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Our convention city was Red Deer. It's Alberta's third largest city, with about 100,000 people in the metro area. Red Deer is midway between larger Edmonton and Calgary, and has always been an important trading center because of that location. It's a nexus for oil and farm products, and it has a good airport nearby.

Alberta calls itself "Wild Rose Country." We found plenty of wild roses, but not right away, and not many in Red Deer. There were a few roses downtown, but they didn't look very wild in flower pots.

City Hall has a lovely garden, where people stroll and picnic on a full city block.

They probably feel relaxed because they know they are safe from nuclear attack.

Red Deer has an art project they call Ghosts. This is a collection of statues and murals in the downtown historic district, commemorating notable figures in the city's history. It's not only the basis of a pleasant stroll through the historic district, it's a good way to learn a bit about the city that hosted our 2009 convention.

Let the Music Play
Patricia Galbraith, 2003
This statue honors Keith Mann (1939-2001), founder of the Red Deer College School of Music, conductor of the Red Deer Royals and RDC Symphonic Winds. He is shown here just before a concert, as the audience has hushed in anticipation of his opening notes.

Hazel Braithwaite
Alan Henderson, 2004
As one of the most influential women in Alberta farming, Hazel Braithwaite (1905-1994) was inducted into the Agriculture Hall of Fame in 1978. With the support of her husband Clifford, she raised six children. Her vision of equality and justice for women and family rights led her to become active in many causes to improve the human condition and to change discriminatory laws. She was a strong believer in education for all and established the Irene Parlby Scholarship. While President of the Farm Women's Union, she led delegations to the Associated Country Women of the World conferences held in Scotland and Australia, whose mandate is to give women a voice at international levels.

Reverend Dr. Leonard Gaetz
Robert K. Spaith, 1994
Rev. Gaetz (1841-1907) gazes down the Main Street of the town he helped to build. A Methodist minister from Nova Scotia, Rev. Gaetz came to the Red Deer Valley in 1884. He quickly distinguished himself as a farmer, and became an outstanding and eloquent promoter of Red Deer and Central Alberta.
He looks like he's engaged in conversation with the viewer. In life, he would often be found chatting with members of the community on street corners like this. People often dress him with a hat or mittens in cold weather.
This was the first of Red Deer's Ghosts.

Francis Wright Galbraith
Danek Mozdzenski, 1996
Francis Galbraith (1862-1934), owner and editor of the Red Deer Advocate, reads a copy of his newspaper. Known as the "dean of Alberta weekly newspaper editors," he was a highly principled, often controversial individual who took an active interest in the affairs of the Red Deer community. Mr. Galbraith served as alderman for several terms and as Mayor in 1913 when Red Deer became a City.
His family home is now a B&B, where we stayed during our visit to Red Deer. The owners have restored the house as close to original as possible.

Sound the Alarm
Robert K. Spaith, 1999
In Alberta's pioneer communities, a cry of Fire struck fear in the hearts of the citizens. In no time at all, an entire community might be wiped out, and many lives lost. In 1904, after a major fire in Red Deer's downtown, Town Council passed a bylaw creating a volunteer fire brigade. They bought new equipment, and eventually built a new fire hall.
A moment of drama is captured here as two volunteer firefighters have a harnessing wreck while responding to a call. The intensity of the moment is reflected in the expressions of the man and the taut muscles of the horses.
The building beside this Ghost has had many lives. It has served Red Deer as an armory and as a fire hall. It is now the children's section of the Red Deer Public Library.

Doris and Mickey
Brian McArthur, 2004
Doris Forbes found a badly mauled beaver kit along Waskasoo Creek in 1939, and took him in as a pet, naming him Mickey. Mickey became a member of the family, often playing with the family dog. Doris's mother Mary nursed Mickey through his injuries and the illnesses that followed, and was his officially appointed guardian.
Mickey became Red Deer's most famous pet, visited by more than 20,000 people after his story made national headlines. He continued to delight newspaper, magazine, and TV audiences with his heartwarming adventures, until his death in 1948.
This is the only statue in the Ghosts series that is not in the downtown historic district. Doris and Mickey are in Coronation Park, not far from where the beaver was found.

Francis the Pig
Danek Mozdzenski, 1998
The legend of Francis began in July 1990, when he escaped from a local slaughterhouse. For nearly five months, the fugitive roamed Red Deer's parklands, eluding predators and several attempts of recapture. This freedom-loving pig was finally captured, and spent the rest of his life on a local farm.

