From the Archives Homecoming 71

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Fifty years ago, committees were being struck and ideas were being shared about how to celebrate the 1971 Homecoming Year. For many they didn’t really know why 1971 had been selected to celebrate a homecoming, it wasn’t a significant provincial anniversary, but if the government was willing to give money to host Homecoming celebrations and stimulate tourism within the province it would have been foolish not to ‘get on board’. The Government of Saskatchewan grant was set a $2 per capita with the sum to be matched locally. The Town of Wakaw together with the adjoining Rural Municipalities, set out to plan for Homecoming ’71 from July 1-4th. Initial plans included a special breakfast, fishing derby, ball and golf tournaments, a barbecue, picnics, and midway concessions with possible other events outside of the July dates that could include a Winter Festival or a monster Bonspiel.

The interim committee comprised of Peter Kolenick, Morris Zuk, Roger Remillard, Irene Gessner, Bill Greschuk, Leo Goller, and Steve Hryniuk was set up to contact all local organizations for representatives to sit on the Wakaw Homecoming ’71 Committee. There goal was to have the Committee established and ready to start work by the end of January. Those present at the first meeting in early January 1971, decided on three major projects to commemorate the event and apply the available funding towards: 1) establishing a museum in the former RCMP barracks to display local works of art and museum pieces, 2) construct a replica of the Diefenbaker Law office complete with furnishings and authentic books and have it located near the museum, and 3) installing tennis courts on the school grounds. The goal was to establish local projects of a lasting nature and contribute to recreation in the area. Wakaw they observed, was a “hub” between Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Melfort, and being such a friendly place there was much potential for growth and tourist attractions would definitely boost that growth.

When the Homecoming ’71 Committee was formed the following week, Peter Kolenick was elected as chairman, Bill Kindrachuk as vice-chair, Roger Remi as secretary-treasurer and Ed Brunanski was elected to be in charge of publicity. Due to great enthusiasm for establishing a museum in Wakaw, plans were made to make a presentation to the owners of the RCMP barracks located at the corner of Railway Avenue and Third St. South, in regard to purchasing the building. The Committee also made a presentation to the Town of Wakaw about purchasing the barracks and establishing it as a museum once the RCMP move into the new building which was under construction at that time. More discussion ensued about other possible projects such as expanding the Centennial Choir, having a parade during the proposed Homecoming days, Ecumenical Church Services, 4-H activities, and a possible school alumnae reunion. With the plan to construct a replica of the original Diefenbaker Law Office, the Committee reached out to the former Prime Minister to invite him to the Homecoming ’71 celebrations to be held in July. Mr. Diefenbaker replied that he was “most happy and pleased” with the plans to reconstruct his original office and would supply the particulars of the building.

The Committee set about in mid-February looking for submissions of songs for the Homecoming. The specifics for the entries were: must consist of four to ten stanzas, it was to be set to any well-known popular melody, and of course had to be about the community of Wakaw. The song could be serious or humorous and all entries would be judged by “competent” music teachers and musicians. Prizes would be awarded for the top three: first ~ $15, second ~ $10, third ~ $5.

By mid-March however, the wheels of the Homecoming Committee ground to a halt due to a controversy over the number of projects any municipal centre could receive grants for. Chairman Kolenick said the surrounding Rural Municipalities had indicated they were willing to funnel their share of provincial grant money into so-called urban projects within their boundaries, but they were now in need of clarification from the provincial government on what they could or could not do. The provincial Liberal government under the leadership of Premier Ross Thatcher, needed to sort out just what it was they were willing to support and clarify how that was going to roll out. The enthusiasm local planners had to get the machinery in place early to ensure they could make the most of the opportunities presented by the province-wide Homecoming ’71 festivities seemed all for naught and the proposed projects were all on hold until word on the project grants were handed down by the government. When all was said and done, the only one of the three major projects that came to fruition was the construction of the replica of the John G. Diefenbaker Law Office. In early May 1971, the Wakaw Lion’s Club announced they were going ahead with the build as one of their Homecoming projects.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder