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Westlock museums welcoming local and international visitors

WESTLOCK — With pandemic restrictions now a thing of the past, Westlock museums are enjoying a busy summer as area residents and international visitors take in the sights and the town’s local history.

Both the Pioneer Museum and Canadian Tractor Museum opened over the May long weekend and have seen an upsurge in numbers so far this year.

“The summer has been a lot of fun for us because we’ve had a lot more visitors coming in in general and we’ve been able to continue with some of our usual summer programming,” said Pioneer Museum coordinator, Rebecca Skuban. “We’ve had our Kids Days which is our summer programming days for kids ages six to 11 (July 5, 12 and 19) so we’ve been able to run those again this year which we haven’t been able to for the last couple of years.”

Like many attractions across Alberta that have reopened following the lifting of pandemic restrictions this spring, Skuban said they have returned to near normal levels with many local citizens visiting the museum and some who are tourists passing through town.

“We’ve had a lot more young people and young families coming in which has been really awesome,” said Skuban. “For so long our demographic has been mostly older people who have a personal connection to the museum but we’re starting to see a lot more people who are just curious about history and young people who have a genuine interest in history coming in.”

Aug. 17 will see the return of the annual carnival at Pioneer Museum from noon to 3 pm

“It’s a family event so we encourage families to come. We are going to have some old-fashioned carnival games set up with some prizes and the museum will also be open for visitors that day as well,” said Skuban noting admission is by donation.

Many items donated to the museum have a personal connection to a resident or former resident noted Skuban, adding they will be bringing in some rotating displays and are currently working on a couple of new exhibits including ones on Dr. Georges Whissell, a former Westlock physician and Monsignor Rooney, a former Catholic priest.

Sharing stories of the town and region’s history is an important part of their focus at the museum, Skuban explained.

“There’s definitely something for everyone. We encourage intergeneration visits — we’ve had younger kids coming in with their grandparents,” she said. “It’s helpful for the kids because there’s a direct connection to (some of) these exhibits and objects and for older people (a chance) to share their experiences with the younger generation as well.”

The Canadian Tractor Museum has also welcomed many visitors this summer, with many interested in the 94-piece collection on display, that includes tractors and combines from manufacturers from across North American over the past century, including such popular makes as John Deere and Case.

“There are other tractor museums throughout the country but there are no other tractor museums with the collection of completely restored running units,” said executive director, Barb Kostiw. “The most exciting part for us is how many international visitors we’ve had — we’ve had people from England, from Denmark, the United States, Germany, and Switzerland … it’s been a really wonderful experience to have them come through.”

The Canadian Tractor Museum is also scheduled to hold its annual Fun Days Aug 11.

One of the new exhibits this year at the Canadian Tractor Museum is an Australian Stripper-Harvester, which is known in Canada as a combine. The early 1900s model was brought from Australia by Bernard Wiese, a founding father at the museum, noted Kostiw. The restoration of the machine was taken over by Albert Miller.

“The directors here at the museum in the vintage tractor club finished it and they have it prepared for us in our museum now,” she said, noting the return of visitors, both local and international to the museum. “It is wonderful to have our doors back open and have people come through. It’s a very large collection and it’s a beautiful collection,” said Kostiw. “I would encourage people in our local community that have not been here to come and see the treasure that they have sitting in their backyard.”

The Pioneer Museum is open five days a week from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm The Pioneer Museum’s last day is Aug. 27, while the Canadian Tractor Museum is open seven days a week, also from 10 am to 5 pm and will close for the seasonSept. 1.

Kristine Jean, TownandCountryToday.com

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