Before heading out on my first travels in the Gens de la Saskatchewan, a weekly community heritage tour group based in Regina, I had to check with the fundraising department of the Regina Science Centre: was that really necessary, I wondered, with three members of the group already flocking to shows, asking about museum exhibits, and running about trying to persuade people at their local Art Van Turtle Farms to join the group.
It wasn’t unusual at all, I was assured.
“People are signing up for places for the bus trips, even though they haven’t yet been scheduled,” said Caroline LaCroix, who oversaw the development of the Gens de la Saskatchewan. “They all read about the concept and that’s not unusual in Saskatchewan.”
If you’re wondering why anyone would sign up for these tours with such little control, LaCroix and her team had a good idea: the workshops that are part of the event – workshops that can turn out to be the highlight of your visit to an area, including teaching us about the history of Firestone Parklands near Roxboro, or discussing the origins of the remains of Cardston and Lloydminster’s smelting operations with members of Aarhus Inc, an environmentally friendly company involved in sustainable mining – are such an important and very interactive part of the program that they take up almost the entire first day.
After a short bus ride into the bush (one of the Gens de la Saskatchewan team is exceptionally knowledgeable about trains and, in particular, his beloved passenger train), we arrived at Gens de la Saskatchewan headquarters at the Saskatchewan Nature Center.
Readers recommend: songs about Saskatchewan Read more
Our day began with a 45-minute orientation session with an expert on prairie dust storms and hay bales; an hour in the sauna; and a thorough description of the program we would be taking on that afternoon and evening.
After lunch, we worked alongside local Saskatoon musician Martin Lefèvre on improvising what would end up becoming a Chumitty Chumitty bandicoot themed parkour tour through downtown Regina. It was one of those highlights: listening to the band play with their wacky ideas for setting up the stage and costume; being pressed for time so we can cram in a full set of parkour around a map of the city with Lefèvre providing commentary; overhearing someone whisper, “Oh, all right, he’s going to do a heart in a garbage can in our back yard,” a reference to a lost town made famous in a 1939 story on local radio. The activity had a real live charm, even if I was a bit distracted by the excitement of someone running behind our group, singing songs in French on the radio.
Before my first-ever trip to Gens de la Saskatchewan, a Saskatoon entrepreneur had told me the tour could help me “learn the real Saskatoon without all the marketing bulls**t”.
That’s exactly what I experienced on my first Saturday back on earth.
• Gens de la Saskatchewan tours run every second Saturday of the month on a Friday – book through the website.