Homecoming Report

Submitted by Marilyn Crawford
July 6, 2006

"Who says you can’t go home?"

Close to a thousand people thought they could and they did!! That’s what happened when Simpson celebrated 95 years as a community and held a homecoming to welcome friends and family home from places near and far, on the weekend of June 30, July 1 & 2. People arrived from all over Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, Kansas, California, England and Mexico.

By Friday afternoon, the town looked spiffed up; the tent was erected; ball diamonds readied; beer gardens created; town lot signs placed to show where people had lived, and businesses had been over the years. Potted plants made up by Rose Potts were placed around town to add some color. Two new, large metal signs, purchased by the village had been erected coming in and out of town to welcome everyone arriving. Also, there were several RVs camped in yards, empty lots, and at the sports ground.

Promptly at 5:00 PM, Friday afternoon, people started arriving at the registration table set up in the tent. By 7:00 PM when the first shift was finished, over 200 people had already signed in. Also set up in the tent was the most amazing array of prizes that had been donated by businesses (local, Watrous and Imperial) and individuals. Colleen Hunt was in charge of this, and it was unbelievable the items that came in. Everyone was most generous with their donations. You could buy an arms length of tickets for $5, and place them in a pail for the prize you wanted. Some unfortunate individuals placed all their tickets in the pail, not leaving any to check their tickets against. Names will not be mentioned to protect those who made such a grievous error! Business was brisk in this area, and the lucky tickets were drawn on Saturday night. A partial list of winners are as follows: (sorry we don’t have all the names) Lorna Rodman, Debbie Gullacher (2), Bev Hunt, Kathy Rintoul, Marilyn Crawford, Elaine Wilson, Marilyn (VanZandt) Galang, Gilbert Burkitt, Eldon Norum (2), Dianne Richardson, Dawn (Abrey) Fleischhacker, Dale Abrey, Darlene Gross. In the tent, as well, were some other items for sale--cookbooks, school and church plates and souvenirs.

Also starting on Friday evening was the ball tournament with 18 teams entered, which were mainly family and/or friends getting together for fun and games. This continued throughout the weekend, but as mentioned, was not all fun and games. Several injuries occurred, the first being Stewart Elder who was pitching and got smacked in the face with a ball driven by his son, no less. When team members ran in for ice, which was not immediately found, two frozen hamburgers were sent to do the trick until the real thing came along. After a trip to the hospital for stitches, Stewart took the rest of the day off, but was back on duty the next day. After all, he is the Chairman of the Homecoming Committee!! There were several more injuries--torn Achilles tendon, broken ankle, blown finger plus a couple of more, I am told. Apparently overheard by a medical professional was, that perhaps the next time Simpson held a Homecoming, they should play checkers!! Winners of the "A" side was the McCallum family, who were undefeated, and only allowed a few runs for the whole tournament. Congratulations! I can’t find out who won the "B" side. No one knows for sure, so obviously, I haven’t talked to the right people.

The smell of hamburgers cooking Friday night, spread through the tent and the sports ground, as men from Watrous flipped the burgers with great ease. Our appreciation to Maynard Fossen, Murray Westby, Lionel Sproule, and Lorne Bradbeer. This was done to repay a Simpson crew who cooked burgers for one of the Manitou Country Jamborees.

The beer gardens opened Friday night, and was on for the next two days. This was managed by the Demons Hockey Club with the help of the "Hockey Bags" aka the local women’s hockey team. Two jerseys were donated and raffled. They belonged to Josh Elder, son of Stewart, who plays for P.A. Raiders; and Matt Rintoul who plays for Humboldt Broncos. Ironically, Matt’s jersey was won by his great uncle, Brian Federspiel; and Josh’s jersey was won by his uncle Ross Elder. Sounds fishy!

Saturday morning, bright and early, workers were at the rink to prepare for the pancake breakfast that was to take place from 8-10 AM. This was organized by the UCW; sponsored by Affinity Credit Union; coffee was supplied by the Co-op; and other help came from family, friends and visitors. No one seemed to mind waiting in line for their breakfast, as there was always another new face to visit with. A good crowd attended and then made their way to a prime vantage point to watch the parade that was slated for 11:00 AM. Leading the parade were two young men, who are sons of local girls. They were Doug McLaren, son of Dave and Judy (Saelhof) McLaren, who is a member of the RCMP in Pelican Narrows; and Brandon Mudry, son of Brian and Carol (Saelhof) Mudry who is with the P.A. City Police. Grandmother, Thelma Saelhof, of Watrous and formerly of Simpson, was watching proudly from the sidelines. They were followed by Pat and Cori Kindrat of Colonsay on the bagpipes and drum. Also included were business floats, the Homemakers with their beautiful handmade quilt, old and new machinery and vehicles, clowns, the "Simpson’s" of television fame, horseback riders, the cadet squadron, the community band, and special guest, "Gainer the Gopher", the Roughrider mascot, to name a few. Gainer stayed around for a while after the parade to spend some time with the children.

