus attendees and at least 14 Elvis tribute artists showing off their burning love for the king, including Brayden Black who, at only six-years-old, already has three years of jailhouse rocking under his belt.

From its humble beginnings, the festival quite literally grew out of itself.

“I met a few local fellows at the Penticton Elvis Festival, and I said we should get a couple of guys out and have a little concert for the friends and neighbors. It would be fun,” said Trudy Taphorn, founder and organizer of the festival.

“Over a hundred people showed up that night, and I didn’t know half of them. I don’t know where they came from or how they found out about it, but they brought bags and bags of stuff for the food bank and it was a really big success.”

By the third year, Taphorn had over 500 people showing up at her acreage, and she decided to move the concert to the Busby Sports Grounds.

The festival, which will feature an RV campground for people who want to keep their melodies unchained, will open its gates at noon on Aug. 21 for campers to settle in for the weekend.

A classic car and truck meet will be held at 5 p.m. in the main parking lot, alongside a meet and greet with the performers at 6 p.m. Festival-goers can sing their own amazing graces at a karaoke party starting at 8 p.m.

The show begins at 10 a.m. on Aug. 22 with singers playing four song sets throughout the day. The concert is expected to carry on until past 11 p.m.

The following day kicks things off with a pancake breakfast with gospel performances starting at 11:30 a.m.

The Blackwood Quartet, built from the ashes of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet (which Elvis actually auditioned for), will be playing at 1:30 p.m. to close the show.

During the day there will be silent auctions, trivia contests and vendors.

Admission to the show is $15 a day or $20 for the whole weekend, as well as a food bank donation for each day of the festival.

Taphorn said she puts much of the proceeds towards the concert for next year.

“A lot of it goes into costs for the festival. People don’t realize what it costs to put on something like this, they just think it’s a few fences and toilets and we’re good to go,” said Taphorn adding that there was about $56,000 in expenses last year.

While the performers are not paid for their performances, Taphorn added that she covers all their travel, food and lodging expenses.

“They donate their time. They aren’t getting paid to perform,” she said.

“For a lot of them, they are making new fans for Elvis’ music.”

Taphorn said she donates whatever money is left over to the food bank, on top of the donations festivalgoers are expected to bring.

Taphorn said that part of her inspiration was Elvis’ inherent love of charity himself.

“Elvis’ love of charity was so incredibly high. He often gave away more than he made,” said Taphorn. “That’s why mine is a charity event.”

Taphorn added that she had thought about changing the charity the event supported every year, but because the food bank is always in need of more help, she decided it was best to stick with what works.

“We collect food for three food banks — Westlock, Morinville and Barrhead — as well as the Ripple Connection in Barrhead,” said Taphorn.

“Everyone is so willing to lend a hand, which is really great.”

Last year the festival drew over 3,500 fans and collected over 4,375 pounds of food, in addition to raising $2,500 for the three food banks and the Ripple Connection.

That’s all right, mama.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Basisty Ontario-bound for lacrosse nationals

For the Westlock News

 Westlock’s Zach Basisty will suit up for Team Alberta at the Pee Wee Nationals in Ontario this week.
Eric Bowling/WN
A local lacrosse player is representing Alberta this week at the Canadian Lacrosse Association Pee Wee National Finals in Whitby, Ont.

Zach Basisty, who helped the North Edmonton Wizards win the provincial championships in Grande Prairie in July, is among 18 players taking to the floor for Team Alberta at nationals, which runs Aug. 2-8.

“I’m excited,” said Basisty, “It’ll be fun seeing how other teams play their systems.”

After opening ceremonies Aug. 2, Team Alberta plays two games a day until the round robin wraps up Aug. 6.

A short playoff between the second and third placed teams, as well as the sixth and seventh placed teams, ensues Aug. 7 to determine which teams go to the ‘A’ medal games and which go to the ‘B’ medal games, with both tiers of medal games to be completed on Aug. 8.

Basisty said he tried out for Team Alberta at the request of a coach from the Edmonton Warriors, which is ironic since Basisty helped defeat in the Warriors in both the city and provincial championships.

“One of the coaches, actually the coach from the Warriors, he kept nagging me to try out,” said Basisty.

“Finally I just decided to try out and I made the team.”

Basisty made the cut over two training camps, where Team Alberta trimmed it prospects down from 180 hopefuls to 40 and then the final roster of 18.

Basisty had been preparing for provincials by working out and running drills, and attending two practices a week, held throughout the province at various locations but mainly out of Innisfail and Blackfalds, as well as weekend long training camps in Edmonton and Calgary.

“Our coach was a personal trainer, so he’s been helping us get ready,” said Basisty. “I’m doing the routine three times a week.”

Basisty said that regardless of how well Team Alberta does, he’s addicted to the intensity of the game.

