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.”