Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Saskatchewan

In the middle of Canada lies Saskatchewan, a huge province that can basically be described "gigantic Nebraska + polar bears." With 1.1 million residents in a space nearly as large as Texas, Saskatchewan's two major cities of Regina (capital) and Saskatoon (most populated) frankly have a pretty poor history of permanent amusements. It's biggest draws are the two big fairs each year: the Saskatoon Ex and the Regina Fair. Both are serviced by the folks at North American Midway Entertainment, and were part of the Conklin Shows route up until the company's merger into NAME in the 2000s.

Historically, the only permanent park in the province of note prior to the present day was Saskatoon's Leisureland, a park that reportedly had a train, ferris wheel, dance hall, and more. There's no pictures, postcards, advertisements for the park in local magazines, notes about its operation, or anything else I was able to dredge up about it, nor is there anything resembling a tell-tale sign from images of the trailer park on it's location today. This isn't to say that it didn't exist: Obituaries suggest that Michael Egnatoff (1908-2012) founded the facility along with a number of art communities in the 1960s, and concessions were operated by Ede Burge (1937-2016) and her husband Jacob Getzlaf (???-1979). They ran the small carnival outfit Funtime Amusements, and were well suited to manage a small set of permanent attractions. Her husband's death was sudden and unexpected, causing her to leave the industry. That a ferris wheel, train, and carousel opearate at Kinsmen Park's Nutrien Playland is probably not a total coincidence: the company she was part of also operated concessions at the city park in the 60s and 70s.

2015 saw the rebirth of amusements in Saskatoon with the corporately sponsored Nutrien Playland. Along with the carousel that had been part of the park for untold years prior (NCA doesn't list it), a new ferris wheel was constructed (around 60 feet tall), along with upgraded play equipment and a splash pad. It joins the privately owned Wilson's Entertainment Park with its ropes course, electric go karts, and inflatables as the best options for dry fun all summer long in the province.

Let's get downright rural: Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village is located an hour west of Regina, and is a living museum showing the early 20th century farming way of life as well as a boat. The boat is a bewildering sight with an incredible story of loss and eccentric madness powering its builder to fashion it in the throes of the Great Depression. Along with the boat is a model town, antique tractors and cars, and the remains of Tom Sukanen, who's story is played out. Slightly less tear jerking is Corn Ways Adventures: there's a corn maze that's the big draw, but also zorbing, quad course (bring your own ATV...or rent!), ziplines, and bounce houses. Country Fun in Prince Albert doesn't have an active internet presence, but it still seems to be open in summers and has a train that used to run at Kinsmen Park (which in turn might have run at Leisureland...maybe?).

This far north, it isn't too surprising to see that there's not a lot of water park activity. The Travelodge Regina is a newer build and has a pair of newish slides along with some water play areas, while an older model Ramada in the same city has two slides of its own with a lower ceiling. Metro Saskatoon has the Battlefords Co-Op Aquatic Center, fulfilling both desires for community owned attractions and an indoor water park with a lazy river. And finally, we have Kenosee Superslides, a full scale outdoor water park that's primarily terrain based rather than being a bunch of towers, but has some wild speed slides too.

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