“I like taking all the hits as I drive to the net and score,” said Basisty.

“All those punishing hits and bruises just fade away after you score a goal.”

Ouimet mines silver at nationals

For the Westlock News

Westlock’s Britannie Ouimet displays the silver medal she won playing for Team Alberta at the Female Midget Box Lacrosse Nationals held in Calgary July 21-25. Eric Bowling/WN
A Westlock teen played a key role in the Alberta Girls Midget Lacrosse team bringing home a silver medal from the nationals in Calgary last month.

Britannie Ouimet was among 20 players on Team Alberta who battled for the gold in Calgary at the Female Box Lacrosse Nationals July 21-25.

Alberta was one of four teams at the tournament, sharing the floor with clubs from Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The four squads played an eight-game round robin to seed for the final.
After trouncing Nova Scotia 10-0 before edging Ontario 3-1, the girls fell 6-1 to British Columbia. They then exploded with a decisive 9-1 victory over Nova Scotia before crushing Team Ontario 8-1 to clinch a berth in the final.

“That was crazy,” said Ouimet, who’s entering Grade 11 at R.F. Staples this fall. “An Alberta team has never beaten an Ontario team by that much. Ontario is usually a powerhouse when it comes to lacrosse.”

The team then went on to play British Columbia a second time, losing 5-4, before facing them yet again in the final.

After a close match, the game ended in heartbreak.

“We were tied 3-3, and with about a minute-and-a-half left they scored to make it 4-3,” said Ouimet.
“That’s how the game ended.”

Ouimet said that despite the tough finish, the team’s accomplishments far overshadow any personal disappointments.

“This was the first time an Alberta team, girls or boys, made the final, so that was really exciting,” said Ouimet. “And also the fact it was held in Calgary — it was also the first time Alberta ever hosted a national final.

“We improved so much over the short season that we did have. It was a lot of fun.”
Ouimet credited the team’s success to its solid defense.

“B.C. has five girls that are six feet tall, or taller,” said Ouimet.

“So it was a really big challenge trying to contain them, but I thought we did a really good job.”

With the long lacrosse season finally over, Ouimet isn’t sure what her future plans are.

“I’m moving up to junior, so that means playing in St. Albert,” said Ouimet. “So I’m not too sure what that’s going to look like.”

She added that she was very grateful to have played for Team Alberta.

“It feels really great. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Giving back

One thing that Team Alberta does yearly is a charity drive.

This year the team assembled close to 60 backpacks of clothing and goods to help homeless people in Edmonton.

“Water bottles, hat, sunscreen, socks … just the basic necessities.”

On July 31 Ouimet and her family put on a barbecue outside of the Sobeys in Westlock to raise funds retroactively for the tournament.

Ouimet added that she was very thankful for the support she received in the days and weeks leading up to nationals.

“I would just like to thank Stacy Howse and the Westlock Lacrosse Association for their support,” said Ouimet. “And all of our sponsors, really.”

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Westlock-area seniors strike for gold

For the Westlock News

Vivian Oko, of Westlock, and Rosa Semenchuk of Sturgeon County (centre), show off the gold medals they won in the 65-plus women’s pickleball event. Next to them (right) are silver medal winners Barb Nibler and Lisa Tevelein of Lethbridge, and bronze medal winners Sandy Richer from Beaverlodge and Gwen Atkinson of Grande Prairie. The Alberta 55-plus Summer Games were held in Strathmore July 16-19. Supplied
A pair of local seniors combined for five gold medals at the Alberta 55-plus Summer Games held July 16-19 in Strathmore.

Westlock’s Valerie Oko won gold in the women’s 65-plus pickleball event, alongside teammate Rosa Semenchuk of Sturgeon County.

“We had a real good time and we were pleased with the way we played,” said Oko, “We were quite surprised that we did so well.”

The gold medal means that Oko has now qualified for the Canada 55-plus Games in Brampton, ON, next year. She had previously won the bronze medal at the Canada Games in 2014 when it was held in Strathcona.

“It’s something we can play all summer and winter,” said Oko, who has been playing pickleball since 2012. She has been competing in the Games since 2007 in a variety of sports like bocce and cycling and previously won gold with her bocce team in 2011.

Oko wasn’t the only resident who brought home medals
Also making waves in Strathmore was Valerie Seatter of Dapp, who took home four gold medals in the 60-plus 50 metre women’s breaststroke, the 60-plus 100 metre women’s freestyle, the 60-plus 50 metre women’s freestyle and the 60-plus 75 metre women’s individual medley.

George Wilson, of Westlock, came home with a bronze in the 55-plus men’s time predicted cycling event.

Dennis Allen, the director for Alberta Sport Connection, was pleased with how the weekend turned out.

This year’s Games featured 1,200 participants spread across 17 sport and cultural events. As well, there were 700 volunteers who gave their time during the three-day event.