Following the parade, there was a flag raising at the Legion, the singing of O Canada, led by Tanis (Elder) Sherstobetoff; and official welcome by Mayor, Kurt Vanthuyne and MLA Greg Brkich. Then everyone enjoyed a slice of anniversary cake.

Once again, hamburgers were tempting the crowd, the ball games resumed, and an ice cream parlour was set up. The Legion, United Church and Museum were open to the public with displays and pictures for viewing and coffee and cookies in some places.  The register at the Museum showed that 225 people had been in to have a look around.

At 3:00 PM, the youngsters in the crowd were treated to a peanut drop, thanks to Neil Anderson of Venn who flew the plane over the grounds. Those who were fortunate enough to find a red peanut could claim $5 at the registration tent. This event was sponsored by Crawford Acres and D. Moren Ent.

The crowd started to drift toward the rink shortly after 5:00 PM in anticipation of the chicken supper that Colleen’s Cafe was serving. The line grew long, the aroma was making mouths water, and the supper, as usual was delicious. Later in the evening, a cabaret was held in the rink with two bands in attendance--Stars Without Stripes and F3. A large crowd enjoyed this until the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday morning, back to the rink, this time for a continental breakfast provided by the Homemakers. This included muffins, fresh fruit, cheese, coffee and juice. Mmmm mmm good; and of course, more visiting over another cup of coffee.

At 11:00 AM, an ecumenical church service was held in the hall. A choir consisting of local residents and visitors led us in old familiar hymns, with piano and organ being played by Carol Hicks and Lil Gingrich. Special music was a piano solo by Melanie (Brown) Mooney of Watrous; Kelly and Becky Stein sang "The Prayer", and Alan Young of Lumsden, sang "Friends and Neighbours", an added bonus that was not on the program. The offering of over $900 was designated for the Cemetary Fund.

Then the moment that everyone had been waiting for--the draw for the beautiful quilt that the Homemakers had created especially for this occasion. It was done in black and white, with pictures of homesteads and other pictures pertaining to our area. The lucky ticket was drawn by Louise Stewart who has been a member for 50 years. You could almost feel the collective breath being held in anticipation and hope that it would be their name drawn. And the lucky winner is............Nancy (Abrey) Persaud of Saskatoon. Nancy grew up in Simpson and took all of her schooling here. What a wonderful keepsake! Congratulations!

The afternoon continued with the same agenda as Saturday--hamburgers cooking, playing ball, sipping a cool one, licking an ice cream cone, visiting, visiting and more visiting, and checking out the lot signs and other local places of interest. There were also games and activities for the children for two hours in the rink, under the direction of Joan Vanthuyne and a group of young assistants.

Around 5:00 PM the activity shifted to Main St. in readiness for the evening program. This time it was the Dale Milligan family of Watrous and some relatives that manned the barbeques; what a great help to our tiring committee. The line seemed to be endless, but they never gave up until the last hungry soul was fed. Jim Zitaruk had a large open air beer garden at the end of the street, and a variety show began, but was plagued with several electrical problems. Again, no one seemed to mind, and patience seemed to be limitless, as the crowd sat in the cooling evening and enjoyed their last chance to visit and reminisce with friends and family, they may not see for some time. Once the problems were solved, we were treated to several musical items. Interspersed throughout the evening names were drawn (if you remembered to hand in your name tag) for many prizes: potted plants, shirts, and a couple of larger totes containing several prizes. Children were given glow sticks, so there was little bits of light here and there, around necks, ankles and arms.

When it was dark enough, it was finally time for the fire works. This was sponsored by AgriCore, and what a beautiful display it was. A visitor from a large B.C. centre remarked that they were the best they had ever seen--not so bad for a little prairie village!!  HammerJammer from Manitou Beach then took over the stage and played for a street dance.

At least two class reunions were held: the class of ‘71 and the class of ‘87. The stories of escapades remembered, and the renewal of friendship must have been great.

One of the items at the variety show was a song sung by Tanis (Elder) Sherstobetoff and her brother Ross, from Kenora, Ont. It was "Who Says You Can’t Go Home?" This echoed the sentiments held in many hearts as they listened to this fine duo. You can go back. It may not be the same, but it is comfortable and familiar, and it creates a warm, fuzzy feeling in just about everyone.

It takes a great deal of commitment and work to create a weekend such as this; especially in a village of our size.  The community spirit was strong, willing and able to pull this off.  Volunteers were ready to do whatever was asked, which makes it easy for the committee in charge.  But even with all this, it wouldn't have been a success without the enthusiasm and participation of all those folks who came "home".  The positive feedback that  has been received has been overwhelming and gratifying.  Thanks for still caring enough about your "roots" and your "hometown" to make this one of the best Homecomings ever!!

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