By Marla J. Daniels
This year Fort Edmonton Park celebrates its 40th anniversary. This summer, we will be talking and blogging about the Park’s history and plans for the future. Our first stop was 1920 street and its amazing growth in the last decade. Second stop: Fort Edmonton Park in the 1990s!
The 1990s was an ambitious decade for Fort Edmonton Park in terms of tourism promotion. In partnership with Edmonton Tourism and Travel Alberta, the Park was introduced as a major Edmonton attraction which hosted a variety of international tour operators, airline executives, and travel media. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the Alliance of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA) marketplaces each attracted 1,000 travel industry professionals for park-wide events, in April and May 1990 respectively. Prior to construction of the Blatchford Field Air Hangar in 2000, a gigantic special events tent was utilized for seasonal banquets. Other major tourism industry events (for 100-200 travel influencers) featured the Clerks’ Quarters, Kelly’s Saloon, and Jasper House Hotel as venues for entertainment and meal functions held in October 1991, May 1993, December 1993, May 1996 and November 1997.
In June 1991, a grand celebration marking Canadian Airlines’ inaugural non-stop flights from Tokyo to Edmonton was held at Fort Edmonton Park. A re-creation of an 1847-style “Paul Kane dinner” was served in the Fort’s Rowand House to the VIP group of Japanese tour operators. Adding to the festive atmosphere, the Japanese guests and the Alberta hosts were all colourfully attired in 1890s Klondike-style costumes. These types of tourism promotions, as well as regular participation by Fort Edmonton Park sales staff in tourism industry marketplaces, led to increasing visitation by international tour groups and plenty of national and international media coverage for the park.
Fort Edmonton Park staff that worked on the 1990s tourism promotions included Keith Hembroff, Bryan Monaghan, Gordon Wick, Jeanett Alexander, Ron Nichol, Tim Marriott, and Colleen Emmott.
In 1995, Fort Edmonton Park staff made a trip from Rocky Mountain House back to Fort Edmonton in the york boat that had been built as part of Expo ’86, engaging with the community and having great adventures along the way.
During the 1990s, the Park acquired several original structures “ the Al-Rachid Mosque, Firkins House, the AGT Exchange and the A-1 Salon Car “ as well as four replica attractions on 1920 Street.
Al-Rashid Mosque, Canada’s first purpose-built mosque, was built in 1938. Due to expansion of the Royal Alexandra Hospital, it was necessary, in 1989, to relocate the building to Fort Edmonton Park. The bricks and spires were removed and the entire structure travelled in the middle of the night to avoid traffic. Following restoration, in 1992, the mosque opened to visitors at Fort Edmonton Park. A dedicated volunteer and retired school teacher, Richard Awid, is at the mosque three or four times a week to enhance visitor experiences, and has recently published a book available in our gift shop.
Donated by the Karpetz family in 1992, Firkins House was moved from its original location at 7821 Saskatchewan Drive to 1905 Street. The Fort Edmonton Foundation mounted a fundraising campaign to restore the dilapidated 1912 house as a prime example of the Craftsman style of architecture. However, a chance meeting with an individual connected with the Canadian Forces Base Edmonton resulted in an opportunity to use skilled labour from the 1 Combat Engineer Regiment. Officially opened in 1999, the Firkins House is staffed by costumed interpreters to provide visitors with stories about this unique home and its first inhabitants.
Since 1993, passionate volunteers from the Edmonton Model Railway Association (established in 1946) have been on-hand most weekends talking with Park visitors who stop by the Freight Shed to view their railroad treasure.
What memories from Fort Edmonton Park in the 1990s would you like to share?