Years ago even fewer people lived up here in the great, isolated north. They dwelt in the cold and dark, both literally and culturally. They had no need of music or drama. If they saw it, these backward folk could hardly be expected to recognize quality entertainment.
Ha! That may have been the misguided opinion of some in the “civilized” regions of the east: little did they know that out in the Peace Country, entertainment was not only high class but also most highly valued. Yes, the winters were cold, and long and dark, but that was exactly what made recreation important. Everyone knew it, and farmers, artists, and even radio stations supported live, local entertainment. How could performers be less than brilliant with such expectations placed upon them?
Moira Day has written an interesting research article, ‘THE COUNTRY MOUSE AT PLAY’: THEATRE IN THE PEACE RIVER DISTRICT 1914-1945 as part of her post-doctoral fellowship. It is eye-opening, even for those of us who live here today.
It is a shame that we have largely lost this part of our history. It may be that we’ll never see a Chautauqua again. Don’t know the meaning of the word? Look it up and you’ll want one. Sure, we have big name artists coming to our big stadiums in Dawson Creek and Grande Prairie, and some of our local singers, musicians, and actors have gained fame by leaving their small home towns. But where are the community drama productions? The talent shows where “live” means in your neighbours’ living room, right now? When did it become undesirable to support local talent?
Fortunately, some of the home grown entertainment tradition survives. There are music festivals every summer: Sweetwater 905, is one, and there are more if you know where to look. The Spirit River and District Museum often has an old time dance with a live band, and of course we have the Carol Sing at Christmas time.
Perhaps it is a good thing that our area has outgrown our isolation and dependence on local entertainment, and that we can be satisfied with these echoes of the past. But oh, what sweet echoes they are!
If you know of a local person with a talent in the arts, please let Town Spirit know! It would be a pleasure to feature them here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment. Thanks!