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Sports and Recreation

Most of the recreation and entertainment of the early days was centred around the family and the community. Card parties, house parties and the ever - popular dances were occasions where friends and neighbours got together for an evening of enjoyment. Many of the old-timers still recall the lively dances held in Anderson's Mill; the school, theatre, Hillcrest Hall, or those held in private homes. Volunteer musicians would play their toe-tapping music of foxtrots and polkas far into the night.

Located in the heart of the Parkland, Big River is an ideal spot for summer sports. The lovely freshwater lakes provide a fisherman's paradise and excellent waterways for boating enthusiasts. Ladder Lake was the scene of a very popular resort area. Located so close to town, it provided a convenient spot for picnics, swimming and boating, while the open-air pavilion entertained each Saturday night.

Boat races, log sawing and other lumberjack contests and skills have all been part of the recreation of this community. Sports Day, held on July 1st, was an annual event which was looked forward to by all. The entertainment generally consisted of local races and ball games. The entire day was spent with friends celebrating Canada's birthday.

Baseball was a very popular sport and the Martin family added a great deal to the game. Actually, there were many good players and the competition was great. Fans were loyal to their districts and cheered loud and long during the games between Bodmin, Ladder Valley, Little Ladder Lake, Stoney Lake and Black Duck.

There were two tennis courts in Big River in the past years. The first one was built in 1928 (where the Shell Oil was located). The other court was located where Mid - Town Service is presently located and was owned by Mr Nichol.

Outdoor Rink behind Elk's Hall.
Outdoor Rink behind Elk's Hall.

Winter brought its own sports, which included skating, curling, broomball and hockey. The first a skating rink was built on the ice of Cowan Lake. Everyone helped with the chores of keeping the ice-free of snow. Many hours of fun were spent on this windy open-air rink. The next rink was built across from the elevator and Mr Tom Young was the rink keeper. Another open-air rink was located where the Co-op Store is now. Arnold Martin recalls using his team of horses to help prepare the rink surface. Still another rink was located near Cowan Lake. Here, a large sheet of ice was prepared and fenced with lumber. The rink house was a one-roomed shack heated by a barrel heater. Often families contributed to the rink fees by donating wood for the heater. The final outdoor rink was built behind the present Elks Hall. This rink was in use until the Memorial Rink was built. Jack Skilliter was the caretaker of the last open-air rink and many recall how well he looked after the children by making sure their feet didn't get too cold and by fixing their skates and laces.

The sliding hill has always been a place of entertainment. Children often used cardboard or pieces of linoleum in place of a sled and seemed just as happy. From the top of the hill, the sliders could manipulate their way down to Cowan Lake.

Big River has had its share of hockey teams, both Senior and Minor League. All have delighted the local fans and have attracted large crowds at their games. Hockey has been played here from 1915 to the present time.

1948-1949 Shell Lake District Pennant Winners.
1948-1949 Shell Lake District Pennant Winners.

Back Row:

Bob Johnson, Cliff McNabb, Marcel Bouchard,
Howard Swanson, Clarence Pister.

Front Row:

Roy Swanson, Eugene Swanson, Dick Johnson,
Paul Godin, Larry McNabb

Big River Legion Hockey Team.
Big River Legion Hockey Team.

Back Row:

Mike Kuzyk, Howard Swanson, Frank Kuger, Bill Anderson,
Bill McKnight, Al Osinchuk, Norm McNabb.

Front Row:

Grant Gould, Cec Pederson, Larry McNabb, Clarence Pister,
Roy Swanson, Dick Johnson.

Howard Swanson Most Improved Gentleman Player.
Howard Swanson, Most Improved Gentleman Player, in Debden Big "V" League.

In earlier days, hockey equipment was often scarce. One team is reported to have made their sweaters by sewing a fish cut from flour sacks onto sweater backs. The name of this team seems to be forgotten. An incident showing the enthusiasm with which the game was played was the time goalie Albert Thibeault was hit in the face with a puck. Even after receiving stitches to the large cut Albert was right back into the game. Some of the team names for Big River hockey clubs have been: Whitefish, Bruisers and Braves.

