The Grande Prairie Museum’s latest exhibit explores the city’s sports history with rare artifacts and activities.
The exhibit, Lace ‘em Up, showcases rare jerseys, photographs and sports memorabilia from the region’s early sporting events at the museum’s Campbell/Rodacker Gallery.
“It’s very rare to have the uniforms,” said Charles Taws, Grande Prairie Museum curator.
He noted many sporting items are used until broken, so the museum’s collection of vintage hockey sticks and homemade baseball bats are rarities.
“Sports has been an important part of Grande Prairie history right from the beginning of the settler history,” he said.
The first locally recorded sporting event in 1910 in Grande Prairie included a baseball game and horse racing.
A year later, on Dominion Day (now Canada Day), a sporting event would draw 500 people to Grande Prairie, featuring soccer, wrestling, hammer throwing, pole vaulting, various racing events and a pillow fight.
Taws said in 1911, Grande Prairie would have a population of only about 50 people, so the event drew many people from the region to the area.
The first recorded hockey game wouldn’t see the puck drop until 1913 on Lake Saskatoon; still, winter sports, including curling and skiing, were always popular, said Taws.
“At one time, there were several ski jumps in the area, but the closest would be in the Bear Creek Valley just west to where the south Safeway is now.”
He noted travel in those days was difficult, and sports teams formed throughout the region. An area near Glen Leslie, known as Twilight, had its own baseball team, and Hermit Lake had its own sports club.
“There were so many people here on the land at the time, but they hadn’t congregated in the urban areas yet.”
The exhibit also explores many of Grande Prairie’s historic sporting events, such as the 1995 Canada Winter Games, 2000 Alberta Summer Games, 2010 Arctic Winter Games, 2015 Special Olympics Alberta Winter Games and the 2018 Alberta Summer Games.
“Grande Prairie has been a real centre for sports, and it’s becoming more so,” said Taws.
This year the city is set to host multiple sporting events, including the Alberta Winter Games next month and then the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship and Special Olympics Alberta Summer Games. The exhibit also has an interactive portion, including a Lumoplay hockey game, foosball, bubble hockey and floor curling.
Taws also notes that the Grande Prairie Regional Sport Connection Try-it Day is a great way for children to connect with sports. The next Try-it Day is on Jan. 27, and registration opens on Jan. 18.
The exhibit will be on display until the beginning of April.
By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jan 11, 2024 at 10:27