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Fort Museum asks MD to help fund musical ride

MD of Willow Creek council wants to take some time at a planning retreat to discuss how to handle requests to fund activities such as the musical ride at The Fort — Museum of the North West Mounted Police in Fort Macleod.
Mike Bourassa and Dawn Lauder of the Fort Macleod Historical Association appeared as a delegation at council’s Oct. 17 meeting to request $15,000 to $20,000 per year for the musical ride.
Lauder, who is general manager of the Fort museum, said it was built in the 1950s to celebrate the history of the NWMP.
The musical ride was established in 1876 by the North West Mounted Police stationed at Fort Macleod.
In 1972 the Fort Museum created its own musical ride in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the North West Mounted Police in 1974.
“So for 40 years we’ve been doing the musical ride in the Fort,” Lauder said.
Lauder said the musical ride, made up of eight horses and riders, is the only on-site ride in Canada.
“It’s something that people remember forever,” Lauder said, adding people come from all over the world to see the musical ride, and people come back time and again.
Lauder explained how the musical ride ties into the MD of Willow Creek and the rural lifestyle.
Lauder said horses are still instrumental in shaping rural life, be it in farming and ranching or events such as rodeos.
People come to southern Alberta to catch a glimpse of the western lifestyle.
The Fort Macleod Historical Association owns 12 horses. It supports local businesses where it can, whether through buying oats and feed, veterinarian services, buying tack, using a farrier, or buying the horses themselves locally.
The ride provides employment for local students.
“A lot of them,” Lauder said. “It’s their first job.”
In fact, about 75 per cent of the riders come from the MD of Willow Creek. Many of these students go on to become veterinarians, or veterinarian technicians.
The musical ride promotes the whole district, and has performed in places outside the Fort Museum such as Heritage Acres, the Calgary Stampede parade, Whoop-Up Days parade, and children’s festivals.
There are about 25,000 visitors a year to the area because of the ride.
“I can tell you the spin-off is huge,” Lauder said, referring not only to guest ranches and bed and breakfast operations, but the possibility of people coming back to buy land.
The ride costs about $85,000 per summer to run. The Town of Fort Macleod contributes $35,000 each year and the association was requesting the MD of Willow Creek contribute between $15,000 and $20,000.
Lauder itemized benefits to the MD of Willow Creek of the contribution, such as promotion of the municipality at the ride. The stable or arena would be named after the MD of Willow Creek, which would be announced as a major sponsor at each of the four performances per day.
A sponsorship board in the museum gift shop would highlight the MD of Willow Creek’s sponsorship.
There would also be advertising on the horse trailer, a tax receipt, a discount card for the gift shop, a framed photo of the ride, 12 free passes for the 2013 season, and VIP invitations to any special events.
In discussion later in the meeting it was agreed to leave the matter for further consideration when council goes on its planning retreat.