Jim Neilson, who played for many years with the New York Rangers of the N.H.L., is a Big River boy. His mother Mrs Rosie Neilson, lived in the district.

The first curling rink was built in 1949 on the present - day Town Shop site. In 1960, a curling rink addition was built onto the Memorial Rink. At present, Big River has a new arena with curling rink and lounge attached. The community had many fundraisers to build this facility.

In the early 1920s, the winter carnival was the highlight of the year. The main event was the Dog Derby. From Big River north to the Churchill River, dog owners and drivers got their teams in shape for the annual race of the Saskatchewan Dog Derby Association. Names associated with this race were: Tom Murphy, C. D. Otte, W. J. Mahoney, Verner Johnson, Frank Schoegel Sr, Ed Zeigler, Nels Edson, Harold Fredrickson, Winonis, The Rabbitskin Family, Belanger, Aubuchon, Maurice Rafeal and John Iron. They came from Big River, Dore Lake, Stoney Lake, Portage La Loche, Ile a la Crosse, Buffalo Narrows, Canoe Lake and Patuanak.

In 1924, Frank Schoegel made the headlines by mushing his team back to the winning post in 17 hours and 34 minutes. The same year Miss Alice Abbot was crowned Queen of the carnival. She was crowned by Dr Mackinnon.

LaDonna Sundby, Gladys Pister, Jean Sundby, Yvette Bouchard.
LaDonna Sundby, Gladys Pister, Jean Sundby, Yvette Bouchard.

In 1925, the Queen contest included candidates from different towns: Miss Emily Thibeault, Big River, Miss Hazel Johnson, Big River, Miss Clara Nordstrom, Canwood, Miss Frannie Aaron, Prince Albert, Miss Irma Campbell, Duck Lake, Miss Annie Ryan, Borden, also a candidate from the Shellbrook Skating Club, the Zelma Sports Club and the Junior Hockey Club of Biggar. The proceeds were to be divided among the clubs nominating candidates. The Saskatoon Industrial Exhibition Board offered to entertain the queen at the annual fair.

Sure Winners.
Sure Winners, Big River, Sask.

Many of the mushers went on to The Pas, Manitoba to race in the annual 200-mile race. Frank Schoegel came in third in 1924 and 1925 W. A. Mahoney finished second with a time of 43 hours. That same year seven dog teams went on an advertising tour for the fourth annual Dog Derby. They stopped in Rosthern and many other points. They created quite a sensation for both young and old as few residents had seen a dog team.

The Dog Derby wasn't the only event associated with the Winter Carnival. Other events which were enjoyed by young and old were: snowshoe races, a kettle boiling contest, a five-mile foot race, barrel stave skiing, pony racing and ski jumping. In the evening a concert program was held. This was under the direction of Miss Gagnon, assisted by Miss Hawkins and J. A. Fortier.

They're Off!

Dog Derby day in a Saskatchewan town, 1924.

"If you run your finger north of Prince Albert on the map you will find a railway some 90 miles long that terminates at what in the old days was a flourishing lumber town. Nestling alongside a spruce clad hill, brooding as it was over the river that widens to a lake at its foot. A lake that in summer stretches like a long glistening snake, ultimately churning through the rapids of the crooked river into the Beaver which in turn, enters the Churchill and out to sea."

"The town is still flourishing but no more the huskies raise their heads to the dawn mingling their full-throated chorus with the moaning whistle that awakens the men to toil. Gone is the buzz of the big saw and the Mill, a huge skeleton, stands sentinel of civilization. But today the town is galvanized into activity for it is Derby Week! Miss Allie Abbott was crowned Queen of the carnival at the Pavilion Tuesday night. The Queen and ladies of the court made a charming spectacle in their carnival costumes attended by little Miss Guilda Gilbert as the page."

Cowan River going south from the bridge.
Cowan River going south from the bridge.

