India. Denmark. Germany. Japan. England. Scotland. Norway. Mexico. California. Michigan. West Virginia. Oregon. B.C. Saskatchewan. Ontario. Québec. Newfoundland.
Over the summer, people hailing from all of these places have signed the blackboard at the Sundre and District Museum pioneer village’s historic schoolroom.
“You never know who’s walking the streets of Sundre,” said William Davies, the museum’s interim director.
Earlier this summer, Davies was looking at the clean blackboard one day when he decided to write an invitation asking people where they came from as a fun and simple way to engage with visitors.
“The board shows they’re not just locals. We get visitors from all parts of the world.”
The signatures, which even include a message written in what appears to be Arabic script framed in a heart, are far more interesting to peruse than a blank blackboard, he said.
“Once people started, I’d go back in there and there were more doodles and signatures. It didn’t take long once it caught on.”
As of about two weeks ago, there was barely any room left for additional signatures.
“It’s kind of full.”
Although not necessarily overwhelming, the season has been fairly steady for the museum. Paid admissions are up slightly this year from the same period in 2018, he said.
“This is very good, considering our economy in the province,” he said, adding all of the rainy weather this summer might have also played a role.
“Attendance has been very good on the cooler, wetter days.”
Additionally, the absence of sunshine does not seem to have had a detrimental impact on people’s outlook, he said.
“The attitude of visitors has also been great,” he said, adding, “people comment they enjoy their time spent here."
“It’s just another day at the museum for me, but these people are really enjoying what they’re seeing.”
Among this year’s international visitors were Larry and Gail Carter, who call Eugene, Ore. home. The couple had never been to Sundre before and packed up for a road trip to visit their friends Les and Lynne McKenzie, who are from Westward Ho and have early family roots in the area.
Part of their nearly weeklong stay included a stop at the museum and pioneer village.
“It’s impressive,” said Larry.
“Especially the wildlife exhibit. The elephant alone is worth it!”
By the time they visited earlier this month, there was barely a small portion in the bottom right-hand corner of the blackboard left for them to sign.
Although they didn’t get a chance to explore the West Country very much — the relatively limited window of time narrowed down options to iconic areas such as Banff and Lake Louise — the Carters did see a few local spots including the John Stone Art Gallery. Without a moment’s hesitation, they said they would recommend the area to anyone looking for somewhere new to visit.
“It’s a beautiful area,” they both said, almost in unison.
“It has been surprisingly green,” said Larry.
“Reminds me of Oregon. Western Oregon is really green; of course the trees are bigger and taller.”
Summarizing their time here, the Carters said they had fun and enjoyed the chance to switch mental gears and experience something different.
Larry said, in jest, that if for whatever reason they couldn’t cross the border to get back to the U.S. that he’d be just as happy to stay in the area. Levity aside, they expressed a desire to eventually return.
While the signatures on the blackboard are expected to eventually be cleared, Davies wants to leave them up at least until the end of the main tourist season.
“It actually shows you there are people visiting our community from around the world,” he said.
“We’ll keep them up until the end of the regular open season and then maybe start fresh again next year.”