“The organizers did a great job,” said Allen. “It was a time for participants to shine.”

The next 55-plus Games will be held in 2017. In 2013, Westlock and Barrhead co-hosted the 55-plus Summer Games.

Pedalmasters ride to conquer cancer

For the Westlock News

The Pedalmasters, L-R, Laurie Walker, Wilma Roelofs, Linda Boutin and Lori Cairns will participate in the seventh annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer in August. The local quartet has raised nearly $17,000. Supplied

A determined team of Westlock-area women will take to their bicycles next month to help raise money for caner research.

Wilma Roelofs, Lori Cairns, Laurie Walker and Linda Boutin are the Westlock Pedalmasters and will ride over 200 kilometres between Calgary and Okotoks and back, on the Aug. 8 weekend during the seventh annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.

“We follow the cowboy trail. It’s very beautiful through that area,” said Boutin,
“And hilly.”

Boutin said she is riding for her sister Theresa O’Brien, who died of cancer in 1992 at age 42.

“I make cancer donations my priority,” said Boutin. “This is the first time for all four of us riding.”

The quartet has raised $16,583, well ahead of their fundraising goal of $12,500 — all money raised goes to the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Boutin said she is excited for the event, although she admitted the distance will be a challenge.
“Yeah, I’m nervous,” said Boutin with a laugh.
“I’m excited too.”

To prepare, Boutin and her team have been riding 100 kilometres daily.

“I’ve rode to Barrhead and back,” she added. “I just love being outside and that feeling of wind blowing through your hair.”

The opening ceremony for the ride will be held at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary where the number of participants and final total raised will be announced — last year’s event netted $7.9 million and had 1,768 riders.

Since its inception the ride has raised $46.2 million.

Participants are required to raise $2,500 each to be permitted to ride in the event.

Boutin said she raised money with a different approach and didn’t just ask for a donation.

“When I first started I thought ‘Oh my gosh, how am I ever going to get this kind of money’ so what I did was challenge my friends and family. I said that if they donated $200 to my cause I would give them three hours of labour,” said Boutin. “Only two people actually made me work for them, so it was really good.”

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Flatbush Rocks one more time

For the Westlock News

Thunderstruck lead singer Ken Stone belts out an AC/DC classic during the fifth annual Flatbush Rocks music festival held July 18.(Eric Bowling/WN)
What may have been the last of the Flatbush Rocks concerts went down with a bang as AC/DC tribute band Thunderstruck blew the lid off the Flatbush Community Complex July 18.

Thunderstruck was one of three bands invited back to the popular barnburner along with classic rockers Big Red Shoe and country singer Kory Wlos, from Boyle.

Organizers decided to bring back some of the most popular acts from previous years, but this year was the first year that the concert featured three separate bands — usually the show featured an opening act and a headliner.

“Instead of a huge band coming out with a small opener, we decided to have three bands this year,” said Kandee Stadnyk, who organized the entire event this year,

”It’s just a really nice chance for the farming community to take a break from the stresses of the farm.”

Stadnyk said the concert was the brainchild of a community-wide love of classic rock throughout the Flatbush community.

“I kind of wanted to liven things up and give the community an event that everyone could take part in that wasn’t too far from home,” said Stadnyk.

Concertgoers were also able to camp out at the community complex over the weekend.

The concert, which has brought in acts like April Wine, Honeymoon Suite and Trooper, was up until this year funded by the Flatbush Community Association. However, this year Stadnyk took up the mantle to keep the tradition alive.

“This year my husband and I actually took on the financial responsibility for the concert ourselves, “ said Stadnyk, explaining that the community association was losing money every year the concert was put on.

“It wasn’t great business for them to continue going and losing money,” said Stadnyk. “So my husband and I decided to do it on our own behalf — not with the intention of making money but just to keep it going for one more year and see things went.

“We’re hoping to break even this year. We would really, really like the tradition to continue, but for two people and a few friends, it’s just a lot to do.”

Stadnyk said she is hoping the fun night inspires concertgoers and the community to band together and keep the party alive.

“The best thing about it is seeing everyone have a really good time,” Stadnyk concluded.

History written with a needle and thread

For the Westlock News

Royal Alberta Museum curator of Western Canadian history Lucie Heins examines a century-old wedding quilt brought in by Elaine Carol-Lawton at the Pioneer Museum on July 16.
(Eric Bowling/WN) 
Residents from around the province are learning their history was not just written with a pen and paper, but also with a needle and thread.

People came from across Westlock County showed off their family quilts at the Pioneer Museum July 16 as part of a province-wide research project by the Royal Alberta Museum.

“This is my sixth year working on this project and my third year traveling and doing documentation projects,” said Royal Alberta Museum curator of Western Canadian history Lucie Heins. “I partner with local museums and we provide one opportunity for the public to come in and have their quilts documented.”

