Postcards from Alberta. No 4. Bassano’s 100th Birthday.

Happy Birthday Bassano Alberta. Celebrating 100 years of incorporation as a Town in 1911, Bassano owes its existence to the Canadian Pacific Railway. As the transcontinental line pushed west across the prairies it reached the area in 1883 and a small settlement grew up around the tracks. The area had always been a buffalo hunting ground for the indigenous Blackfoot people and was effectively a desert. The Palliser Expedition of the late 1850’s had concluded that what is now South Eastern Alberta was far too dry to support agriculture of any kind but the CPR had been granted 1.5 million acres of land by the Canadian Government as an inducement to building the rail line. It needed to sell this land, in plots, to settlers and homesteaders to create the infrastructure it needed to support the commercial success of the railway. By the early years of the 20th century it had become clear that there could be no large scale agricultural development without irrigation and so, in 1910, construction began of the Bassano Dam on a U bend of the Bow River about 3 miles south of the town. It was the building of the dam, the biggest of its type in the world at that time, between 1910 and 1914 that created the basis of the town as it is today and at this time the town’s motto was coined-

The Best in the West by a Dam Site.

Today the headwaters of the dam feed a network of over 2000 miles of canals irrigating 1200 farms and ranches over 600,000 acres.

So that’s the history, what of the Birthday Bash? Thanks to the superb organisation everybody had a great time from the opening events on Friday 1st July, Canada Day, to the closing ceremony on Sunday afternoon. I’ve tried to record various times and places in these images-

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Canada Day. Evening street BBQ by the Kinsmen Club.

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Canada Day. The Calgary Stampede Mobile Stage provides music for the street party and dancing.

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Canada Day. Plenty of chatting and socialising in the evening sun.

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Just a reminder that this is very much a Western town.

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Saturday morning. Free breakfast buffet. Pancakes, sausages, eggs. It was very good.

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Saturday morning. Live Country music while we eat our breakfast in the Bassano Arena.

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The Bassano Historical Society created a Museum in an empty factory unit on Main Street. It was brilliantly done with recreations of various living rooms at different periods in the past 100 years together with many records and artefacts from the town’s history.

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A 1/12th scale model of the Grain Elevator, sadly long gone, and Bassano Train Station. The station was built in 1911 and is still in situ although due to be moved to a buildings museum in Beiseker, Alberta.

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Saturday morning car show with some entrants giving rides up main street.

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There were hourly tours to Bassano Dam throughout Saturday when we were able to go right under the dam and then walk back across the top. Our guide from Eastern Irrigation District was very informative and this was a highlight of the weekend.

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Saturday afternoon on Main Street. Craft and Artists Market, well patronised.


Saturday evening in Bassano Arena saw 1100 people sit down to a Beef BBQ Buffet Supper which was excellent. This was followed by speeches from various dignitaries, presentations and a pageant following the history of the town. All this was very well organised making for a truly memorable evening which I’m sure everybody present enjoyed. Sorry but I have no images of the main part of the evening.


Finally, on Sunday morning, the Community Hall was full with perhaps 500 people for an interdenominational service “A Journey of Faith.” led by Ministers of local churches. A choir had been formed for the occasion and the ladies, some in period costume, all  looked very smart in their hats! This was followed by a superb finger buffet  lunch provided by ladies from the local churches. Special thanks to them.

So, as visitors from England, Ruth and I would like to say how much we enjoyed the experience of sharing the 100th birthday of a Canadian prairie town. This is our 5th visit to Bassano to stay with Ruth’s family and we have always been welcomed by all those we have met here. The “Birthday Bash” was very special and very well organised by the Bassano Historical Society, the Town of Bassano and by the many volunteers who have worked very hard to make it all happen, right down to the small details. The main impression we have is of people relaxing and enjoying themselves, of old friends meeting and greeting, of thoughtful  people looking at class pictures and High School Year Books. At the very end, on Sunday afternoon, a time capsule was filled to record the 100th Birthday. it is planned to open it in 25 years time. We wish the town well for the future and hope that the 125th Birthday bash will be as good as the 100th.





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3 Responses to Postcards from Alberta. No 4. Bassano’s 100th Birthday.

  1. Pingback: Bassano Centennial « The Canadian Badlands

  2. Great information and photos.

  3. Tim Gough says:

    Interesting to read your insight into Alberta and its people. We lived in Alberta for 50 years before moving out to Vancouver Island. Signed : a former Wellingtonian

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