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Last updateThu, 21 Sep 2023 8am

LaVerne Erickson to receive ALTO Award


    Throughout his career, LaVerne Erickson has worn many hats. He has been called everything from an educator to a big idea man.
    Visionary seems to fit very well.
    Erickson has played a role in creating Rosebud School of the Arts, Rosebud Theatre, The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, Chemainus Festival Theatre and Canadian Badlands. He is being honoured by Tourism Alberta.
    It was announced this week that Erickson will be receiving the ALTO Ambassador Award for his contributions to the tourism industry. It will be presented in October at the 10th annual Travel Alberta Industry Conference at the Fairmont Banff Springs.
    “It puts me at the top of the Alberta pile,” laughs Erickson. “You don’t plan to do it to get recognition. I like to think about it as nation building, if we all build better communities we would have a better country.”
    Erickson has always seen the big picture right from the beginning, founding the Rosebud School in 1973. Rosebud Theatre was born in 1983, and using the same model, he went on to be a founding member of the Chemainus Festival Theatre on Vancouver Island in 1993. A year later, the Canadian Badlands Passion Play was created. It has blossomed into a national, if not international annual summer attraction.
    “Simply put, Rosebud Theatre, Rosebud School of the Arts and many other arts and culture icons in the Alberta Badlands would not exist today without the vision, passion and tenacity of LaVerne Erickson,” says Bob Davis, executive director of Rosebud Theatre. “Through his unbridled enthusiasm and optimism, LaVerne has attracted support and cooperation for ideas and dreams that have influenced thousands of tourists in Alberta, building a legacy that will endure for generations to come.”
    Erickson takes these great achievements in stride.
    “I think the biggest challenge isn’t with the projects, the biggest challenge is with my personality, being a visionary,” he said. “When I see something that I think is possible, I really commit to it and am passionate about bringing it about. When I started these things, people didn’t believe me. In my mind, I see what I expect to come, but other people, when they see no physical proof of it, they think ‘there is a daydreamer.’
    “We should have a lot of visions come about in our communities, but visionaries don’t play a role in our society anymore. Everything that comes about is because it fits in with some common bureaucratic structure, so having my personality makes me sort of an oddball.”
    Davis recognizes Erickson’s skills.
    “Like a true visionary, his energy, passion, cooperative spirit and innovative ideas create synergies that would not otherwise materialize,” said Davis. “LaVerne can see, feel and believe what might be possible. His favourite saying is ‘A rising tide lifts all ships’ – a phrase that inspires people to this day to continue the work he helped start.”
    And he isn’t done yet. Erickson also became a founding member of the Canadian Badlands. His vision is to market the area as a tourism icon on par with the Canadian Rockies. It is now a limited non-profit corporation with more than 60 municipalities as members.
    “Currently Canadian Badlands is Canada’s largest municipal tourism organization, so that is a huge achievement, but we are still limited to Alberta,” he said. “We have to expand into Saskatchewan and bring in the Badlands experiences that are just over the border.”
    He wants to build Canadian Badlands into a financially sustainable and independent organization.
    “Right now it is highly dependent on federal and provincial grants, and it would be nice to be in business for itself so instead of looking for grants, it could be giving out grants and turn into a financial engine. That is my vision, to turn it around so it is a growth engine for all the member communities that participate.”
    A volunteer industry committee, which oversees the awards program, selects the ALTO Ambassador recipient.
    “LaVerne is a visionary who has demonstrated how big ideas can make small towns in rural Alberta huge tourism destinations,” explains Emilia Hovorka, member of the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council and chair of the selection committee.

Canadian Badlands Passion Play opens tonight


    The Passion Play Site is a flurry of activity as masons place the final stones, costume makers stitch the final pieces of wardrobe, and actors, directors and musicians perfect their parts for this year’s Passion Play.
    The Canadian Badlands Passion Play has enjoyed nearly two decades of renowned success in the valley and has told the passion and resurrection of Christ to thousands of spectators in the natural amphitheatre nestled in the hills.    
    Despite this, every year those who stage the play are continually tweaking it to make it more relevant and accessible.
    “This year is going to be the best ever,” Randal Wiebe, artistic director told The Weekender, “and this is not just me, everyone is saying it.”
    In its April 14 edition, The Drumheller Mail reported on some of the physical changes to the site which included a more accessible seating area for those with mobility issues, the addition of 150 seats and set improvements. What Wiebe is excited about is the play. He says actors and directors have made the performance more accessible adding more depth to the characters, making it easier to identify with.
    “It is more than a re-enactment, the actors bring more understanding to the story,” he said.
    Returning are Tim Hildebrand as Matthew, Stephen Waldschmidt as Jesus, and Lennette Randall who portrays a powerful Mary Magdalene. Davis Snider, who played Jesus in 2007 is back in the fold at the Passion Play to portray Sadduk, a Pharisee in Jerusalem as well as act as an understudy for both Jesus and Matthew,
    There have also been changes to the music and the addition of a conductor, so the musical director Bill Hamm can monitor the performance more effectively.   
    Wiebe explains one change that surprised him as to the powerful affect it has had on the look of the performance is in the costumes. He said designers have made a concerted effort to recreate the costumes so they reflect the regional clothing and time period of the characters in the play. He says it has made an impact visually on the performance.
    The Passion Play opens tonight, Friday, July 9 at 6 p.m. and plays Saturday, July 10 at 6p.m., and Sunday, July 11 at 3 p.m. It continues Friday, July 16 at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 17 at 3 p.m., and Sunday, July 18 at 3 p.m.
    For more information go to

Local swimmer headed to Canada Special Olympic Games


    A Drumheller athlete will be representing the province this year at the Canada Special Olympic Games.
    Michaella Clark will be making her third appearance at the national competition in the pool. She is a sprinter and although she competes in most strokes, her key events are freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.
    Clark, 34 will be leaving for the games this coming Monday morning to compete from July 13-17 in London, Ontario. While she has been training hard, she is most excited about experiencing the games.
    “I am excited, just to be going there,” said a jubilant Clark.
    This is her first trip to London, Ontario, and she is looking forward to seeing the swimming facility. Outside the pool she is looking forward to reuniting with other competitors, meeting new friends and of course pin trading, a tradition at the games.
    Clark is going into the games well decorated. She competed at the 2002 games in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and won three bronze medals and one silver. At the 2006 games in Brandon, Manitoba she won two bronze and one silver.
    “I am going to do my best, I am going to go for my personal best and show good sportsmanship and a good attitude,” she said.
     She loves the spirit of friendly competition at the games and understands she might not be the best in the pool, but that is what will make her better.
    “It’s going to give me a challenge, and I like a challenge,” she said.
    Clark has been swimming for about 11 years and is a member of the Red Deer Special Olympic Team, simply because there is no Special Olympic swimming team in Drumheller. She has joined the Aquadinnies and has swum for two years with the club, where she trains every other day. She is excited for her teammates Austin and Parker Knibb who are competing at the Alberta Summer Games.
    “The coaches here are amazing, I have learned so much,” she said.
    She is also grateful to the Royal Purple in Drumheller that have supported Special Olympic athletes in the valley, and have even helped with some of the costs associated with training.
    Her goal is to compete for Canada, but to do that; she needs to win some gold medals at the National games to qualify. The World games are in Athens in 2011.
    Those wanting to follow Clark’s progress can log on to to see results from the competition.


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