One of my earlier memories is attending family reunions in the small town of Raymond, in southern Alberta. The reunion usually spanned the Canada Day holiday and we would take in the local parade, completed with a squad of "Kissing Bandits" who smooched Uncle Claude because he couldn't escape as quickly as us lads to sit atop a van. Every 3 years scads of Andersons would converge on the town, camping in tents in yards surrounding the Ellingson and Baker homes. Well, most of us would camp in tents, but the Dennings were known to roll up in a Costco-sized motorhome. That motorhome became the hub of all our activities.
When my cousin Charise told me she was going to be in Raymond for Canada Day weekend for a reunion for her husband's side of the family, I jumped at the chance to go down and take in the parade. In fact, I even tried to bring my own motorhome. Aside from 2 bed & breakfast listings, there are no visitor accommodations in Raymond listed anywhere. Now it makes more sense why everyone was camped in a tent for those reunions. I figured I could drive down to Lethbridge and then rent an RV to minimize the mileage. Unfortunately, most places rent RVs for a minimum of 3 days. So I will have to save my RV plans for another day.
We stayed overnight in a hotel in Lethbridge, which didn't just have an indoor pool -- it had a waterpark & wave pool, complete with slides and tubes and all. Scott just loved it and pretty much never wanted to leave. Katie went down the slide on my lap and we totally wiped out as we landed in the pool and then she wasn't willing to try it again. It's sad that I only get one chance with this sort of thing. I am sure that I could provide her a better experience on the second try, if she would let me.
The next morning was Canada Day and Charise met me in Lethbridge for a 5:30am bike ride around the city. The deserted streets and the early-morning fog made for a really great ride as we rode down into the Old Man River valley and under the train bridge on our way to a tour of the whole the city. Lots of fun.
We met up again in Raymond to watch the parade at 10am. Having seen the crowds that cram the streets hours ahead of the Calgary Stampede Parade, it was nice to walk up 2 minutes before the start of this parade and have a front-row seat. The other major advantage was the candy - they throw tons of candy in this parade, whereas the Stampede parade has none. The veterinary clinic was surgically removing freezies from a sedated teddy bear and hurling those at the crowd. Classy.
There were no Kissing Bandits, but there were tons of quirky LDS-themed floats that wouldn't necessarily find in the Stampede Parade. Personally, I thought it was awesome.
After the parade we reconnected with second cousins that we hadn't seen in at least 15 years. It was funny to see the swing in the Ellingson's yard. It seemed like the tallest swing in the whole world back when I was a kid. It seemed like it shrunk with the passage of time. Marilyn's house is yellow now. I don't think I would have recognized it.
I got to speak with my great uncle Gordon, who was making his way along the sidewalk with a walker. He hadn't seemed like it before, but now he seems like the spitting image of his brother, my grandpa BJA. Gordon thanked me for my efforts to publish his father's missionary journal online. He said he'd leared some things about his dad that he'd never known before and he offered to let me take scan copies of some other journals that he has in his possession.
We crashed a Walker family reunion lunch, which was only mildly awkward. I actually ran into several people that I know, and even some that I am related to, even though I am not related to the Walkers. Scott got some time on a bounce house and the kids got balloon animals/swords. It was seriously the hottest day ever and finally we retreated to the cool comfort of the house that Charise was staying at.
I ended up talking Scott out to a place south of town called "The Ridge" by Charise's father-in-law. When he was a boy he would spend a lot of time up there herding sheep and he wanted to explore his old haunt. He showed us petrified oyster shells in a rock. He showed us where animals had been sleeping and he pointed out coyotes and golden eagles. Scott and Cam's favourite thing was a big mushroom that they found which exploded when you threw it at something. Once they did that all they wanted to do was find more mushrooms.
We heard there was a street fair going on so we went out exploring before leaving town. I have to say that the street fair doesn't quite have the scale of the Stampede Midway, especially when it comes to food options. We managed to stave off the kids' appetites with some Raymond Buns, but eventually we had to get out of town to find a meal in Lethbridge. We had a great time and the kids have asked to go back pretty much every day since.