Saskatchewan – The New Canadian Boomtown

Sheryl’s mum has been anxious to spend time with us since we left for Cayman six years ago and, as mentioned in an earlier post, our Christmas visit was just too short to fully reconnect.

So, after several weeks acclimatizing at the Edmonton Soaring Club, we have packed our covered wagon and headed east for Saskatoon.

The improved market for agricultural products and the ongoing resource boom in Saskatchewan (where resource development has been suppressed for over 30 years) has contributed to an unprecedented influx of workers and a corresponding appreciation in residential and farmland values.  I’m pretty sure that S’toon real estate prices now exceed Edmonton’s and the city is a sea of road construction and residential development with new subdivisions, freeways and even another bridge over the South Saskatchewan River.  A great sense of optimism prevails and it reminds me of Alberta in the late 70s.

But Saskatoon is not just incomes and consumption.  It is hosting many festivals (jazz, blues, fringe and of course the annual exhibition).  Many concert tours now make S’toon a regular stop – we took in Kim Mitchell and also the Kentucky Head Hunters but Steve Earl, Jimmy Vaughn and Herby Hancock were all sold out.  Lorretta Lynn is scheduled as are the Eagles and Kiss.

The current mayor of S’toon has been the chief proponent of the Meewassen Trail and River Landing areas along the banks of the river.  These biking, hiking and hanging out areas run for miles through the river valley and connect communities in an easy relaxed bike commute.  During our stay, we witnessed extreme high waters along the trails as the floodwaters which devastated Calgary and High River made their way downstream.

Camping in the heart of Saskatoon.  Great location and quiet surroundings.

Camping in the heart of Saskatoon. Great location and quiet surroundings.

We have been staying at the Gordie Howe Campground (yes “the” Gordie Howe who spent his junior hockey years here) in the heart of the city.  It is quite a secluded refuge adjacent to several very nice ball fields, a golf course and an easy jump to the river valley trails.  It is very close to Sheryl’s mum’s.  Unfortunately, the mosquitoes seem to have followed us from Alberta.  I have to say that Alberta and Saskatchewan really need to attack the mosquito problem if they hope to attract American tourists especially in view of the already high prices here deterring visitors – we heard these sentiments regularly when traveling in the US.

Beautiful prairie sunset at Dakota Dunes Casino.

Beautiful prairie sunset at Dakota Dunes Casino.

Another highlight of our stay has been a four day stint as volunteers at the PGA Canada tour event at the Dakota Dunes Casino and Golf Course.  Dakota Dunes is a relatively new casino on native lands and one of the top course in Saskatchewan.  We camped in the parking lot (where we conveniently found a 50 amp outlet for our electricity needs) and saw some great golf while we helped out with scoreboard, spotting, hole reporting and other duties.  Sheryl had a close call when a player bounced a shot off of her hat brim.  After he autographed a ball for her, she commented that he must be surprised the lengths his fans would go to to get an autograph.  We plan to return there for another round of golf which the PGA gave us for volunteering.

The carpenter ants have been having a field day on grandma's deck.

The carpenter ants have been having a field day on grandma’s deck.

An important part of our visit has been helping Sheryl’s mum with a myriad of projects around her house where she’s lived for 30 years to bring the place back to a current standard.  The biggest project was building her a new deck but we also repaired her garage door, installed a new garage door opener, installed a dishwasher, repaired the dryer vent, removed an old shed and took several loads of accumulated “stuff” to the dump.  She seems quite happy and we are comfortable that we are leaving her with no significant problems affecting her ability to continue to live there.

The work starts by demolishing the old deck...under supervision....hurry up you guys.

The work starts by demolishing the old deck…under supervision….hurry up you guys.



Painting is a messy job.

Painting is a messy job.

The finished product......what a difference!

The finished product……what a difference!

While in S’toon we paid a visit to my cousin Liz and her husband Terry.  It turns out Terry’s 9e year old dad Nelson was visiting along with his son Bruce and girlfriend on their way across Canada recalling Nelson’s upbringing on the prairies.  Nelson, recently published a book of his memoirs recounting his youth on the prairies, career as an RCMP member in Ontario and many other exploits along the way.  The story is a well presented account of life on the prairies in the thirties and the life of an RCMP officer during the 40s, 50s and 60s.  I was glad to have met Nelson, chatted with him and read his book.

Doug receives an autographed copy of Nelson Craig's memoirs.

Doug receives an autographed copy of Nelson Craig’s memoirs.

After several weeks in “Toontown”, we were anxious to do a little exploring so we packed up and moved to the Town of Elbow on Diefenbaker Lake.  Diefenbaker Lake, with three arms extending well over 100 kilometers, is in the south central part of the province and was built between 1957 and 1964 for flood control and power generation purposes.  With the ongoing boom, the lake is attracting increasing cottage development, RVers and boaters.  It has long been a mecca for prairie sailors with a yacht club and several marinas being the home to many 30 plus foot sailboats.  There are also many golf courses and provincial parks but the extent of available adjacent land is limitless and I expect lots more development as Saskatchewan prospers.

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