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Last updateFri, 14 Jun 2024 6pm

Leonhardt returns to roots

    Ron Leonhardt had a once in a lifetime chance to visit part of his heritage this summer when he travelled to the last spot his family inhabited in Europe.
    Leonhardt was part of a mission trip “Returning the Gift” from Grace Lutheran Church to the Ukraine. At the conclusion of his trip, he and his daughter, Lynn Hemming, took a side journey before returning home. This was to a tiny village in Russia.
    His journey was a journey through history. He explains that when Catherine the Great ruled Russia, she attempted to develop the south of Russia and encouraged settlers to come to the area.
    “I guess it was sort of like Canada where the homesteaders would get a special deal to develop the country. But this was longer ago, it was in the 1760s,” said Leonhardt.
    His family was among those settlers from Germany and they built the village of Grimm in 1767. There were 179 people who established village.
    “They lived there and they could practice their own language and religion and didn’t have to serve in the military,” said Leonhardt. “It attracted a lot people from southern Europe.”
    This continued for more than 100 years until political tides began to shift. It was about this time many families began to leave.
    The Leonhardt family left in 1907. Over the next year, Leonhardt’s grandparents, their four sons and two daughters came to the new world. They initially landed in Chicago, and then learned of homesteads in Canada and came to Alberta.
    Five of the six children came to Alberta and one sister married in Chicago and remained.
    There was no future for the village. By 1941, most German families were banished under Stalin. Leonhardt said men were shipped away to the army or camps. The icons were destroyed, records were burned, leaving virtually no sign that the German settled village ever existed.
    Russians were relocated to populate the village.
    Today a very different village stands. Hemming said it is an agrarian village and fairly poor. They saw virtually no sign of its interesting history. That was until they were wandering through a graveyard, and came upon a tombstone. On it was the name Catherine Elizabeth Leonhardt, born in 1786.
    “How we found that tombstone, I don’t know, we wandered around the cemetery for a while and all we could find were Russian names, but we had heard there was one tombstone there with a German name on it,” said Leonhardt. “It was pretty neat.”
    Leonhardt said that to his knowledge, he is the first from the family to go back to the village to see it.
    “I often heard my dad and his brother talk about the old country and about what it was like to live there. I guess I just wanted to see where we came from. It didn’t really resemble what they talked about… it seems to be all gone.”
    Hemming felt a connection to her family in the village.
    “It was really cool to go there and see that this us where our roots are,” said Hemming.
    She and her father remarked that the landscape was very much like where the Leonhardt’s came to Alberta to homestead.

Free admission at Tyrrell for Arts Days

    Residents and visitors alike have a chance to see the incredible work of the Royal Tyrrell Museum free during Arts Days.
    The museum, along with other provincially operated attractions are forgoing admission from September 30 to October 2.
    “Alberta Arts Days is powered by a passion and creative energy with a surplus large enough to sell on to the grid,” said Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture and Community Spirit. “I encourage everyone to take part in the many activities across Alberta and make this weekend’s celebration the best ever.”
    The museum will be running all sorts of programs this coming weekend, including live and video presentations on palaeontology. The Royal Tyrrell Museum’s resident photographer will be doing a presentation on how to capture the best of the badlands with a camera. Visitors can also participate in hands-on activities including making a dinosaur mask.    
    There will also be Create a Cast sessions on Saturday and Sunday for a small charge.
    More information can be found at

Spirit of cooperation builds Arts Days in Drumheller

    The arts in Drumheller are certainly something to celebrate, and this weekend that is just what the community will be doing.
    As part of Alberta Arts Days, downtown Drumheller will be alive with the creativity that makes the community strong. According to Mike Todor, downtown businessman and member of the Canadian Badlands Artists Association, the event is being held in the spirit of cooperation.
    “I think it is going to be a lot of fun and really exciting. We have never had this many artists work together on a project like this before,” said Todor.
    Partners in the event include The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, Downtown Drumheller, the East Coulee School Museum and the Canadian Badlands Artists Association. The conglomeration was able to secure a grant for the celebration and according to Todor, that means the events will be free of charge.
    On Friday night, the East Coulee School Museum will be alive with music as local acts, Roadside Attractions and the Fire Coulee Bandits will be onstage. Concession is in support of the East Coulee School Museum.
    On Saturday, downtown will be alive with the arts. Music throughout the day will be provided by the Lannigan Band, The Yelping Coyotes and Hoodoo Voodoo. Dancers from Carol Todor’s Dance School and Kaleidoscope Theatre will also be onstage.
     The Canadian Badlands Artists Association will have strong presence in the core. It will be operating a photo booth and will have a space for kids to create their own works of art with sidewalk chalk. They will be hosting photography and painting demonstrations. Other artisans and art groups will also be displaying their works.
    The weekly Farmers' Market will also be downtown during Arts Days from 1 – 4 p.m. The library will have a gallery and the night will cap off with a screening of Unforgiven at the Napier Theatre.
    The spirit of the arts community is alive and flourishing in Drumheller, and is playing a role in defining downtown.
    “There are three galleries, a galleria and a recording studio in downtown. There is another artist looking to set up a workshop,” said Todor. “Soon we are going to see people coming to Drumheller to buy art, and it is going to make a tremendous difference to everyone's businesses.”


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