This article was taken from a paper clipping that was found in the archives. It was one of many describing the happenings that went on in this small town. The winter carnival has always been a very much anticipated winter event. The carnival left the lake area, to go to the arena were the Co-op store now is. The rink hustled and bustled with the town's people and their families, it was a fun-packed family weekend. The fishpond was a great attraction for the young throwing that line over the canvas wall and hoping that the fish behind there knew whether you were a boy or a girl for the appropriate toy to be given. The costume parade, for young and old, were from covered wagons, Cowboys and Indians to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There was a lot of community involvement. The games of chance, the cork gun shooting the cigarette packs off the shelf, ring toss, beanbag throw, and who could resist the canteen with all the goodies that our parents made. There were skate races, where you could win a quarter. There were hockey games throughout the day usually ending with a Brave's game.

Then there was the ice show, what a spectacular event that was. Stella Hartnett was the instructor teaching us everything she knew. Some of us learned more than others but we were still always a team. The costumes were handcrafted originals from the mothers and everyone was beautiful and elegant. After the ice show were the smoosh races, tea making, woodcutting and the foot races. Who could forget Frank Schlitz running barefoot around the ice surface? All in all, it was a great family weekend.

The winter carnival soon became the Norlander Winter Festival with a lot of the same games and races with the Wagon Wheel Saloon as the new and huge attraction. Some fond memories were Nester Pester and Len Zen as the M.C., the games of chance, the watering hole and the dancing saloon girls! There was entertainment galore. Jack Millikin on the bottles, banjo. saw, fiddle and Doris on the piano. The Old Soaks: Gary Cooper on the drums Sam Miller on guitar and Jack Millikin on whatever else. The local talent in this community is like no other.

The carnival queen contest was very popular with the young women in the community. Ivy Johnson looked after this project for many years with Sharon Bradley taking over from her. The girls would sell tickets from near and far to try and become the new queen. The girls raised a lot of money for the recreation board every year as well as a little money for themselves. Sharon recalls one year where there were only three tickets. not books but three dollars separating the girls from queen to princess, what a year that was.

The ice show soon took its place on a time of its own away from the winter festival, with the junior King and Queen contest as well as the ice show. Over the years there has been a lot of activity at the rinks new and old, so many stories that it is hard to relive them all. So as you are reading this remember your favourite stories and make sure to pass them on to someone else so that they are never forgotten.

1954 Pierre Thibeault truck.
1975 Figure Skating.

Back Row:

Charlene Gunderson, Sandy Ausland, Sherri Swanson, Tracey Gilbert,
Melissa Beebe, Glenda Swanson.

Front Row:

Joy-Ann Swanson, Gina Kuxhaus, Janet Piche.

Over the years since the publishing of the book Timber Trails, many changes have occurred in the sports and recreation of Big River and the surrounding district.

Big River Golf Course was originally started in the early 1950s at C. E. Craddock C/2 Ranch (Pop Craddock) 15 miles north of Big River. Cliff Felt, Bill McKnight and Alex Pankoski were instrumental in starting this course. Pop kept sheep, which kept the grass trimmed. These three gentlemen laid out this nine-hole course along Cowan Lake complete with grass greens. After, Jack Nesbit, 0llie Harris, Mac Scriven and Hank Randall joined the other three men in the building and upkeep of the course.

Most of the time the sheep kept the grass short. Several times a year the golfers would pay Bill Lowe to cut the grass. The golfers took care of the greens.

In the early 1960s, some golfers figured that 15 miles was too far to travel, they wanted a golf course close to town. Town council was approached and it was agreed that a course could be built where the old ball diamonds were located which is its present location.

With the help of many local volunteers, work bees were held to lay out the course and make the nine-hole course with sand greens. Over the years they planted many trees, cut the grass and kept the greens in good shape. Later a tractor and gang mower were purchased to maintain the fairways. In the late 1980s, students were hired to maintain the course.

In the early 1990s, the town gave permission to use the old rodeo grounds, and the club then purchased the 40 acres adjacent to it to have a longer course.

In the fall of 2001, Ron and Deb Hodgson took over the course with a promise of grass greens. On June 6, 2004, the greens at Millridge Golf Course were officially put to use.

