By Dave Sulz
Alta Newspaper Group – Lethbridge
Things are quieter than usual at Coyote Flats this summer.
But the volunteers who run the heritage village museum near Picture Butte want the public to know that, yes, they are open to visitors – but with COVID guidelines in place.
“We opened May 24, following all the COVID rules laid down by Alberta Health Services,” says Keith Strong, president of the Prairie Tractor and Engine Museum Society, which operates the Coyote Flats Pioneer Village.
Because of the pandemic, the museum was forced to cancel its May 15 opening weekend and quilt show and had to scale back the July 4 show and shine.
Organizers are planning to go ahead with the annual Harvest Days event, but will trim it from three days to two, Aug. 15-16. The event will be limited to a maximum of 200 visitors, whereas the event normally brings anywhere from 300 to 500 people to the site. The popular Parade of Power, featuring antique tractors and other vintage equipment, will also be scaled back.
The museum, located 1.5 kilometres south of Picture Butte on the east side of Highway 843, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for self-guided or guided tours. Admission to tour the grounds is $10 per adult or $20 per family. Mobility scooters are available for guests, by donation. Gloves, masks, etc., are available on site. On Sundays, visitors can come and listen to the hymns emanating from the church in the village.
The village features an assortment of historic buildings from across southern Alberta, including the Eaton house, a mail-order building sold to Rennie Housenga of Iron Springs by Timothy Eaton Co. in 1915, according to the museum’s website. There’s also a railway station building built in New Dayton in 1924 as well as the first Christian Reformed Church, originally situated near Monarch.
The museum also includes vintage tractors and other equipment and artifacts dating back to the pioneer days. Visitors can stroll the village streets and get a taste of the life of the region’s early settlers.
Strong, who stepped into the role of president in February, admits the COVID pandemic has made for a challenging summer for the museum. He said board members initially had high hopes for 2020, but since the fallout from the pandemic hit, income from visitors “has sort of dried up.” The museum is normally available as a venue for weddings, but those have been cancelled this summer because of the COVID situation.
A barbecue cook-off went ahead as scheduled July 18 but with “not as many people as we hoped.”
“We’re holding our heads above water,” says Strong.
“We will survive but it will be a struggle,” he adds, noting it’s a situation common to many other organizations in these times.
Find out more about the Coyote Flats Pioneer Village online at https://coyoteflats.org.