Ghost Walk teaches local history

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If ghosts were real, just imagine what they’d be able to teach us about our history. Airdrie’s Ghost Walks hopes to highlight history by giving participants the chance to stroll through the community’s past, learning about all the people who helped make Airdrie what it is today.

“It’s about using the premise of ghosts to tell Airdrie’s story,” said organizer Kim Cheel, who created the event last year. “Everyone can have ghost walks or say something is haunted, but I think it’s a completely different take to go on a ghost walk and actually learn heritage.”

Last year’s event took the audience on a walk along Main Street, where “ghosts” described events that may have taken place in Airdrie’s past. Traffic along the busy street made it difficult to hear the actors at times, Cheel said, so this year’s walk will take place in Nose Creek Park. And according to Cheel, a bit more dramatic license was used last year, to describe what life might have been like for the ghosts – but this year, the focus is more on the facts.

“I really wanted to talk about the people whose names we may or may not recognize,” she said. “There’s not really any dramatic license at all – perhaps just the emotion with which the story is told. But there’s some very interesting stories.”

Cheel developed the stories using information collected through first- or second-hand sources from the Nose Creek Museum, and admitted this has limited the diversity of the characters. Much of Airdrie’s history was recorded by a pastor named Stephen Wilk, she said, but many cultures at that time were not given the opportunity to share their stories – something Cheel hopes to correct if the event remains popular in future years.

“Airdrie is not just a colonized place,” she said. “We have stories of First Nations that need to be told, and I would love for them to be told by First Nations ancestors – it’s not my story to tell.”

Approximately 140 people attended ghost walks last year, a number Cheel said she was very pleased with. This year, she said, it’s been more of a challenge – there are fewer dates available due to scheduling constraints, and the weather has made people cautious of attending an outdoor event. Still, Cheel said she hopes to see residents continue showing an interest in learning about Airdrie’s past.

“Everyone says Airdrie’s growth is ‘unprecedented,’ but really, it’s not,” she said. “It’s always been like this. The first settlers came in 1901 and only seven years later, it was a town. It’s always been growing and growing, and when you grow that fast, things get lost. In our case, it was our heritage and our history.”

Airdrie’s Ghost Walks have been held throughout the month of October, Cheel said, and there are still a few dates left – Oct. 21, 26 and 28. Tickets for the event are $10 through Eventbrite, and must be purchased in advance.

The event is appropriate for participants of all ages, Cheel added – last year, there were a few minor scares, but she said this year is more about ghosts telling stories about Airdrie’s history.

“If you want spooky, go to AIRSCARES,” she said. “This is about our fascinating stories. We might recognize the names, but their stories are so much more interesting than we’d probably ever thought. People think that nothing ever happens in Airdrie, but it did.”

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