The year 2016 may well be remembered for a number of things in Drumheller and area, but it will be remembered.
Things started with a bang, literally, on the morning of January 2 as a pickup truck smashed into the iconic dinosaur statue at the corner of 3 Ave. and Riverside Dr., toppling and destroying the concrete structure. The motorist was charged with careless driving. The statue has not been replaced.
The month of May kicked off with a story that claimed headlines worldwide as the city of Fort McMurray was evacuated because of a forest fire. Nearly 90,000 people were affected, including Ariana Mancini, who returned to her hometown while she waited to learn if her home in Ft. Mac had been spared. It had.
Drumhellians stepped up with a number of relief efforts for Fort McMurray, the first of many such fundrasiers during the year. Some of those that stood out helped the families of Hanna's Zach Howell, who lost his battle to cancer, The Boon family after husband and father Tyler passed and Brandon Hall, who continues to fight lung cancer. The latter led to a charge of stealing from the relief fund. Ashley Fredrickson pleaded not guilty and will stand trial in February.
There were a number of crime stories in Drumheller throughout the year, but probably none captured more attention than when Maxim, Olivia, Charlie and Sofia Gruner ran away from home on August 31. They were found safe and sound about two weeks later.
The Drumheller Valley suffered some losses in 2016. On the personal side, musician Bud Bixby, the father of Jaydee, John Kohut Jr. of Hiway 9 Trucking fame and D-Day vet Pat Sparrow come to mind. The biggest corporate loss in the valley had to be oil service giant Trican, which abandoned its compound in the Hy-Grade Industral Park to move its operations to Saskatchewan. Other business losses included Bill Cross Mens Wear and a shoe store that opened in the old Gus' Corner Cafe just weeks before it closed.
There were some business gains in the area this year: Eric Neuman's Red Deer River Adventures was named most promising new business during the Chamber of Commerce Awards of Excellence; Beiseker gained the promise of a micro brewery, Hobo Brewing and Malt, to help replace the loss of the village hardware store and bakery; and people in Hanna are still revelling in the opening of Tim Horton's, which opened its doors on May 18.
The Village of Munson celebrated the opening of its new community hall on October 1. The Midland Hall's roof caught fire on October 4. While there was significant damage to the entrance, artifacts including a number of miner portraits, were all salvageable. The Drumheller volunteer department also responded to a fatal house fire in Bankview on July 16. A man was killed and a woman suffered serious burns.
There were a number of events in the area that stood out: the Handhills Rodeo marked its 100th year in early June at the site north and east of Drumheller; in September, the local fire department hosted teams from across the country in the FireFit regional competition; the Alberta 55+ Fall Games took over the Badlands Community Facility at the end of September; and the Canadian Badlands Passion Play continued its series of big name musical concerts by inviting Blue Rodeo and Paul Brandt to the site near the Drumheller ski hill.
Of course, Drumheller continues to be an attraction for film makers. The ice age epic The Solutrean filmed in the East Coulee area in April and producers of The Northlander, which was filmed here in 2015, returned in December for a premiere with cast members. Beiseker also got some great news as the producers of the TV series Fargo decided to use the village to shoot scenes early in 2017.
Perhaps the news stories that captured most peoples' attention over the year concerned some special newsmakers. Twin sisters Joan Snyder and Joy McKee appeared on the TV program War Junk; Mitch Smith was thrust into the spotlight after RBC Financial used him to parlay $150 into more than $2,000 to buy groceries for families in need; Jamie Worman involved himself in a number of charitable endeavors, including Fort McMurray, Brandon Hall and the Food Bank; and Eric Dahl made the news no less than three separate times. In early September, a man dubbed the 'Sticky Note Bandit' gained fame by writing inspirational messages on Post-it notes and leaving them on vehicle windows around town; on October 15 volunteers gathered at Dahl's home on 10 Ave, SE and installed a new roof for the single father of five; and in November, Eric sparked headlines again when he devoted countless hours on his hands and knees in the Drumheller Cemetery to clean the grave markers of war veterans before Remembrance Day.
At the end of 2016 no-one in the Drumheller area has died in a holiday car crash and no-one has lost their home to a holiday fire. Keep safe this New Year's Eve and enjoy the greatest of blessings in 2017.