Heins investigates quilts either specifically made in Alberta, or made by people who immigrated to Alberta. She had initially expected to examine 24 quilts, but said that a lot more people dropped in.
“We documented 11 or 12 quilts yesterday,” said Heins, who stopped in at the museum a day earlier to get a head start. “We’re trying to accommodate the drop-ins as we can.”

Most people who brought in their quilts said it was a curiosity of the history and how they fit into the larger Alberta quilting scene that piqued their interest.

“This is an excellent piece of Alberta’s history and it needs to be preserved,” said Maureen Kubinec, who brought in four quilts she had just recently received from a cousin dating back as far as 1935. “These are artists who have done this.”

There is a huge variety in the styles of quilts that were made in Alberta over the last two centuries — neatly stacked around the museum were quilts made of glossy fabrics, some made out of old furs and others from fabrics collected over generations. One Heins documented was made out of a widow’s dress.

“One quilt in particular had what we call morning fabrics. It’s a black fabric with little white motifs.”
Heins explained that historically a widow was expected to wear black, but around the 1860s it became acceptable for widows to have a little bit of colour in their clothing.

Heins added that if she is unable to date the quilt, she is still able to date the fabrics it was made from.

“We’ve seen some quilts where the fabrics date to the 1800s,” said Heins, “That doesn’t mean the quilts were made at that time though. It was common for women to collect fabrics and that’s what they would use to made quilts.”

Heins added that documenting quilts is needed because the older one are slowly disappearing.

“My sister wanted to throw it out,” said Elaine Carol-Lawton, referring to a red and white quilt made by her grandmother for her wedding. “I don’t know when it was made, but my grandmother was 18 in 1904.”

One quilt tradition that has fallen by the wayside was the wedding quilt —where a bride would make a commemorative quilt for her wedding.

“Often what would happen is that the ladies in the community would make about 11 or 12 quilts,” said Heins. “The bride would also make her own quilt.”

The bride would then have a good collection of quilts for her home which was an essential for homesteading in the cold Alberta winters.

“They were for keeping warm,” said Carol-Lawton.

Another, described as a ‘yo-yo’ style quilt, was made out of dozens of neatly designed squares, with folds of fabric creating a colourful cushion.

“I had one quilt at the lake and I wanted to see how old it was,” said Diana Shimenosky, who brought in the yo-yo quilt. “My mom made it for me.”

Shimenosky said it was made out of “memories and family history.”

“It’s made of outfits from my own children when they were three and four years old,” said Shimenosky.

“Also from my outfits, as well as my mother’s outfits. It encompasses everybody in the family. It’s a nice keepsake from my mom that took hours and hours to make —it’s all hand done.”
Many of these quilts aren’t for keeping warm, or sleeping under, however.

“It’s nice and warm,” said Shimenosky. “But it doesn’t stay on the bed at night. It’s a daytime piece of art for people to admire. It’s a lost tradition.”

“I don’t think the quilt was ever used as a piece of bedding, it was more a piece of art,” said Kubinec referring to one quilt she brought in that dated to 1965.

“It’s precious. She was my God-mother and she always treated me very special.”

Heins said that people who missed the showing are still able to get their quilt documented if they want.

“From time to time I’ve had individuals who ended up missing the documentation and asked if they
can bring their quilt to the museum,” said Heins, referring to the Royal Alberta museum in Edmonton. “They can do that, but they have to make an appointment.”

Heins said she has two more years of research and then she is hoping to release a book on the history of the province’s quilts.

Westlock duo share in provincial title

For the Westlock News

Westlock’s Seth Fairholm and Zach Basisty show off the gold medals and trophy they won as members of the North Edmonton Wizards following the club’s triumph at the Alberta Lacrosse Association provincial championship in Grande Prairie on July 12. (Supplied)

When the North Edmonton Wizards Peewee ‘A’ won the provincial gold in Grande Prairie on July 12, it was with the help of two Westlock players.

The Wizards took the gold medal after trouncing the their main rivals the Edmonton Warriors 8-3 in the finals.

“That was pretty much the only team that beat us in the regular season,” said Zach Basisty. “It’s awesome knowing you’re the best in the province.”

Seth Fairholm readily admits he had a very good year. The Wizards took home medals in all five tournaments that they played in this year.

“One game the ball was bouncing all over the place,” said Seth, “So I grabbed it with one hand and ran across the field and scored.”

Seth and Zach both played for the Wizards because Westlock did not have a Peewee ‘A’ team this year.

After blasting through the regular season with a 10-1-1 record, the Wizards took the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council title after a three-game series against their rivals the Edmonton Warriors.
The Warriors edged the Wizards 7-6 in a shootout in the first game, but the Wizards fired back to defeat the Warriors 13-11 in the second game and 14-4 in the deciding contest.

