Across Canada in a farmhouse: Regina to Camrose

Now, you can’t make it out of Regina without having some contact with the Canadian Football League. This is Roughrider country, and you sure can’t miss it!

So, before heading north out of Regina we decided to take a rare day off and see about attending a football game; Hamilton was in town. As luck would have it we ran into a few of the Tiger-Cat players, who had seen our hillbilly-shack-on-wheels. A few of them joked about being from the southern U.S. and that our house would be pure luxury to a lot of people in "the hills" down there.

Ray Williams and Jamal Johnson, two star TiCat linebackers, gave us tickets to the game! Even better, shortly after Ray Williams scooped up a fumble, which led to the game-winning touchdown for the Tiger-Cats, he tossed the ball up to us in the crowd!! Apart from taking a lot of ribbing from Rider fans it was a very cool day for Tractor Canada.

Back to reality. North out of Regina on Highway 11 is a real landscape treat. Around Davidson you transition away from fields that stretch to the horizon, into rolling valleys, gully-streaked coulees and larger stands of aspen and poplar. Still big-sky country, just with more in the way of rolling hills.

Being in a real hurry to make our appointment with Home Hardware in Camrose, Alta., we had no choice but to pick up Highway 14 west and bypass Saskatoon. Although we planned to make Provost, Alta. on the night of the 31st, a doozy of a flat (shredded to bits) held us up in the Perdue area for about three hours.

Bud from Excel Excavation was kind enough to stop and offer use of his shop for some repairs. He also had a few extra motor-home rims and tires, laying around in the long grass, which he offered to us. Thanks so much for your help, Bud!

We couldn’t make Provost, which meant an overnight at Biggar, Sask. Molly loved the Biggar sign, which reads "New York is Big…But this is Biggar."

After a real cool and rainy morning on the 2nd, we rolled for nine steady hours into Camrose. Crops look great in this stretch of country: very clean, good-looking spring wheat and Argentine canola that’s filling out beautifully. It’s little wonder, as Jim Sherbinski from Wainwright, Alta. told us it’s been rain at night and hot sunny days for a while now.

He added, "as long as the big white combine doesn’t get us it’s going to be a great crop year." We’re all keeping our fingers crossed for no hail.

We reached Camrose on Highway 13, after four extended driving days and what seemed like an endless supply of huge canola fields, rolling hills and open sky. Due in the Rose City for an event with the local Home Hardware, we arrived in good time for a very successful event. There was a petting zoo, beef on a bun, and we even had speeches from federal MP Kevin Sorenson, Alberta’s Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson and local officials. It was truly a great way to connect with Camrose and, more broadly, Alberta.

Once a year, this relatively sleepy town is flooded by huge RVs, cowboy boots and southern twangs. The Big Valley Jamboree, Canada’s largest outdoor music festival, features some of country music’s biggest stars and draws roughly 100,000 people over the course of the four days. The local Agco dealer, Selmac Sales, was a major sponsor of the event, and was kind enough to treat us to tickets to the Aug. 3 show.

We had heard how large "BVJ" is, but I think it really takes seeing to absorb the scale of this festival: 10,000 RVs and campers, mountains of tents, and people everywhere. Inside the gates, you could eat any genre of food you desire, choose from a variety of cowboy hats, T-shirts, and boots to buy, and of course drink beer to your heart’s content. And of course, the music! There are smaller stages scattered around the grounds with lesser known country acts, learn-to-write workshops and karaoke, but the main stage is where all the action is.

We watched Emerson Drive (a Canadian band, from Grande Prairie, Alta.), Kellie Pickler and Blake Shelton, who is currently a superstar of the country world. The crowd for our show ranged from drunken 18 year-olds to families with children to retirees enjoying a night out. The music and entertainment was phenomenal, and although I was disappointed I was missing Dwight Yoakam (who performed the following evening), BVJ is truly something not to be missed.

— John Varty and his fiancee Molly Daley are driving across Canada in an effort to speak to farmers about the issues that concern them, and to bring those concerns to urbanites. They’re doing it in an unusual fashion — towing a "farmhouse" behind a Massey Ferguson 1660 — and will post periodic reports here of their trek across the Prairies.

Related stories:
Across Canada in a farmhouse: Winnipeg to Regina, Aug. 2, 2012
Cross-Canada tractor pull, July 26, 2012


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