By Mo Cranker,
Special to Southern Alberta Newspapers
Just when we thought the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was behind us — 2021 happened.
The pandemic and how communities responded to COVID-19 dominated headlines once again, and they likely will for the better portion of 2022, too.
Let’s take a look back on 2021 and the year that it was — on all the happy new stories, community achievements, tragedy and politics.
Back to class
Parents and students were dealt a dose of ‘normalcy’ to begin 2021, with students returning to in-person learning after weeks of virtual classes.
Brian Sloan, who teaches Math 9, Science 8, art and elective courses at Parkside School shared some of the pros and cons with online learning.
“I found that student attendance rate did improve a little bit — which was nice. I also found that it was easier for the students to share their understanding through the online platforms that we use-like through Google Classroom -and getting them to be more technological savvy was a bit challenging for the first couple of days. But then after the first few days, they really settled into it nicely and did really well with it.”
Youth Centre Upgrades
Another big story from Redcliff early in the year was the Redcliff Youth Centre receiving a pair of timely grants to give its location a complete facelift.
The Youth Centre works with hundreds of kids, all of which will benefit from the upgraded facilities.
Red, Yellow, Green
For Dunmore residents, big news to start the year came in the form of an intersection. Well, not just an intersection — the intersection.
For many years area residents and officials have called for an intersection on the Trans-Canada Highway and construction was completed early in 2021.
“I think it’s going to be a huge benefit …,” Cypress County Deputy Reeve Richard Oster told the Alberta Newspaper Group. “I’m quite pleased that they’ve finally been installed. It was a long struggle to get everything in place. Of course we never anticipated it would be this many years to do it.”
Fatalities and near-misses in the area fuelled the need for the intersection.
A new Stampede leader
In Febraury, the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede announced the hiring of its new general manager Kara Brake.
Brake took over from Jim MacArthur, who worked for the Stampede for more than two decades during two stints.
Brake worked previously with numerous groups in Southern Alberta, including the Medicine Hat Sport and Event Council. She is the first woman to hold the general manager position at the Medicine Hat Stampede.
HALO gets funding
In late March, Cypress County stepped up in a big way for the region.
The County announced it would cover $250,000 for the air ambulance group in 2021. The county tripled down on the investment in area wellness, by committing to $300,000 per year in further funding for the next three years.
“Cypress County is very excited to work with HALO. It is a vital asset for citizens and visitors alike,” said Tarolyn Aaserud, chief administrative officer for Cypress County. “As a southeastern Albertan I feel so blessed that Cypress County has chosen to enter into this partnership.”
Centennial Park Project
Rotary Ignite and the Rotary Club of Medicine hat started work on their Centennial Park project in May.
The clubs worked to plant 100 trees to celebrate 10 decades of rotary in the Medicine Hat area.
The goal is to have a self-sustaining natural area that everyone can enjoy.
The Badlands are a beautiful thing – and we were reminded of this in May.
Seven-year-old Austin Werbiski went for a hike outside of Redcliff with his mom, when he found the tooth of a dinosaur.
A University of Alberta researcher said it could have been the tooth of a Nodosaur.
County Steps Up Again
After some debate, Cypress County decided it would contribute $1 million toward a new library in Irvine.
Council debated at length at what the right cost would be, before landing on the $1 million mark.
Everyone’s favourite stop in Seven Persons — Premium Sausage — made regional news this year after announcing a standalone store in Medicine Hat.
The store is up and running at 1343 Trans-Canada Way.
Quonset Cancelled… Again
One of the biggest fundraisers in the area, Quonset Days, was once again cancelled due to the pandemic.
The fundraiser has brought in more than $400,000 for ALS research since 2010.
Canadians were forced to reflect on Canada’s dark past this summer, with the uncovering of thousands of unmarked graves.
The graves were largely found around Residential Schools, and many bodies found were of children.
Schools, businesses, workplaces and society as a whole reacted, with orange shirts, social media campaigns and fundraisers.
It is important that society continues to remember the victims of the Residential School system.
High School students at Eagle Butte were able to attend a mostly normal graduation this past summer.
Most highschoolers in the province lost their grad ceremonies in 2020, making 2021 a boost for those finishing high school.
In CFB Suffield news, the base named its 23rd commander this past year.
In July, Lt. Col Stephen Burke signed on as the new base commander for two years. Burke has roughly 20 years of military experience that he brings to the table.
“I’m excited,” said Burke. “I’m very proud and humble to be here. This is a tremendous opportunity. It’s a test and a trust — like I’m trusted as their single point of responsibility for a safe functioning and discipline of this base. I don’t bear that lightly. I’m excited for it because I’m always up for a challenge and I’m very excited to work with all the officers, NCOs (Non-commissioned officers), communities (and) all of our civilian employees who are here and rely on this base.”
Cypress County declared a State of Emergency this summer due to extreme heat and drought conditions.
These conditions were so hard, some farmers were not able to produce crops.
Redcliff athlete Sarah Mickey was able to qualify for the 2021 Paralympic games in Tokyo, and she went on to compete in the games.
Mickey went on to finish sixth in the heavy heat in Tokyo.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of cancellations, but 2021 Redcliff Days was not one of them.
The day featured music, classic cars and smiles for all who attended.
The province had municipal elections in 2021. Let’s briefly run down.
Ward 1 – Michelle McKenzie
Ward 2 – Blaine Brost
Ward 3 – Lloyd Want
Ward 4 – Robin Kurpjuweit
Ward 5 – Dan Hamilton
Ward 6 – Dustin Vossler
Ward 7 – Richard Oster
Ward 8 – Shane Hok
Ward 9 – Vacant, byelection TBD
Mayor – Dwight Kilpatrick
Matthew St. Pierre
Cypress County agreed to establish a community fund late in 2021.
With help from the Community Foundation of South East Alberta, the County will invest money, which will grow with time.
As time passes, CFSEA uses interest earned to give out grants in the region.
In just 24 hours, it was reported that BATUS would be leaving Suffield, and that the group was absolutely not leaving the area.
British media reported late in November that the plug was being pulled on British Arm Training in Suffield. Local media then picked up on that reporting.
Defence officials quashed the rumours, and confirmed BATUS is here to stay.