“We played our systems and did good transitions and found a way to pull it off,” said Seth. “They were pretty close games, no blowouts or anything. It was pretty fun to play against them.

“Our team was pumped and their team looked sloppy,” said Seth.

Zach and Seth have been playing together for two years now, and according to both their parents, they make one heck of a team.

“Zach got the ball with about eight seconds left,” said Richard Fairholm, Seth’s father.
“That’s when we started to cheer because we knew he was going to hold it and ice the game.”
“Seth really developed this year too. He learned a lot and really contributed very well,” said Dan Basisty, Zach’s father. “He had good defence and drove to the net really well.”

They started the provincials July 10 with a three-game round robin — downing the Calgary Sabrecats ‘2’ before dropping an 8-6 rematch against the Warriors.

In Game 3 they defeated the Calgary Sabrecats ‘1’ before trouncing the Warriors 8-3 on July 12 to claim gold.

Zach said he was pretty confident the Wizards were going to win the tournament when they were up 8-0 with five minutes left to go in the game.

“That kind of sealed it,” said Zach, who scored two goals and one assist during the game, while Seth scored one goal.

Seth said he prepared for provincials by keeping himself hydrated and staying away from junk food. The Wizards held two practices in preparation for the championship.

“They practiced hard,” said Richard. “They were ready to play.”

“It’s not really us who wins the game,” said Seth. “We just have to do what our coaches tell us to do,”

“Our defence won it … and our goalie played incredible,” added Zach. “We played as a team and we did good as a team.”

Zach, Seth and both fathers attribute their success to the discipline of the Wizard’s coaching staff.

“The boys were very fortunate with the coaching staff they had,” said Dan, referring to Wizards head coach Curt Bahry. “Their coach sticks to systems and learning the game of lacrosse. We could be up 10-0 or down 0-5 and he makes very little changes to his system, and the boys just seem to go with it, and before you know it we’re going from losing 0-5 to winning 7-5.”

The season isn’t over for Zach, who will be going to the national championships in Ontario for team Alberta coming up in August in Whitby, ON.

“I think it’ll be a good experience, playing against other provinces,” said Zach. “See what kind of talent is out there.”

Bantam Rock net fourth in the province

For the Westlock News

The Westlock Bantam ‘B’ Rock lacrosse team played their hearts out, but had the bronze medal snatched away from them in a 7-6 OT loss to the Wainwright Wolfpack at the Alberta Lacrosse Association’s Bantam ‘B’ Provincial Championship in Grande Prairie on July 12.

“It wasn’t sudden death, but it was close to the end of that 10-minute period (before they scored). We did have a chance to come back and we didn’t,” said Rock head coach Shane Boulerice.
Despite of the tough end to the tourney, Boulerice was impressed with his team overall.

“The boys did really good. It was a tournament where you have the best lacrosse teams in Alberta,” said Boulerice.

“So I think our boys were right in that calibre. They competed the whole time and had a never quit attitude.”

The Rock started the provincial tourney July 10 with an uphill battle in the round robin, losing to the Wolfpack 10-5 in the morning and then losing a second time in the afternoon to the Lethbridge Barracudas 10-9 — the Barracudas final goal came in the final 10 seconds of the game.

“That was a tough one,” said Boulerice. “We were going to go to overtime with that one but we never got there.”

The club’s difficulties continued into the next day with a morning loss to the Red Deer Chiefs 13-3 before the Rock finally turned it around, edging the Strathmore Venom 6-5 to qualify for the bronze medal tilt.

“That was a really close game. Well played by the boys,” said Boulerice. “Strathmore played really well too.”

The defeat is a somewhat disappointing footnote to an otherwise outstanding season.

The Rock finished their regular season third overall in the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council, but then crushed all challengers in the playoff taking the gold and earning the right to appear at provincials.

Boulerice believes the team is on the right track for next year and just needs to keep practicing their skills.

“I always say lacrosse is about three things — passing, moving and shooting,” said Boulerice.

“They got the passing down a little bit, but they need to work the moving and getting more shots. The team that shoots, passes and runs will be the team that wins.”

Boulerice said he wanted to thank the town of Westlock for being behind his team, and has high hopes for next year.

“I just hope that the kids can bring back the level of competition that they had this year,” said Boulerice. “And take it to into their everyday lives too — that they don’t give up and keep pushing forward the whole time.”

