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Memory Lane – The Past Comes into the Present

By Karen Bass

Explore downtown and you might notice something different; 100 Avenue has been transformed into Memory Lane.

You can discover 36 large photos from Grande Prairie’s past displayed in store windows, and fifteen more photos installed in permanent frames on building exteriors between 98 and 102 Streets. Even power boxes are going to get in on the party by being wrapped with pictures.

The party in question is Grande Prairie’s 100th Anniversary celebration. While the Memory Lane legacy project is the brainchild of the Downtown Association, manager Helen Rice noted that small business owners don’t have a lot of extra time, so the association brought some collaborators on board.

The South Peace Regional Archives and the Historical Society combed through the Archives’ collection of 60,000 pictures (6000 of which are searchable online). Mary Nutting at the Archives explained that they chose the best pictures from each block, aiming for a balanced representation of time periods while striving for quality and avoiding repetition. The result is a fascinating visual exhibit of Grande Prairie’s history.

Memory Lane begins near the present-day Co-op, with a photograph showing a flock of black cars gathered to greet the train. A metaphor, perhaps, for the journey of discovery we are invited to go on.

A person doesn’t have to see the pictures in any particular order, but imageDESIGN was brought on board to produce a brochure for the visitors who prefer more of a guided tour. The booklet, sure to be a sought-after keepsake, includes all the photographs in the project, along with commentary, and is available at Tourist Information, the Co-op Marketplace, and at any of the other tour locations.

The photographs are also online at Go to the website on your smart phone and you can download a web app that offers easy access to the site, turning your phone into the tour guide. By making Memory Lane a multimedia project, organizers hope to interest and involve people of all ages.

“Seeing the pictures sparks memories. And sharing those memories spark more memories,” Rice says.

Organizers want to encourage that sparking process. On the site, clicking on a little menu icon in the top left corner, allows people to submit their own stories and photographs (via smart phone or home computer).

If enough public support is generated, the project might expand. For now, the photographs will be on display the rest of the year, after which most will be moved to the museum. The installed plaques will remain.

Rice anticipates that some special events will increase the number of visitors to the exhibit. One of those is the August long weekend, designated as Homecoming Weekend, during which former Grande Prairie residents will return to celebrate 100 years of change and growth. And prior to that, on June 26th, there will be a Chamber mixer at Escape Bistro. Attendees will be invited to ride a miniature tourist train down Memory Lane starting at five o’clock.

Did you know that Escape Bistro is on the site of one of the first buildings in the then future Grande Prairie? From sod cabin to glass building: the historical initiative offers a visual measure of how much the city has changed.

Take a stroll down Memory Lane and discover it for yourself.

In celebration of the City of Grande Prairie’s centennial and to commemorate 100 years of rich history, the Downtown Association collaborated with local businesses to create the Memory Lane walking tour. Memory Lane is a collaborative effort between the Downtown Association, South Peace Regional Archives (SPRA), Peace Country Historical SocietyGrande Prairie Regional Tourism Association, and imageDESIGN.

Contributor: Karen Bass

Karen Bass loves stories. To date, she has written four novels for teenagers. When she isn’t weaving her own tales she enjoys listening to and writing about the stories of Grande Prairie and area people. You can learn more about her writing at