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April 19, 2019 April 19, 2019

Fort Whoop-Up takes visitors back to the Wild West

Posted on August 1, 2018 by Richard Amery

A lot has changed at Fort Whoop-Up since the Galt Museum took over the facility’s operations three years ago.
This summer they have been offering special programs every Thursday night, alternating between performances by local musician Floyd Sillito and a historical storytelling program spearheaded by Andrew Legg and featuring local actors DJ Gellatly and Kathy Zaborsky, who will be taking over from Gellatly in August.
“It’s called Trader Tales. And really the credit goes to Andrew Legg who created this character from the 1860s-’70s who would have been around Fort Whoop-Up at the time,” Gellatly said, adding he has enjoyed spending the summer telling stories around the campfire.
“This character tells stories around the campfire about some of the characters who would have been around the fort at the time,” he continued, adding he has enjoyed learning about the history of the fort.
“I had never been down here until I started doing this. I think that’s true of a lot of people. They have never been to the fort,” he observed.
“It really was the Wild West here. So it has been really cool learning about it. It’s very interesting the North West Mounted Police formed to stop the whiskey trading happening at Fort Whoop-Up,” he continued, adding he dresses in 1860s-’70s style for the program. “I wear a real 1860s moosehide jerkin,” he said.
The program starts at 7:30 p.m. July 26 was Gellatly’s last performance. New West Theatre veteran Kathy Zaborsky takes over in August.
“She’s created a female character from that era,“ he said.
“It’s really Andrew Legg’s baby,” Gellatly added.
Lethbridge has a fascinating history of buffalo robe trading/whiskey trading and the formation of the North West Mounted Police in order to deal with it. The fort features a variety of interactive displays in which you can get a feel for how people lived in the 1860s and ’70s.
In addition to the special events on Thursdays, Fort Whoop-Up is open seven days a week until Sept. 2 with a variety of activities happening including rope making, wagon rides, a mini horse petting zoo, candle dipping, live blacksmithing demonstrations and bannock making over the fire.
“People come here just because we’re making bannock,” said Galt Museum marketing communication officer Graham Ruttan, adding they are working on other alternatives when extreme heat causes a fire ban to be implemented.
“We’re working with the folks at the Yates including Jason Eveleigh,” he continued, adding Eveleigh has designed new audio presentations for each of the rooms in the fort, including NWMP headquarters, a bunkhouse, kitchen, blacksmith room featuring a blacksmith demonstration from Tim Wickstrom, who is selling what he makes on site in the gift shop, and of course the trading centre and store.
In addition, they have a brand new well. “The Wood Turning Guild built us a new rope-making device,” Ruttan said.
“We also have all new artifacts since we took over,” he said, adding, unfortunately they don’t have a cannon any more as the previous board owned it and took it with them.
Last week, July 22, Fort Whoop-Up took on even more of a Wild West feel by featuring the Fort Whoop-Up Black Powder Club and South Alberta Horse Artillery who bring a replica cannon similar to the cannon at the actual Fort Whoop-Up in the 1800s, for a demonstration of 1860s-era weapons.
“We’re also planning a big event for Heritage Day. There will be fun for the whole family,” he said.
Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $5 for youth and post-secondary students.

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