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Jarvie Jags strike for provincial gold

For the Westlock News

The 2015 provincial ‘C’ champion Jarvie Jaguars, back row, left to right: coach Albert Burchett, Bell de Vries, Dana Guhle, Abby Giles, Haley Burchett, Jaz Dettman, Katie Lockwood and assistant coach Jennifer Burchett. Front row: Abigail Doke, Kaitlyn Comeau, Madison Hanlan, Lexi Wiese and Rachel Jolliffe. (Supplied)

The Jarvie Jaguars are the Alberta Fastball Under 19 Girls ‘C’ Provincial Champions after a stunning July 5 win over the East Central Kaos in Leduc.The triumph was a fitting end to a very successful season where the Jaguars ranked fourth overall, Jaguars head coach Albert Burchett said.

“We had a good tournament and we had a good year actually,” Burchett said, “It was very satisfying to end up the way we did.”

The Jaguars started the tournament off with a four-game round robin, where they crushed the Kaos 13-5.

“They were firing on all cylinders right away,” Burchett said.

The Jags were able to follow that momentum all the way to the two playoff games, where they first defeated the Lacombe Matrix 5-0 and then faced the Kaos a second time in a barn burner of a final, scoring a come-from-behind 9-6 win.

“That last game there, it was tied 3-3 going into the sixth inning.” Burchett said,

“Then we managed to score six runs. They came back with three at the top of the seventh.

“Defensively they were right on. Some timely hits and some good aggressive base running made all the difference. Lots of great catches in the outfield and the infield was nice and solid.”

The players brought a lot of heart to the field too. One player, Belle DeVries, injured her knee in the third game of the round robin and was unable to run, but was able to pinch hit in the championship game.

“She came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and she got a double,” Burchett said. “She was able to tough it out and come in and get a key at bat and keep us going that inning.”

The Jags plan to bask in their victory and line themselves up to take the provincial ‘B’ title next year.
“By the sounds of it just about all of our girls are returning for next year.”

Looking back on their campaign, Burchett said he couldn’t be happier with his team.

“We’ve played in four different tournaments this year. It’s a big commitment and we have a great group of parents who support their kids and great group of kids who support each other,” he said.

“It’s a great group of kids and I love coaching them.”

Conservatives get their man

For the Westlock News

Barrhead’s Arnold Viersen will represent the Conservative Party in this fall’s federal election after claiming the Peace River-Westlock riding nomination on July 8. (Supplied)

The Conservative Party of Canada has selected their man who will run for MP of the newly minted Peace River-Westlock riding in this fall’s federal election.

Barrhead’s Arnold Viersen was the successful candidate after the party’s vote on July 8 when he defeated candidates Jackie Larsen, Eris Moncur and Terry Hogan.

Viersen said he looks forward to working with riding constituents in the months leading up to the election.

“I am grateful and humbled for the support I’ve received,” said Viersen. “I look forward to working with all of you in the future.

“I’d also like to thank the party for running a fair and transparent process and the other candidates for running a strong, clean race.”

Viersen said he attributes his success to a marathon of traveling around the riding, speaking to constituents and hearing their issues and concerns.

He added he is looking forward to bringing issues important to his constituents to the table in Parliament, should he be elected this fall.
“It would be a dream come true for me to represent my home community in the House of Commons,” Viersen said.
“I have a passion for my community, for Canada and for politics in general. I grew up here, being one of four generations that live in the riding. I’ve thought, ‘It’s perfect for me, I hold to traditional rural values and have relationships all over the new riding.’”

Keeping up with infrastructure demands as the population grows, while maintaining rural values, is high up on the agenda for Viersen.

“The riding is continuing to grow. Managing that growth with the proper infrastructure such as transportation, schools, access to health care, is very important to keep our communities thriving,” he said. “At the same time, we care about ensuring that our ‘rural values’ stay intact — community services, the ability to feel safe when we are walking around town and maintaining that local economy is also critical.”

Prior to winning the nomination, Viersen had previously gone on record caring deeply about gun ownership and supporting the Conservative party’s stance on the long-gun registry, as well as being in support of the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Viersen, who’s married with two kids, is a journeyman mechanic by trade and currently works for Stephani Motors in Barrhead.

He was born and raised in the Neerlandia area where he graduated from the Covenant Canadian Reformed School. He then completed a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C.

The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 19.

Carnegie’s cross-Canada ride slowed by thieves

For the Westlock News 

  Bryan Carnegie dips his bike into the Pacific Ocean June 17 before setting out on his charity bike trip. (Supplied)

A Westlock man’s charity cross-country bike trip fundraiser, is back on the road after his bike was stolen in Winnipeg on July 7.

“I was about 100 kilometres from Kenora and my wife met me. I was going to take a couple days rest and we went back to Winnipeg to get a hotel room,” said the 57-year-old Carnegie, whose cross-country odyssey is raising money for the Heart and Stroke foundation.

“It got stolen off the bike rack on the vehicle. It was locked up and they cut the locks off and stole it.
“It’s frustrating. Being almost halfway across the country it makes it a little hard to take care of the business of getting it replaced.”

