Friends of the Motherwell History
In the Beginning…
“In 1966, the Government of Canada recognised the importance of William Richard Motherwell as a lifelong advocate of the Western farmer, a big part of this being his political career. His homestead itself was commemorated because of its architectural interest, its historic associations with his career and as an illustration of a prairie homestead of Western Canada’s settlement period.
Parks Canada acquired the 8.3 acre farmstead in 1966 from the then owner, Mr. Hugh Stueck. Over the next two decades, Parks Canada’s efforts focused on historical research, archaeology of the site, oral histories, and subsequently, restoration of the buildings and the farmyard.
Among the many decisions in preparing to operate a national historic site, the issue of what to do about a Visitor Reception Centre and what services could be offered to the visiting public was in the forefront. After considering a number of options for the Visitor Reception Centre, it was decided to stabilize and rehabilitate the implement shed for the alternative use of interpretive panels and public washrooms. The building was not big enough to allow for other visitor services. In 1981, Parks Canada launched its “Friends” program through Co-operating Association Program.
In 1983, prior to officially signing a co-operating agreement with Parks Canada, the Friends of the Motherwell Homestead Inc., established an Interim Board of Directors. Up until this time, members of the community worked to have the site designated a national historic site, have it restored and support the conversation and presentation efforts. It could be said that the rest is history! But that really wouldn’t do the Friends justice.” (Archer, 2009) On September 17, 1984 the Friends of the Motherwell Homestead officially incorporated.
The Early Years…
In 1989 fundraising efforts began to enfold. Film nights that entailed a live auction, short films and supper brought the community out. These were the main fundraiser up into the early nineties. In 1986 the Friends brought in their first condiments and gift shop trailer to offer refreshments to visitors. In 1989 they put in a stove to utilize on site cooking.
In 1988 “they published a history book Waiting for the Train, a cookbook, and a children’s activity book, designed the Clara Clothespin Doll Kit, and hired a local woman to make reproductions of doilies found in the Motherwell home. The latter two, meaning the doll kits and doilies, won Awards of Excellence for Product Development at the Canadian Parks Partnership biennial conference in 1990. Waiting for the Train has been approved by the Department of Education in Saskatchewan for use in high schools as a reference book, or supplementary reading, regarding agricultural history.” (Freer, 2009.) 1988 also saw a part time business manager hired for the first time.
In the late eighties and early nineties the Abernethy Dancers also preformed regularly at the site. This continued even after the Abernethy School (where most of the dancers originated) closed in 1993. In the late nineties the Sunset Serenades were started to showcase local talent. During this same period the July 1st Old Tyme Family Picnic started. It was run like an old fashioned carnival and family fun day. This tradition is continued on in likeness even today at the site, with a few new additions of course. We have to keep things current and interesting without losing what makes these events special!
On occasion the Friends fundraise for larger initiatives and partnership programs on site. The Motherwell Homestead Visitors Reception Centre was completed in 2000. The Friends raised a significant portion of the cost of the new building with the help of its supporters and volunteers. This new building became the permanent home of the site’s Friends organization. Once the VRC was constructed, the Friends’ funds were redirected to aiding Parks Canada restore the Implement Shed to its original function.
Since then the Friends have helped the park with their special event days by providing volunteers, concession, and enthusiasm!
2010 saw the dawn of the Concert in the Barnyard. Gary Fellgjard serenaded the visitors much to their liking in an evening event that was complimented by a fantastic supper and beer gardens, after a full day of Binding and Stooking in the field. Friends also provided their carnival activities on Parks day and Canada Day.
The 2011 Binding & Stooking’s Concert in the Barnyard brought Miss Billy the Kid out to us from British Columbia. It was an intimate venue feeling for a barnyard that was so big!
2012 was a busy year. May 20th, 2012 marked the Grand Opening of the Stueck Nature Trail. Flo Miller said a few words on behalf of Parks Canada, and Ben Stueck, grandson of Hugh and Wanda Stueck, spoke on behalf of the Stueck Family. Donna Wilkes then thanked all of the volunteers, parks staff, and board members for their involvement in bringing this project to completion. Following the speeches the ribbon was cut to officially open the trail and several people then made the trek out to the new dock where a variety of waterfowl could be seen. Cake and coffee followed in the Visitor Reception Centre.