Big River Rodeo Association

Submitted by George Yurach

Ray Delisle's chuckwagon outfit at Big River Rodeo.
Ray Delisle's chuckwagon outfit at Big River Rodeo.

Big River Rodeo Association started in 1974. The property, where the present-day golf course is located, was purchased from Kolhruss Brothers. No money was exchanged with the agreement that the Rodeo Association would maintain the fences, grounds and the bleachers. The first rodeo was held in 1975 with stock being supplied by George Folden of Kinistino. Vern Franklin of Bonneville, Alberta supplied the livestock for the duration of the rodeos.

The first fence posts were cut and hauled by hand, the guys worked hard to build the grounds. The women followed behind with their paint and brushes. Soon we had a very respectful facility to host a rodeo.

Each year, a two-day rodeo was held with great attendance with great local help. We had our rodeo on television from Lloydminister with the help of Mr Rodeo, Ernie Ford, which helped to make our rodeo known across Canada. Miss Bridget Hoffman, Miss Dominion of Canada, made a guest appearance at our rodeo.

Sorry I cannot mention any names of the people who worked, donated equipment, merchandise towards these events, in the event that I would miss someone. The rodeo lasted for 17 years. We never made a lot of money but we did put Big River on the map.

The generosity and determination of the people of Big River is what made the rodeo such a success. A big thank you to the people of Big River and District for a job well done.

Ski Timber Ridge

Ski Timber Ridge, the ski hill the community built, is located off Highway 55 just south of the town of Big River in beautifully forested Northern Saskatchewan.

The groundwork for building a ski resort on the north face of Bodmin Hill was initiated in March of 1990 by a group of local, community - minded ski enthusiasts. With the support of many local businesses and individuals, the first season at Saskatchewan's newest ski area was underway in December of 1992. Over the past few years, Ski Timber Ridge has become a popular attraction for thousands of skiers and snowboarders.

The hill offers six runs of varying degrees of difficulty, a complete chalet with boot, ski and snowboard rentals. Qualified instructors are on the hill to help anyone that may need a lesson. With the help of snowmaking equipment and natural snow, our ski season runs from mid - December to the end of March.


Sportfishing has become a very popular sport in the Big River area. We are the only town where you can stand at the end of Main Street and catch fish. Cowan Lake has proven to be an ideal lake for catching northern pike in the summer and perch through the ice in the winter. Each year in March the local Community Centre sponsors a fish derby with a top prize of $10,000. This was a fund-raiser for the construction of a new community hall.

With logging operations in our area, more miles of roads have been developed. This has made access to many new lakes. Some of these lakes have been stocked with trout and fishing has been very good.


Campsites and resorts with cabins, boat rentals and great beaches have been opened. Campers from all over North America enjoy our great facilities.

Big game hunting

Big game hunting has always been carried out in this area. Early settlers depended on the wild game as their main source of meat. At present, the area is a great place to hunt for trophy size whitetail deer. Every fall local outfitters host hunters from Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Vermont and many more North American states.

Les Scorgie with a Lynx and a Fisher that he had trapped.
Les Scorgie with a Lynx and a Fisher that he had trapped.

Moose hunting is open to Saskatchewan residents and many nice size animals have been harvested in the area. Black bear hunting has gradually become a very popular spring sport. Local outfitters host many American hunters each spring.

Irvin Lundy, son Wayne and father Edward Lundy.
Irvin Lundy, son Wayne and father Edward Lundy on a great duck shoot.

Irvin Lundy, son Wayne and father Edward Lundy.
Leo Olson, Bud Juker, Grant Gould, Harry Stobbs, Max Wilson with the geese they shot.

Game bird hunting for grouse, ducks and geese is enjoyed by many local hunters.

Big River and District have become a mecca for the hunting and fishing enthusiast and we should endeavour to manage our abundant wildlife and natural beauty of our area so that future generations can enjoy it like our ancestors and the present generation has enjoyed it.