Before the hold-up Carnegie said he was making great time. Carnegie has a fundraising goal of $20,000 for Heart and Stroke and has raised $10,330 so far.

“I was averaging about 100 kilometres a day.”

Other than the theft, Carnegie said he’s having a fun time on his journey.

“It’s been good. I had some hot weather in southern Saskatchewan, a couple of 35 degree days, but nothing that would stop you from cycling,” he said.

“I’ve seen some beautiful country and I’m meeting lots of good people. I just want to say thanks to everyone for all the support so far.”

After starting in Vancouver on June 17, Carnegie trekked through Pentiction and then up to Revelstoke. He passed through Calgary and then zigzagged across the Prairies, making a stop at Medicine Hat and then popping through Regina until stopping in Winnipeg.

He plans to take the highway around the Great Lakes, and stop off in Thunder Bay and before heading to the coast.

He has a new bike from Edmonton that was delivered to Kenora, Ont., on July 9 and he is now back on the road and continuing his journey.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Bantam Rock roll to GELC title

For the Westlock News

The Westlock Bantam ‘B’ Rock celebrate their league championship on June 24 after a victory over the Parkland Posse. The team now heads to provincials July 10 in Grande Prairie. Back row, L-R: coach Shane Boulerice, coach Stacey Perkins. Middle row: manager Jessica Glover, Cole Perkins, Brittney Howse, Warren Hunt, Stephen Tkachyk, Conrad Hegedus, coach Danielle Fagnan, Devon Hegedus, Tyler Tymkow and Connor Perkins. Front row: Marcus Rea, Blair Boulerice, Brendan Osachie, Josh Fagnan, Trenten Durell, Ryan Conquergood and Owen Glover. (Submitted)

The Westlock Bantam Rock are off to the provincial lacrosse championship in search of a gold medal after they were crowned league champions last month.

The club claimed the Bantam ‘B’ Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council championship following a 15-10 win over the Parkland Posse on June 24. With the win, the club now heads to the Alberta Lacrosse Association Bantam ‘B’ Provincial Championship which runs July 10-12 in Grande Prairie.

“It was exciting,” said Rock head coach Shane Boulerice recalling the club’s run to the league championship.

At provincials the Rock face a four-game round robin, with the final slated for July 12.

After starting their regular season off with a pair of losses, the Rock exploded with an eight game winning streak, which was finally broken in a heartbreaking 9-8 loss to the North Edmonton Wizards.
But the loss was only a bump in the road, as the club quickly rebounded with a 7-2 win over the Sherwood Park Titans and finished the season 10-3.

The Rock, seeded third overall, marched through the playoffs defeating all challengers, although Boulerice admits his heart skipped a beat in the championship game.

“We started with a little bit of adversity, going down 4-1,” Boulerice said. “I think it was a little bit of nerves. We played a little too defensively. But we kept playing, and so did the Posse, they never quit.”

In the later part of the third period the Rock managed pull away and coast to the 15-10 win.

“It was a good thing we had some kids with experience in a championship game where it meant lots.” Boulerice reflected. “They pulled the rest of the kids through it.”

Boulerice says its business as usual to prepare for the provincial championship, with two practices a week and a lot of conditioning.

“You have to be tough to play the game.”

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Novice Rock mine gold

For the Westlock News

Westlock has a little bit more gold in it after the local lacrosse team dominated the playoffs last week.
The Westlock Rock Novice 2 crushed the Beaumont Raiders 13-4 to take home the gold medal in the silver division of the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council playoffs held in Edmonton June 19-23.

“When did I know we would win?” head coach Pierre Ouimet asked. “Probably in the middle of our last game against the Raiders when we were up 9-3.”

“I was pretty confident at that point.”

After an initial round robin of six games, both of Westlock’s novice teams were placed in the silver tier. The Team 2, under Ouimet, then surged to a 6-0 record before entering the playoff tournament.
The tourney began with a 10-9 shootout victory over the Edmonton Warriors and was quickly followed with a decisive 11-4 victory over Rock Novice 1.

The Rock then went on to smash the Edmonton Warriors a second time 9-3 before taking on the Raiders in the final.

Ouimet couldn’t be happier with his team’s success.

“My guys, though the season, got a gold, a silver and a bronze in two tournaments and the playoffs,” said Ouimet, “I saw a lot of development in our kids too. From the beginning to the end they improved unbelievably.”

Wednesday, 3 June 2015


A promotional slideshow I put together as part of a group project for a class.

"Dammit, I'm not your mom!"

A dog named Muckluck attracts a confused group of ducklings while their mother sits more confused in the grass.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Click me! Click me! 

A guided flash animation I put together for the fantastic new blog Talk Cupcakes to me.