Jack Holt is a Red Deer native. Since he invented the Holt Tree Spade in 1957, he has accumulated over 50 years' experience in unusual mechanical designs. Ten years ago, a Hollywood stunt man contacted Holt about building a fast bullet-proof car that could drive through buildings and other obstacles. Holt designed the car and acquired some of the parts to build it, when it became obvious that the customer could not pay for it. After the project languished for a few years, Holt decided to build the car himself.
Nine years and 4000 hours later, the result was Screaming Eagle.
Screaming Eagle's 1020-HP Detroit Allison two-cycle diesel engine can move it up more than 200 MPH, but Holt has limited the engine's output to keep the vehicle street-legal and to keep his insurance premiums manageable.
Don't even think about trying to steal it. All of its wheels and brakes lock, and Holt can disable all electrical systems by remote control.

This is a story about a flying convention, but most of it seems to be about other things. That's because the convention is covered in the AYA's Star and by the daily coverage on the AYA web site, but also for another reason.

There was a lot of griping this year about the convention location.

Sour grapes. There's a good answer for every item on that list, even the last one. Most of these are the excuses of people who wouldn't have gone to the convention, even if it were at their home airport. But rather than say so directly, they paint it like somebody else made it impossible for them.

Why do we fly? Light planes are like magic. They take us to places we can't reach any other way: covering great distances quickly, crossing water where there is no bridge or ferry, flying over city traffic instead of stewing in it. Often, we land within walking distance of our goal.

Our lives are immeasurably richer because of these wonderful machines. So what do you think? Let's go to the convention!

Our host facility, the Red Deer Regional Airport, was built as a training base during World War II. This heritage is remembered at the entrance by the last Harvard (we in the U.S. called them AT-6) to fly for the Canadian Air Force.

This was a small convention; 41 planes flew in. Many people got to Red Deer by commercial transport or over land. There were about 120 in attendance.
If you'd like to see a larger picture of the flight line, it's here.
For the full-resolution original, send me email.

As we have done before, Barbara and I volunteered to help judge the Spot Landing contest. The day began with a mandatory briefing for competitors and judges. Once we had the lines marked, there wasn't much to do until our planes landed. Here Brittany Evans waits patiently for a landing to score, while Greg Sincock gets underway for the first of two flour-bombing runs before he will finally return to land ... well, near the appointed spot.

Another event is the Broken Towbar contest, where pilots must push a two-place Grumman backward through a serpentine course. Fortunately, there was one two-place plane at the convention. More about that, in due time.

Aircraft are also judged for æsthetics – best interior or exterior, drool-worthy radio stack, and so on. Here are some of the winners.

John Coze flew his beautiful Cheetah from Sacramento. This is no ordinary Cheetah.

As the trim paint declares, John's plane is Highly Modified, with an IO-540 engine giving him over 70% more horsepower than a stock Cheetah.

Ken Blackman inspects the engine, where everything is shined to perfection - even the underside of the cowling and the voltage regulator.

Even the wheel fairings are customized for speed.

The convention recognized John's effort with the People's Choice award.

There were many other awards, as for Walt Porter (won the air race) and Ronnie Mowery (ground boss). I didn't get a picture, but Ronnie's wife wore a vest with the legend Ground Boss's Boss.

When there are awards in 4-place and 2-place divisions, and you fly the only 2-place plane to the convention, your odds of winning something are pretty good. RaDann Dawson cleaned up.

Our culinary needs were satisfied in fine fashion by Tipitina's, a popular diner that happens to be right on the airport. We don't know if it was her real name, but the owner is called Melanie, and she serves good soup and chili in bowls sized like bra cups.

Ever the shy one, Melanie had to be coaxed to accept an award in special recognition of her efforts to keep us well fed all week.

Red Deer airport uses a Mandatory Frequency, a procedure that is unfamiliar to most U.S. pilots. At AYA conventions, we're accustomed to communicating with UNICOM (maybe) and the Air Boss and Ground Boss (usually). These familiar procedures were not available at Red Deer, but the FSS personnel worked well with our convention pilots, and all events were able to run more or less as usual. Here, FSS specialist Bob Orr receives a plaque in recognition of his going the extra mile to make our flying activities run smoothly.

One of the non-flying events was a hayride and steak barbecue at the Heritage Ranch.

Ours was a large group, and there weren't enough horses to pull all the wagons. But nobody seemed to care if one of the horses was a bit, ummm, mechanical.

Some folks just took the course on their own hooves.

Everybody enjoyed the ride, including these Californians.

The convention would not be complete without Eric Peach to pipe us in for the concluding banquet.

But to really make the evening complete, Roscoe and Luann had a special wardrobe statement. Luann is easy to spot – can't miss those ice cubes.

on to the Rocky Mountains

Calumet   Peace Garden   Drumheller   Red Deer   Convention   Bow River Pkwy   Lake Louise   Moraine Lake   Field   Yoho NP   Icefields Parkway   Jasper   Rocky Mtn. House   Medora   Enchanted Highway   Lake Itasca   Amana