Ball games were the drawing card for many a Sunday afternoon great together. Every year on July 1st, an annual sports day and picnic was held. Baseball games highlighted the day. Many other events like kid's rides, bingo, and fireworks were held. Ball teams from Big River, Delaronde Lake, Ladder Valley, Bodmin and Debden created quite a rivalry. The original diamonds were located where the High School is situated. Later site was where the golf course is located.

Kari Romanica and Grandma Norrie.
Kari Romanica and Grandma Norrie.
"Gold medal winner in fastball. August, 2001.

Baseball gradually faded out and has been replaced by fastball and slow pitch. The men's fast-ball team has competed in a league from surrounding towns.

Over the years, the Big River Minor Sports Association has sponsored minor ball from T-ball to midget boys and girls teams competing against Debden, Canwood, Shellbrook, Leask and Blaine Lake. Some years were very successful, others not so but very enjoyable to the kids and the fans. We presently have three beautiful ball diamonds located by our regional park arena, curling rink community hall complex.

Sports through the schools including basketball, football, soccer, baseball, track and field, badminton, cross country running have been played for many years. Great rivalries have developed in all sports between schools in Debden, Canwood, Shellbrook and our home school. Students and teams have excelled in many sports and have had varying degrees of success at the Provincial level. In October of 1998, Big River High School hosted the Provincial High School Cross-Country Championship. The races were run on the trails around Ski Timber Ridge. Our local athletes did very well. Curling Teams from the High School have competed at the Provincial playoffs. Our school has been well represented at the Provincial Track and Field competition.

For years, winter sports and recreation have been centred around the many rinks we have. Be it an open-air rink on Cowan Lake, or behind the Elks Hall to the indoor rink where the Co-op Store is presently located to the new complex by the Regional Park, hockey has played a very important part of recreation and enjoyment for the young and old. This modern facility houses an arena and curling rink with artificial ice-making equipment, which allows our teams to have an extended season no matter what type of weather condition we might encounter.

Winter sports in our community have been centred around our many hockey clubs. The Big River Braves have represented our community in the Big "V" Hockey League and the Beaver Lakes League for over a half-century competing against Debden, Big River First Nations, Canwood, Sandy Lake, Shellbrook, Leask, Leoville, Spiritwood and Mistawasis. Some years were more successful than others and the team has won several championships.

In the spring of 2002, the Big River TimberKings were formed. They compete in the North Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. They have had some very fast and enjoyable hockey.

The Big River Minor Hockey Association looks after the entire hockey for the younger age groups competing against towns in our local area.

Minor Sports have a figure skating club that prepares our young people for their annual figure skating show every March.

Broomball has become a very exciting winter sport. Both ladies and men's team play in tournaments in the province. The Provincial Championships were held in Big River.

Curling has been a well-participated sport, from kid's leagues to the senior level a person can enjoy curling as a fan or competitor most days of the week. The annual Harvest Bonspiel attracts rinks from all over.

Winter sports have been centred around our arena and curling rink complex and have supplied many hours of enjoyable entertainment for the young and old.

Our Recreation Centre takes on a new look each spring with the sport of lacrosse. The local team plays in the provincial league and have been drawing great crowds to see this new sport in Big River.

In the spring of 2004, the Big River Recreation hosted an indoor bull riding and cabaret event. This evening event was welcomed by everyone and hopes to have this as an annual event.

For the snowmobiling enthusiast, the Timber Trails Snowmobile Club grooms and maintains many kilometres of trails around Big River. These trails are part of the Trans-Canada Trails system. Every February they hold a poker rally. Riders come from all over Saskatchewan and Alberta for this event.

With the help of the many volunteers, too numerous to mention lest I forget somebody and our local community clubs and organizations, we the community and surrounding districts of Big River should be very proud of our facilities for sports and recreation. All our facilities are there for the enjoyment of all.

The Great Walk from Prince Albert to Big River.
The Great Walk from Prince Albert to Big River.

Regine Gould, Twila Dziurzynski, Clarice Hunter, Wanda Wilson,
April Johnson. Stella Hartnett, LaDonna Sundby.
Seated in front: Jeanette Wicinski-Dunn.

