Image: Barrel race at the Sturgeon Lake Sports Day at Calais. Donald Williamson is on the front barrel – he eventually won the race. n.d. (SPRA 175.032.06)
It is unknown when the first Sturgeon Lake sports days were held, but, by the late 1920s, it had become a popular event for crowds from all over the South Peace. Les McLaughlin in Granddaddy of the Peace describes the games as “a highlight of the early summer… There were horse races, tee dances, and many games. The most fun was the tug of war, a simple sport but very effective in showing off team spirit… People came from all over the Peace Country by horse and car to take part in the games. [Indigenous] people built traditional teepees and served traditional foods during Sports Day. The sweet smell of bannock fried in bacon or moose grease lingered in the warm spring air. They served moose stew in large helpings, but certainly not on paper plates. [It was] a time to get caught up on all the news from around the Peace country.”
The sports days were still drawing crowds in the 1940s. Tom Kerr, who had come to the area in 1878, hosted a dance at his lakeside resort on the final night of the sports days until his death in 1946.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Telling Our Stories.