Alberta Grain Elevator Society
Annual Conference - Stettler, Alberta
Saturday, April 23, 2005
When the invitation came from AGES (Alberta Grain Elevator Society) for their annual conference in Stettler I couldn’t wait to tell the students. They were over the moon. The invitation stated that I could bring one boy and one girl from my class to the full day conference and tour of the P&H grain elevator. A draw determined the two students who would join me at the conference; Spencer and Colby.
I was thrilled when Judy Martin from Galileo told me that she wanted to accompany me on our road trip and overjoyed to find out that Spencer and Colby were each bringing both parents. Spencer also brought his younger brother and Colby also brought her Grandpa. It proved to be a real family affair.
We arrived in Stettler and set up the student prepared art tri-fold and "Action Plan" tri-fold. Then in came our 8 foot tall cardboard class grain elevator. Almost instantly the students had an audience. Conference participants adorned the students with grain elevator lapel pins and ball caps. They each received a license plate with the words "Save Alberta’s Grain Elevators" and a third one to take back for the classroom. They each got adorable wooden grain elevator Christmas tree ornaments as well. The class received the first edition of a "Prairie Cookbook". This book is going into a second edition that we found out will proudly display our class grain elevator story! The class also received a limited edition (35/50) drawing of the Leduc grain elevator.
Spencer and Colby are excited to tell their peers back in Calgary that everyone in the class was given an honorary membership card to AGES.
The conference began on a bit of an upsetting note because the key note speaker, Minister of Development Gary Mar had not arrived as planned. The conference started without him and Spencer, Colby and myself were invited up on stage to tell about the project. I was profoundly moved by the scene before us as we stood on stage. There were 80 or so dedicated grain elevator enthusiasts in the room. Each was there with the same purpose. Age was the only thing that separated us from them.
I began to explain the inspiration behind the project. I told how I sat across the street from the old Midnapore grain elevator with my dad as it fell to the ground. I was the same age as Spencer and Colby at the time. I described that image and scene as it is forever engrained in my mind. I explained my disgust at how the last remaining grain elevator in Calgary met the same fate just a few short months ago (July 28, 2004) only there was no audience across the street that time. There were no father/daughter pairs camped out to say good-bye. Why? Because nobody knew. I would have been there had I known. I would have sat across the street with my young son as my father had with me. Maybe then I could have lit the same passion in my son that now inspires me. Then I cried.
As Spencer and Colby read the class story and talked about their dreams of preserving the legacy of the grain elevator "so that we the children can remember" there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Grandpa’s held the hands of Grandma’s and looked to the stage with hope and renewed faith. It was a moment so powerful I cannot explain the depth of emotion in the room.
When the students finished their presentation we expressed disappointment that Mr. Mar had missed it. A short while later he arrived. Spencer and Colby were ready with their question; "Excuse me Mr. Mar, you missed our presentation and we want to know if you received our letter from Mr. Klein". Simply put and boldly stated, they waited for an answer as the audience clapped. A private meeting with Mr. Mar was then arranged in an adjoining room. Spencer and Colby got to share the class story with Mr. Mar and if I am not mistaken I saw him wipe a tear as well.
The day continued with the children visiting with a number of conference attendees and a wonderful "farmers" lunch of roast beef and potatoes. The highlight of the day came when the organizers asked the students if they wanted a private tour of the grain elevator before the crowds arrived. This tour was filmed by RD-TV and will be broadcast on April 25th.
We were all very excited to see "a real live grain elevator" and spent three quarters of an hour exploring. My immediate reaction was how dusty it was despite being inactive for 2 years. Stan our tour guide seemed impressed by the student’s knowledge of the different parts of the elevator. They even knew about the "dead mans lift" and got to try it out for themselves. We got some fantastic video footage for the students back in Calgary and can’t wait to make them each a DVD of their own.
Our day finished with speaker Mr. Bob Layton from CHED 630 and Global Edmonton. He opened his speech by explaining that "you only get one chance to make a good first impression and that you also need to know how to work the government and media to your advantage". He praised the students on their ability to do all of this. He explained that their knack for attracting media attention even reached him and that he would be doing an editorial about them on Global Edmonton on April 25th.
I can sum up the day in Stettler in four words; EDUCATIONAL, INSPIRING, EMPOWERING, HOPE
Two generations educating one another. Two generations inspiring one another. Two generations empowering one another. Two generations coming together and looking to the future with hope.