Victoria Day... from Stony Plain to Morinville

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May 20th 2012
Published: May 21st 2012
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A brief history of Victoria Day*.

Victoria Day (in French: FĂȘte de la Reine) is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated in six of the ten provinces and all three territories. It falls on the last Monday before May 25th, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. The date is also, simultaneously, connected to the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday. It is informally considered the beginning of the summer season in Canada.

The birthday of Queen Victoria was a day for celebration in Canada long before its Confederation. The very first event was held in 1845 by the parliament of the Province of Canada. It is then Canadians officially recognized May 24th as the Queen's birthday.

It has been noted that on that date in 1854, the 35th birthday of Queen Victoria, some 5,000 residents of Canada West gathered in front of Government House (near present day King and Simcoe Streets in Toronto) to "give cheers to their queen."

A hundred and fifty-eight years later... Shauna and I are celebrating Queen Victoria's birthday, also known around here as "May Long Weekend," by taking an old fashioned Road Trip! Over the past week, I have been conducting research trying to learn of places in NW Central Alberta we could manage a few
St Jean Baptiste ChurchSt Jean Baptiste ChurchSt Jean Baptiste Church

Morinville, Alberta
hours of driving and check out places I have definitely not been to and Shauna may have been to at somepoint in her life but not been to for several years.

What I came up with was the Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park. I read a geological survey report about this provinicial park and where it was located near the town of Athabasca. After reading its pages I was completely amazed that these 35-meter (110 foot) tall sand dunes existed 2-hours north of Edmonton! After coming up with a route north to Athabasca to check out the sand dunes, I decided we should also take in Elk Island National Park. Our proposed road trip would be an all-day adventure. We'd drive a bit, take a hike, visit a couple of lakes, maybe go canoeing or kayaking then find a local bed & breakfast to spend the night. But then...

During the week, I picked up the local Vue Weekly newspaper because there was an advertisement in it from last week about "Summer Road Trips." And I wanted to know what they might have in it that would give us enough information to actually do "something" neither of us had done. What we found was a small checklist
Musee Morinville MuseumMusee Morinville MuseumMusee Morinville Museum

Morinville, Alberta

Road Trips // World's Largest

World's largest: a checklist

Alberta seems to love having the most oversized version of something that's usually much smaller: Edmonton along lays claim to the world's largest baseball bat and the largest pair of cowboy boots, but that's a light survey-- the province lays claim to 34 'World's largest...' titles, some probably contested, some probably not. Here's the full list; hit them all in one massive, province spanning-trip, if you dare:

1.Badminton Raquet - St. Albert 2.Beaver - Beaverlodge 3.Blue Heron - Barrhead 4.Buffalo - Wainwright

5.Geese - Hanna 6.Duck - Andrew 7.Starship Enterprise - Vulcan 8. Pyrogy - Glendon 9.Toque - Morinville

On Saturday morning, from our condo in Stony Plain, we both packed ourselves a day bag including a bit of extra clothing in case we did end up staying the night someplace else. We also decided that on our way up north to the town of Athabasca (169 km) we would stop in Morinville (55km) to see the World's Largest Toque. (A toque is a beanie to the rest of the world). Departing our condo around 11 o'clock in the morning (merely 2-hours after our
With Open ArmsWith Open ArmsWith Open Arms

Morinville, Alberta
predetermined starting time) we arrived in Morinville around 11:38am. Stopping into a local grocery store for a bathroom break and to pickup a bit of food. We asked the local grocery clerk about either the information center or where the World's Largest Toque would be?

Flaberghasted by our question she had zero idea of either location. Then she asked the patron behind us who just smiled and politely declined offering any information. Finally she gave us false hopes on a false path. Yielding down the street searching both sides of the road we passed a Husky Gas station. Shortly past the end of town we u-turned along the road and went back to the gas station. Shauna jumped out, went inside had a laughing time about what we were on the search for with both the attendant and several customers only to learn the actual location of the information center.

Bounding back into the car we drove back to the main street. We had literally driven directly past the tourist center where the signage we originally saw was. It was marking the center not a place to turn to locate said center. We laughed. Arriving moments later at the information center, only to find it locked up with a closed sign drapped around it. Smiling we ate our petty sushi avocado roll lunch. Then decided to take pictures of the St Jean Baptiste Church across the street.

On our way across we bumped into two ladies coming from church. We inquired about the World's Largest Toque. What we learned astonished us as well as baffled us as to why people do what they do? The women explained that although the toque was nearly 5-meters tall and had a circumference of nearly 8-feet at its base the toque itself was made of wool. Yes, wool. They smiled and said, "its extinct now because of weather." We laughed. Thanked them and went about taking photographs of St Jean Baptiste Church. Where in the park next door and in front of the Musee of Morinville we found a statue of Jesus instead. And this is where our May Long Weekend story really begins...

Vehicle - '09 Toyota Corolla

Passengers - Aaron & Shauna

Destination - NW Central Alberta

Reason - Day Tripping

Kilometers driven - 55kms

Drive Time - 45 minutes

Total Time - 1 hour 30 minutes

* Victoria Day information taken from Wikipedia


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