When people camp out for a town’s local agricultural fair as if it was a rock concert, you know there’s something good going on. On first take Vermilion might look like any sleepy Alberta prairie town, surrounded by wheat fields and pastures.
In fact, it’s anything but quiet. Spearheaded by The Good Life Institute (a local culture incubator), an active post-secondary scene out of Lakeland College and an engaged local community, the town has become a regional hotspot for events year-round.
From adrenaline-surging races to culinary exploration to rural celebrations, Vermilion is an emerald in the haystack of eastern Alberta. Here are five great events you won’t want to miss.
- AMAZING Race Vermilion, March
Ever rescued a fire dummy from a smoking building? Performed in a musical? Put military corners on hotel beds? Made short-order pizza? That, and about 20 other challenges made up the course on the 2016 edition of Amazing Race Vermillion, which takes place each March. “It was fantastic,” says Tannis Henderson, whose yoga studio, Elevation, was featured in last year’s race. “We had clues and roadblocks and people had lots of fun. Definitely something to check out.”
The number of participating teams swelled to 25 in 2016, and organizers are aiming for 50 in 2017. Lots of fun, and of course, heady competition. It’s not every day you get the run of an entire town.
- Beckie Scott Loppett, March
Nordic skiers in the province know that Vermilion is a cross-country hotbed. The club’s annual loppett is named for local Olympian Beckie Scott, whose parents brought her up on the trails here. Varying from easy to challenging, the trails in Vermilion Provincial Park are a great place to get your ski on, any time — and it has one of the coolest clubhouses in Alberta (housed in a converted 1905 CN train station).
- ART in the Park, September
Set next to the Vermilion Heritage Museum — a worthy stop on its own (with a working grain thresher, farm tools, antique printing presses, phonographs, antique musical instruments and sports memorabilia) — Art in the Park features live outdoor art demos, music and exhibits. Topping it all off will be the tantalizing smells and tastes of freshly baked cinnamon buns and other baked goods straight off the large, new, wood-fired brick oven in the community gazebo.
- TASTE of Vermilion, June
Taste of Vermilion starts the Canada Day festivities a day early on June 30, on a plateau overlooking the river in Vermilion Provincial Park. Live music, fireworks and yes — food from Vermilion’s finest, at $2 per plate for appetizer-sized samplers. See if you can guess the secret ingredient in Anthony’s (of Anthony’s Classic Grill) special rib tails —they’re likely to set off fireworks in your mouth. There will also be a beer gardens, featuring Ribstone Creek.
- Vermilion Agricultural Fair, July
Ask locals and they’ll tell you it’s the ag fair to beat all ag fairs. Drawing between 20 – 30,000 each year, Vermilion’s fair has everything. “I don’t think there’s any other fair quite like it … it’s really like an old time fair,” says Marylee Prior, with the Town of Vermilion. “It costs $5 at the gate and that’s everything — from tractor pull to chuck races to grandstand show to petting barn to tradeshows and exhibits.”
If you’re from the big smoke (and let’s face it, most of us are urban dwellers these days), Vermilion’s small town hospitality is a refreshing change from daily life in the city. Once you see it for yourself, you may be camping out too.