The music is from Chrono Trigger.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Bill C-51 protest at Canada Place

“What does democracy look like?” screamed Sioban Vipond, the secretary for the Alberta Federation of Labour, as she raised a fist to the sky.
“This is what democracy looks like!” the crowd screamed back.
Several hundred people turned out for the Edmonton protest starting at Canada Place on March 14, part of a  nationwide rally against Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act. The national day of action drew out thousands of people across Canada in 46 cities and was carried out peacefully.
Bill C-51 is the Harper government’s response to recent attacks on military personnel and Parliament by criminals influenced by ISIS propaganda videos. Since these two incidents, the Harper government said the new powers granted to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) are necessary.
However, opponents of the bill — which include Amnesty International, Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, B.C. Premier Christy Clark, former Prime Ministers Joe Clark, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and John Turner, the Mohawk Council of Kahnaw√†:ke, five former Supreme Court justices, over 100 law professors, as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair of the NDP — have complained the bill does not provide Canadians with enough oversight of the new powers CSIS would wield, and are greatly concerned by the vague definition of what “terrorism” is in the bill. Protesters are concerned that the provisions would be used to target activists. They want the bill overhauled and properly debated – a request that the Harper government has been resistant to.
“This bill is truly a threat,” explained Craig Scott, the NDP critic for Democratic Reform, who spoke at the Edmonton rally. “Not just to constitutional rights, not just to the rule of law, but also to our very democracy because you have to remember that this bill is a massive deepening and expansion of the surveillance state.”
The bill makes a large number of changes to the workings of government departments, which will now be able to share information with each other, including with Revenue Canada. 
“Information could be shared between 17 government departments, and this includes a long, open-ended list — it can be added to by the cabinet at will,” Scott pointed out. “Terrorism is only one of eight areas in which information can be shared. They have not included in that sharing circle the review bodies of any of the security agencies.”
Other changes include the ability of CSIS to limit the travel of suspected terrorists. Opponents point out that this provision already exists and that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Parliament shooter, only opted to attack Parliament after being denied a passport due to concerns he was going to join ISIS. 

Other major changes include the criminalization of inciting violence online, such as with a Twitter or Facebook account, and the enabling of CSIS to be more active in its investigations. Currently, CSIS is only able to operate in an intelligence-gathering capacity; it is unable to make decisions on what to do with intelligence.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Destinations for the avid adventurer

While indeed the advent of modern technology has brought people around the world together, it has also grounded people to their homes. Spectacular dungeon crawlers and creepy post-apocalyptic worlds can draw us in with their wild and imaginative places to explore. An endless barrage of television and movies fill our eyes with wonder at the megalithic labyrinths of our imagination.

However, there are such fantastic places here on Earth, and with a little effort you too can explore these strange and sometimes fearsome places. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but instead a primer for your imagination. While Mt. Doom itself may be a few too many dimensions away, the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan, for example, is as ferocious, and its radiating heat and aroma of burning methane and sulphur will stay with you for years to come.

Maybe a giant burning pit belching out noxious fumes isn’t quite what you are looking for. Fair enough. How about crystals? How about the largest crystals in the world? The Crystal Cave of Giants was discovered completely by accident by a mining operation, and the determined can make the trek to nearly a thousand feet into the underworld to see these magnificent Gypsum crystals. A word of caution – the cave is close to a magma chamber, which makes temperatures and humidity in the cave similar to a sauna. A person can’t be in the chamber for more than 10 minutes without suffering serious health problems. A second hazard is that the crystals are apparently razor sharp. Not for the clumsy.


What’s that? Spelunking a thousand feet down to sit in a steam bath of knives isn’t your thing either? Why the hell not? Okay fine. What about S.C.U.B.A diving? In the Mediterranean? In Egypt? The sunken city of Heracleion, named after Heracles who is said to have visited the city himself, predates the lost city of Alexandria and is actually not that far off from it either. Unlike Alexandria, however, Heracleion survived well into the 8th century C.E before suffering a similar fate to its neighbour. The gentle embrace of the sea has preserved much of the city perfectly, and as a result is probably one of the greatest swims on the planet.


Another alternative adventure lifted right from a movie can be found in comfortable and cosmopolitan Paris. Alongside the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Bastille, any visit to the great city should include a visit to its catacombs. You see, by the end of the 18th century, Paris was out of room to bury its dead. Cemeteries were full; some being expanded into mass graves and the juices from the decomposing bodies was entering the groundwater and leading to outbreaks of all sorts of horrible diseases. Moreover, centuries of mining limestone to build the city from underneath the city resulted in a veritable ant-hill of underground passageways, some of which were caving in under the stress of buildings and mass graves. The solution was obvious – turn these catacombs into an underground open crypt using the piles and piles of bones they had, and then sell people tickets to see them! The catacombs opened for public viewing in 1874, and has been a hit destination for goths and metal heads ever since.

For more information on these and other real life dungeons, ancient ruins and adventures, check out the map below.