If you were one of the hundreds of people that flocked to the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre on the weekend of August 18/19th, then you do not need me to tell you what an incredible time was had by all. If, however, you were unlucky enough to have missed their 65th Anniversary Celebration, you will have to settle for reading about it here, and then ensure you don't miss their 66th Anniversary next year!
If weather could have been made to order for an event such as this, then the staff and volunteers at Leduc #1 obviously have the ear of the Big Guy Upstairs, because it couldn't have been a more beautiful weekend for a party, and party it was!
With the Centre's gates opening at 9:30 on Saturday to admit eager attendees, the day's planned events kicked off at 11:00 with a presentation by Fuel Engineer George Bezaire, who gave an explanation of how the Devonian Reef oil field was formed millions of years ago. He then jumped forward in history several million years to the time of the Leduc #1 strike in 1947, calling it "The Story Of Alberta", and then continued on to give his interesting and personal account of working on the well site beginning in 1975. He mentioned many men that had worked on the site with him, with several being in the audience that day, and he had each man he mentioned stand up for a round of applause.
Once Mr. Bezaire completed his speech, MP James Rajotte took to the stage and read a letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, congratulating Leduc #1 on their 65th Anniversary Celebration, and commenting on how this well had "changed the face of Canada."
Many other local dignitaries were present, including Leduc County's Mayor Whaley and several County Councillors, Leduc's Mayor Greg Krischke, Devon's Mayor Anita Fisher, Alberta's Minister of the Environment & Sustainable Resource Development and MLA Diana McQueen, MLA George Rogers, and many more.
MLA's George Rogers and Diana McQueen also presented commemorative plaques to the Centre congratulating them on their 65th Anniversary.
When Diana and George stepped down from the stage, the original recording from February 13, 1947, the day that Leduc #1 struck oil, was supposed to have been played, but an amusing happenstance ended up mimicking the day of the original big strike. At exactly 11am it was planned to play the recording and then have the ceremonial "bringing in of the well", with the well shooting water high into the air to simulate an oil strike. Unfortunately, there was a minor problem with the sound system, so just like on Feb. 13, 1947, everything was delayed a little bit and the well "came in" late. No one minded the tiny wait, and with the sun shining down, the fine mist of water that blew over the crowd from the 2012 well "strike" was a funny and refreshing break.
One of the highlights of the ceremonies taking place at the start of the day was when a lovely, diminutive lady by the name of Hongyan Powell, stepped on stage to sing the National Anthem. She walked up to the microphone, opened her mouth to sing, and suddenly the most amazingly huge, trained operatic voice came issuing forth, stunning the crowd with her talent and power. There is no wonder she calls herself the "Queen of O' Canada"!
Once the official speeches and presentations were over, the crowd dispersed around the site to explore the many different displays and exhibits available.
The RHHS Roadbuilders Society had been invited to take part in the celebration, and they contributed with several unique elements for the weekend. Probably the biggest display on site would have had to have been their line after line of antique machinery, which were parked on an actual, active work site. These behemoths of yesteryear were belching black smoke and showing what they could do with their buckets and blades while they were clearing land in order to build their own museum and training centre alongside of Leduc #1. RHHS had also brought in several teams of heavy horses and wagons that ferried anyone who cared to go for a ride, around the entire site. The other display they sponsored proved extremely popular with the younger crowd. It was a 20×20 foot sand box with rideable earth moving buckets, toy dump trucks and bulldozers with buckets that could scoop and lift. There were also mini hard hats available for the kids, and you could see many a small person strutting around the site proud as anything to be wearing a "grown up" hard hat.
Bands kept toes tapping around the stage, and a couple brave souls couldn't resist shaking their booties to the beat of the rhythm and blues and classic rock tunes that were issuing forth all weekend. A real coup for Leduc #1 was getting Tim Hus, who wrote the song "Alberta Crude", to bring his band and play live on site Sunday afternoon.
The food vendors were a huge hit, with everything being offered from pizza, to dumplings, to strawberry waffles, to 13 different flavours of ribs on Sunday afternoon at the "Almost Famous" Rib Cook Off, to fabulous mini cupcakes made by local cake artist Deidre Miller of D'Sart Dee Desserts. Deidre went all out with a special creation just for Leduc #1, with a cupcake she invented and dubbed the "oil drop". It was a wee, chocolatey bite of heaven filled with rosebud cream and topped with a dollop of dark chocolate ganache to resemble an oil drop.
Early on Saturday afternoon everyone was invited inside the Museum and Interpretive Centre to witness a special unveiling that was taking place. Devon artist Kathy Henderson had created the first two panels of a mural that, when finished, will reach 100 feet in length and wrap around two walls inside the Centre.
Just before Kathy and her helper Jack Ellis, dropped the cloth that was concealing the mural, the Mayors of the three founding municipalities in the area, took a moment to say a few words each. Devon's Mayor, Anita Fisher spoke of how Devon is very proud of it's oil history and oil roots. Leduc County's Mayor, John Whaley, stated that the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre is a "world class facility that just keeps getting better and better." While Leduc City's Mayor, Greg Krischke, affirmed that "The City of Leduc is truly proud to be one of the founding municipalities for this Centre." He commented on how this area wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the oil industry, and that this is a significant piece of our history.
When the mural was unveiled to the crowd, you could hear the murmurs of appreciation for this magnificent piece of art titled "The History Of Alberta Oil". Kathy then took a few moments to explain to everyone gathered there, the significance and meaning behind the images and story line in her work. It began with her interpretation of the Big Bang, when the universe was created from nothing, then went on to the native people's that originally populated this country, through to the explorers that helped open Alberta to the rest of the world, and on through to the beginning of the 20th century and the first oil strikes in Alberta, which took place in and around Turner Valley. Truly an epic beginning to a mural that took countless hours of research and work, and will likely take several years to complete.
Then, on Saturday night, a fundraising gala was held for the Centre at Devon's Dale Fisher Arena, with none other than the famous Danny Hooper presiding as auctioneer. With Danny keeping everyone in stitches all night, it was a wonder people could stop laughing long enough to raise their hands to bid on things! But with the ticket providing a scrumptious dinner as well as chances to be the winning bidder on over 200 items, including fly-in fishing trips to Norman Wells, condo stays in Hawaii, and golf trips to BC, amongst too many other things to name, items were sold, everyone had a great time, and overall it was an amazing evening.
It is impossible to describe absolutely everything that went on over this incredible weekend at the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre, so thankfully there was a video crew on site all weekend filming the whole celebration. The Centre is having DVD's made of the weekend so that anyone who missed the celebration can purchase a video of the entire event.
So even if you weren't able to make it out for the big 65th Celebration, the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre will be open through October, so make sure you head on out there and see some of what you missed. You won't be sorry you made the trip!