Big River Timberkings Junior "B" Hockey Team

Meetings started in 2000 for a junior "B" hockey team in Big River. Meeting after meeting, Ken McKay, Joe Martel, Henry Delisle, Rick Croshaw, John Teer, Ron and Arlene Gilbert (to name a few) started the ball rolling.

In 2001, the league president Bob Dybig came to Big River to check out our rink. which was found in good standings for the junior "B" league. Several meetings later Al Osinchuk, Darren Osinchuk, Trent and Linda McKenzie and Richard Burt (to name a few) joined in on all the other meetings that followed.

We had our first spring camp in March of 2002, and our first fall camp in mid-September of 2002. And so we started with our first league game on October 5th and 6th of 2002. Now we had it, Big River's first junior"B" Hockey Team!

The Big River Timberkings had an inaugural 2002 - 2003 season. This would not have been possible if we did not have the great sponsor's and fan support that we have.

The Big River Timberkings:

Coach - Jeff Rask
Assistant Coach - Colyn Swanson
Manager - Henry Delisle.

The Big River Timberkings Executive:

President - Joe Martel
Secretary - Linda McKenzie
Treasurer - Brenda McKay
Director - Trent McKenzie
Director - Ken McKay
Director - Elaine Hartnett
Director - Henry Delisle
Director - Diane Delisle
Director - Al Osinchuk
Director - Peter Vogt
Director - John Teer

2002-2003 Big River Timberkings.
2002-2003 Big River Timberkings.

Back Row:

Evan Gilbert, Brock Fitch, Dane Miron, Jarret Warren,
Jakob Vogt, Tyler Harris, Wesley Delisle, Justin Rask.

Middle Row:

Joe Martel, Joe Hartnett, Kyle Goldhawke, Jon Bohmann,
Ryan McKay, Justin Leeb, Jamie Lowes. Henry Delisle.

Front Row:

Harrison Kuzmik, Jared Moffat, Jeff Rask, Ryan Turgeon, Colyn Swanson, Bryce Grant,
Mark Young. Missing: Travis Roth, Matt Sommerfeld, Justin Bechtel.

Big River Braves have and will be a big part of my life. My first memory is being asked to be "stick boy" for the senior club (Braves) in the fall of 1961.

1961 - 1962 season - The Braves won the Big "V" Hockey League and took home the famous Demers Cup. This team had it all, offence, defence and great leadership.

1962 - 1963 season - The Braves defended their title and once again won the cup. Some of our players did not return, but, we were able to add some imports from Prince Albert.

It was about this time that I realized that my talent was not in being a hockey player, which I very much wanted to be, but that I should learn the organization of the game. I started as the stick boy, took my turn as Manager, coach, president, Executive member, volunteer and anything else about hockey. Forty years later, I am still involved in the Executive, helping out, but like to be known as the "Club Historian".

Hockey has changed over the years but Big River still has the best hockey fans in the world. Senior hockey goes back to the early 1930s. We had some great teams, some not so great teams, but our teams always showed up to play.

I will only highlight the teams that won it all... this means winning the play - offs. The next team was the 1976 - 1977 season. Once again our team came home with the Demers Cup in the Big "V" Hockey League. Our town has been treated to different hockey leagues namely, Big 'V" Hockey League, Carrot River Hockey League, Three Rivers Hockey League, Northern Lakes Hockey League and the Beaver Lakes Hockey League. Some of our minor hockey players had the good fortune to go out and play senior hockey and then return home to play for the Braves. This greatly improved our teams in the 1990s.

1991 - 1992 season - The Braves won the Beaver Lakes Hockey League Cup and defended their championship-winning in the 1992 - 1993 season. We had some other good teams over years winning league titles and also league divisions, but to the best of my knowledge, we have only won five overall-league championships ever in my career as a Brave.

Big River Braves 1961-1962.
Big River Braves 1961-1962.

Back Row:

Allen Pankoski, Dennis Hygherbarrt, Armand Godin, Gordon Baskott, Roy Webb,
Felix Sanche, Bill Mclellan, Bob Schneider, Norman McNabb.

