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Community Matters

Add History this Christmas – Shop at Fort McMurray’s Heritage Park

November 26th, 2014

By Dawn Booth

Holiday shopping can be mayhem. With long line-ups, empty shelves, and frantic customers; clearing your Christmas list can often be less exciting when you feel like you’re drowning in the spending chaos.

However, at Fort McMurray’s Heritage Park, this isn’t the case. It’s far from the familiar box store setting. And with no other place to compare it to in our region – it’s more than shopping… it’s a historic experience.

When you walk through the Park doors, you are welcomed with a kaleidoscope of memories from some of Fort McMurray’s earliest settlers. Old fashioned candy, home décor, historic photo plaques, books from local authors and plenty of Alberta-crafted merchandise are just some of the many rare purchases that can be made for anyone and everyone on your holiday list.

“I think we are limited in our local shopping, especially for unique gifts. But our shop is a unique gift shop,” shared Tammy Plowman, Program & Office Manager of the Fort McMurray Historical Society – Heritage Park. “There’s local art. We have local photographer Tracy Holland’s photos for purchasing (, old fashioned children toys and candies, signs, kitchenware, jams and mustards, scarfs… there are so many unique items.”

And, an added, bonus, all of the money collected from sales goes back to help pay for Heritage Park’s operating expenses. Something much needed, since the devastating disaster took place in the 2013 flooding, which left the Park’s buildings and grounds area in wreckage.

Due to the flood, the Park has yet to bring back one of Fort McMurray residents’ highly-anticipated annual holiday celebrations – Old Fashioned Christmas. And though the staff and facilitators are not able to host it again this year, they look forward to the future.

“Old Fashioned Christmas is not taking place because the Park is still under rebuild due to flood of 2013 and we’re not in a position to carry on with that event this year,” said Rosanne Davidson, Executive Director of the Fort McMurray Historical Society – Heritage Park.  “But, we are working towards restoring the Park in phases, which we are looking forward to doing within the next year.”

Though residents will have to wait for this family favourite event, they will still feel the Christmas spirit at the Park through its “Christmas Store”. The store has been on presentation since early October and residents have been asking about the opening of it, since the summer. Davidson expressed how all the work put into the seasonal store is worth it in the end when she and fellow staff members hear the excitement from patrons coming through the doors from their offices, which are located next to the room.

“I can hear them coming into the room. For us listening to it, it’s worth it all,” said Davidson. “All that work that we put into it and hearing the excitement of folks coming through the store… it’s really cool.”

Located in the back of the shop, the Christmas Store is full of prestigious holiday presence. From wall to floor, the entire room is decked out with beautifully decorated trees, decorations, collectibles, stockings, the list goes on and on. Each tree is flourished with an extraordinary ornament selection. And everything in the store is available to purchase, from every tree to each piece of garland.

Also, a continuing customer holiday shopping tradition is The Heritage Park’s Mystery Bags & Boxes. Back for its third year, this is a special selection of gifts and products, which are hidden in bags and boxes, valued at $5, $10, $15 and $20. The bags are packaged in “Hill Drugs” paper bags from the 1980s, which adds more of our local history to the surprise. These can be great purchases from family, friends, neighbours and coworkers - even for yourself.

Wondering what’s in the mystery packages? What the Christmas Store is all about? Davidson encourages everyone to come in and have a look, as she says you won’t be just personally benefitting from it, you’ll be giving back to the community’s history, too.

“You’re shopping locally, so you’re supporting our museum. And that’s our way of preserving the history,” she said. “Come enjoy a different experience.”


Tags: gift

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