The Concert in the Barnyard/ Binding and Stooking was also a huge success. Elvis tribute artist Rory Allen kept the crowd engaged and entertained! Our Winter Brunch Series began in the fall and was greatly received all winter.
2012 also created an interesting atmosphere at the park. On April 23, 2012 the Government of Canada announced to us some major funding changes to all levels and departments of the Federal Government, including Parks Canada. For a long time it was unknown what the outcome would actually mean for the park itself. There was a lot of fear of the unknown. The community came out with huge support for the park including visitors, petitions and media coverage.
Although there were changes, the situation has indeed transformed several times to date. Although some of the original changes were permanent, the Park staff and the Friends have put together new and exciting activities to present to the public. We are very much looking forward, to sharing these experiences offered at the site this season.
2013 was a season of change. We offered more Saskatchewan items in the gift shop, did more catering through the Christmas season and had a very successful Christmas sale. The 2013 Concert in the Barnyard brought us well known country artist, Julian Austin. It was a great evening as always! Our brunch series’ continue to do well. Each year our attendance has become stronger and stronger making for one of our most successful fundraising series ever! Our attendance for the lunches range from 50 to 120 people. To put that in perspective, that’s four rotations of people through the visitor’s centre! Thanks to all those who supported!
2014 Concert in the Barnyard brought out SK Country Music Award winner Codie Prevost. And for the first time we had an opening act. SK Star Search winner Samara Yung warmed up the crowd for Codie. Although we had a bit of rain, spirits weren’t dampened as we moved the concert to our alternate location and the festivities continued. Thanks to Abernethy Rink for having us! Threshing day was fun as usual. Our Christmas Sale had so many vendors we had to reorganize our setup for space! Be sure not to miss out on 2015 sale. As always, our volunteers have been crucial in helping us keep our brunches hopping!
2015 Our concert has a new name! Rockin’ the Barnyard 2015 will be headlining JJ Voss on a new date: Canada Day with fireworks. Binding and Stooking: The site always does a fantastic job of showcasing the roots of early prairie agriculture and this day is always a treat! Come on out, its hands on! Part One. New! Threshing Day and Symphony Under the Sky! Threshing Day: part two of the Binding and stooking event, -Symphony Under the Sky: Regina Symphony Orchestra will be enchanting the site for the day -Field to Fork Festival/ agricultural trade show: Homestead Style: meet local producers, organization advocates, local product business owners, learn the behind the scenes story about the products you see in the grocery store and even be able to fill yours farmers market basket! And Bushwakker Brewpub introduces the Motherwell Red Fife Whitbier! Animals, grain, gardens, processing, the list goes on!
2016 Rockin’ the Barnyard had The Milkman’s Sons having a great ending to the smooth cutting Binding and Stooking earlier in the day. Another very successful Symphony Under the Sky Festival being attended by even more people than last year, over 2600! Thank you visitors, staff, partners and volunteers! Gordon Gerrard did a fantastic job at his inaugural performance as the Regina Symphony’s new music director. Bushwakker’s Whitbier was as refreshing as ever and the Field 2 Fork vendors added their special touch. Special thanks to the Canadian Armed Forces for bringing their gear!
The site has a new special event has come to the site that has a pioneer theme! Journee du patrimoine / Heritage Day is a free bilingual family day on October 1st. Welcome!
Canada 150 : **Exciting News: Watch for details but… the Motherwell Homestead visitor centre is getting a major facelift! We can’t wait for you to check it out in spring of 2017!**
In a community and rural municipality with a limited population, it is amazing at the level of dedication, involvement and effort that has been contributed over 25 years. The Friends provide food services and gift shop- initially out of a trailer. They have led or participated in heritage presentation programming and visitor services and have carried out numerous fundraising activities: outreach, special events, farmer’s markets, film nights, auctions, product development, displays, supported Parks Canada efforts to acquire funding and build the Visitor Reception & Administration Centre, and more.
In the past, fundraisers have included bingos, a film night, supper and auction, and the Take-a-Hike program. Although these are no longer on the agenda, they were instrumental in making the Friends what they are today. New ideas for events and fundraisers are always welcome and are needed for the Friends to continue to operate and grow in the years to come. But no matter what the event, it is the people who support the Friends that make their work possible.
Archer, C., History of the Friends of the Motherwell Homestead., 2009.
Freer, C., Executive Summary., 2009.