Front Row:

W.R. Gould, Father Gaudet, Grant Gould, Clarence Pister, Bill McKnight,
Leo Olson, Max Wilson, Richard Burt. Missing: Cecil Pederson.

1991-1992 Braves B.L.H.L. League Champions.
1991 - 1992 Braves B.L.H.L. League Champions.

People that have volunteered make up a great part of the Braves Hockey Organization. The players, their wives and family, the coaches, Managers and staff, also the Executive and game volunteers have helped tremendously over the years in making our team what it was. The community thanks you all for this.

For many years when tournament hockey was popular, we hosted the W.R. Gould Memorial Senior Hockey Tournament. Also, the Challenge Cup was introduced and provided a lot of good memories and an opportunity for some dads to play with their sons.

In 1996, we were fortunate enough to hold a Big River Braves reunion in Big River. Our head table guest's speakers were Barry Pederson, Jim Neilson, Fred Sasakamoose, Jack Wilson and Larry McNabb. All past players had a great message to tell and our community thoroughly enjoyed the return home of many Ex-Braves.

Jim Neilson at the Braves Reunion in 1996.
Jim Neilson at the Braves Reunion in 1996.

Fred Sasakamoose at the Braves Reunion in 1996.
Fred Sasakamoose at the Braves Reunion in 1996.

Big River Poker Rally

The Stock Car Club started up the Big River Poker Rally as a fundraiser in the early 1980's. The first number of years, it operated out of the Recreation Center. After the Stock Car Club disbanded later in the decade, the rally recognized for the fundraiser that it was, was then taken over and jointly operated by the Kinsmen and the Elks. With the coming of age of snowmobiling in the 1990s, the poker rally was passed on to the Timber Trails Sno - Riders.

The event is always held on the second Saturday in February and was one of the major events of the winter. With as much as twenty thousand dollars in prizes, which included three sleds, the event brought into the community, visitors from Alberta and Southern Saskatchewan filling all beds available. It was common to have more than 500 riders enjoying more than 100 kilometres of groomed trail and the wiener roast. The old Elks hall was always packed to the rafters on both levels during the awarding of the prizes.

The profits from the Rally have been used to pay for trail construction, the groomer used on the Cross Canada Snowmobile Trail, helping fund donations to the hospital, the Rec. Center, New Hall and other community projects.

As of 2004, the rally is still happening, though with the snow conditions of the last number of years it is a challenge to find enough snow to make the trail.

Big River Community Centre, 2004.
Big River Community Centre, 2004.

Ski Timber Ridge

Ski Timber Ridge is nestled in scenic northern Saskatchewan, five kilometres south of Big River. Ski Timber Ridge Co-operative is a non-profit organization and a member of the Canada West Ski Areas Association.

Its slopes are inviting and exciting for every skier from the beginner to advanced levels. It has one T-bar (vertical approx. 300 feet), plus a rope tow for the Bunny Hill. It has six fantastic runs (1400 feet - 2600 feet) and the slopes are professional snow groomed. It has a cosy chalet, which offers the guests a warm and picturesque view of the fantastic natural slopes and beautiful terrain. A concession, with the cheerful staff, will satisfy your hunger and thirst. It also has a rental shop with efficient staff ready to give you any help you need to ensure a great day of skiing. They offer many services with skis, boots and poles, snowboards, ski waxing, edging, adjusting and complete tune-up. They are certified Ski Technicians who will assure your safety during your day on the slopes.

Big River and District
Recreation Improvement Association

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Big River and District
Recreation Center Grand Opening.
Grace Colby, Arlene Gilbert, Don Shakotko, Richard Burt,
Albert Swanson, George Ritchie.

Big River Arena.
Big River Arena.

This organization, established in the '80s was to improve recreation facilities in the community. At that time the focus was the recreation complex with skating and curling rinks complete with artificial ice.

In April 1992, the mortgage for this facility was paid in full. A public meeting was called to discuss the next venture - "A NEW COMMUNITY CENTRE". September 1992, Town and RM approval was given that this association would be the governing body for this project. The committee members at the time were: Deedie Lomsnes, George Yurach, Mery Weiss, Richard Burt, Gerald Miller, George Ritchie, Eugene Swanson, Arlene Gilbert, Helen Lanigan, Gary Donald, and Maisie Krienke.

