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Fort Museum’s mounted patrol to celebrate 40th anniversary

When the new Mounted Patrol dressed in replica 1878 North West Mounted Police uniforms made its first ride in Fort Macleod on July 1, 1972 it literally stopped traffic, according to The Macleod Gazette.
Forty years later the Mounted Patrol continues to stop traffic — tourist traffic — at The Fort — Museum of the North West Mounted Police.
On Saturday, Aug. 25 the Fort Museum will host an anniversary celebration to celebrate four decades of the Mounted Patrol.
MLA Leighton Buckwell, a past president of the Fort Macleod Historical Association, was guest speaker at a ceremony for the inaugural ride in 1972.
“The historical association is trying to preserve the excitement and romance of our area, a history that is unparalleled anywhere in North America,” Buckwell is quoted in the July 13, 1972 edition of The Macleod Gazette.
“The mounted patrol not only honours the police force, but the pioneers and people of the Blood and Peigan reserves,” Buckwell added.
The Fort Macleod Historical Association recruited riders from the area and got horses from a Lethbridge Community College program.
Using an 1878 North West Mounted Police uniform that was on display in the museum as a model, Maxine Bodgener and Ruth Chalmers made the replica uniforms for the riders.
Lieut. Col. Reed Ainscough of Lethbridge was the inspecting officer for the inaugural ride. He was assisted by Fort Macleod oldtimer Bert Patterson and Capt. Art Chell of the Macleod Cadet Corps.
“The eight black horses and their riders, attired in the riding uniforms of the North West Mounted Police of 1878, did the force justice,” The Macleod Gazette reported of that inaugural ride. “Commander Don Price took the saddle and led the patrol in the march past.”
Assistant commander Neil Balkham and troopers John Jacobsen, Dexter Knoblick, Larry Lauder, Darryl McKenna, Demehl Olsen and Monty Wesley completed that first mounted patrol in 1972.
According to The Macleod Gazette, Fort Macleod Historical Association president Muriel Ragan welcomed a large crowd gathered for the ceremony for the inaugural ride.
Ragan told the audience the Fort Museum, which opened in 1967, was serving a number of purposes in the community.
Firstly, it was a place to preserve and protect the artifacts that are the history of the area.
Secondly, Ragan said, the Fort Museum is a “picturesque and colourful retreat” for the tourists.
The Mounted Patrol’s formation represented a third phase — bringing the local history to life for the younger generations.
“They can see the past as a living thing,” Ragan said.
Fort Museum secretary-manager Larry King earned praise for having the uniforms made and arranging all the details of the mounted patrol.
Dr. Gerry Beste was named honorary veterinarian of that first mounted patrol.
The 40th anniversary celebration begins Saturday at 10 a.m. with opening ceremonies, followed at 11:30 a.m. by a 12-member Musical Ride.
Country singer Floyd Sillito performs at 12:15 p.m.
Mounted patrol alumni members will perform a Musical Ride at 1 p.m.
Todd and Sandee Birch and Grant Rombough will have displays of antique weapons and vintage clothing at 3 p.m.
A program titled “Ride Through the Ages” by the mounted patrol at 4 p.m. concludes the celebration. Current members of the mounted patrol will display police uniforms from various eras.
Throughout the day there will be horse games, horseback soccer and skills demonstrations.
There will also be demonstrations of ice cream- and butter-making, with Indian tacos for sale in the canteen.