The feasibility study, which included location, type and cost, was completed and fundraising began. The Recreation Centre site was the location chosen for the new community centre. Committee member visited several rural communities to research types of facilities. Over the next several years the committee worked with the councils discussing features that would be important to the community while conducting projects to raise funds for the start of the project. The Elks, Royal Purple and Weyerhaeuser were the key groups, who were involved in these discussions.

By June 1997, a preliminary floor plan was presented to the public. In 1998 the executive approached the councils regarding the idea of adding council chambers to this facility.

Fundraising was slowed during the years that the people of Big River worked to raise money for the new hospital. Once the hospital project was complete the Community Centre Association got back in full swing. Some of the major fundraisers included a beef raffle donated by John and Barb Dunn, lake lot and Scrimshaw print donated by Vic and Bev Slusar and Glen Scrimshaw, playhouse donated by George and Arlene Ritchie, The Great Walk by Stella Hartnett, Donna Sundby, Clarice Hunter, April Johnson, Regine Gerow and Twila Dziurzynski, and the Monthly Trip Lottery. We were successful in acquiring a $153,000 grant from the Centenary Foundation.

Floor plans evolved over time adding the council chambers, the library and a fitness centre to the facility. The committee also evolved over the years with the 2004 executive being: President - Leah Scriven, Secretary - Treasurer - Maisie Krienke, Directors - Arlene Gilbert, Richard Burt, Jayson Watier, Garry Cooper, Peter Lamothe, Adrian Schwab, Twila Johnson, Cory Wall, Christopher Warriner, Clint Panter, and council representatives - Digger Pond, Jeanette Dunn, John Teer and Doug Panter.

In June 2000, a sign was erected on the site and sod-turning was scheduled for May 2001. JBS Engineering was hired as the engineering firm and Ritchie Construction was awarded the building contract.

The committee established three major fundraising projects at this time. The 1st Annual Ice Fishing Derby was held March 2001, the 1st Annual Community Auction on June 2001 and the monthly lottery began that same summer. The Krienke family sponsored the 1st Annual Ed Krienke Memorial Golf Tournament in September 2001.

By 2004, the Ice Fishing Derby had raised $73,800, the Community Auction had raised $86,700, the monthly lottery had raised $30,000, and the Ed Krienke Memorial Golf tournament had raised $23,000 - a total of over $213,000 profit from these four annual events.

The project was divided into three construction phases. Phase I: Outside Structure, Phase II: Mechanical and Electrical and PhaseIII: Interior. Construction of Phase I began in July 2001. With funds raised, plus donations from Elks $120,000, Weyerhaeuser $60,000, Royal Purple $34,000, RM lot sale $35,000, plus several $1000.00 personal donations. We now have about $600,000 in place. Individual groups organised projects to assist with fundraising.

Phase I was completed by spring of 2004 at which time the town and RM councils decided to proceed with borrowing money to complete the project, while the committee agreed to continue their annual projects with a game plan to have the debt paid off in ten years or less.

Phase II was completed by the end of 2004, Work on Phase III followed immediately with the projected completion date to be June time for the Big River and Saskatchewan Centennial Celebrations.

Big River Drama Club, The Devil and Miss Appleby.
Big River Drama Club "The Devil and Miss Appleby".
Mrs Erickson.
Mrs Erickson, Mrs Wychodzew, Mts. Afanasieff, Mrs Grimmler, Mrs Skopyk, Mrs Rachinko.

Grannie Dunn's 84th Birthday.
Grannie Dunn's 84th Birthday.

United Church Christmas Concert.
United Church Christmas Concert.

B.C. & D. Catering, Barb Bradley, Grace Colby, Aileen Daley.
B.C. & D. Catering, Barb Bradley, Grace Colby, Aileen Daley.

e-mail me.

Author: Webmaster -
"Date Modified: March 23, 2024."

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