By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It’s only fitting in Morinville’s centennial year that residents would look back to festivals of years gone by. For 25 of those years, Ed and Anne Kryskow were at the helm of what was then known as Frontier Days. Thursday, the couple reflected back on memories of those festivals that were the inspiration for the ramped-up St. Jean Baptiste Festival of the past few years. The Krysows were interviewed by 630CHED during their Home Town Tour stop in Morinville.
Prior to that on air interview MorinvilleNews.com sat down with the couple to get their thoughts about Frontier Days and the direction the St. Jean Baptiste Festival has taken over the past couple years.
“It really was fantastic,” Mrs. Krysow said of Frontier Days. “The community worked together. The French ladies learned to make Ukrainian food and the Ukrainian people learned to make the French food. It was great. We’d have as many as 40 ladies in the kitchen working making the international foods.”
The numbers are not surprising when one realizes Frontier Days was largely centred on food, a component of the festival that the Krysows said was a big draw. Fresh meat pies, apple pies, cabbage rolls and pierogies were all but a warm up for the big Sunday meal. “On Sunday we had a big chicken supper, and that used to draw a thousand people,” Mrs. Krysow said. “If you can imagine a thousand people coming to eat.”
Mr. Krysow said another popular part of the food experience was beef cooked in an eight-foot-deep hole, a specialty that was Father Primeau’s baby and was so popular with locals they needed someone to guard it at night lest the beef vanish by morning.
But there was more to Frontier Days than the culinary experience. Bingos, beer gardens, baseball and a well-received talent show were all part of the country fair flavour.
The Krysows began their involvement with the festival in 1965 and continued for the next quarter century. Like many great initiatives – then as now – the steam ran out when the volunteers ran off. “Towards the end – what happened was we just didn’t get the volunteers,” Mrs. Krysow said. “The older people couldn’t put out and the young wanted to get paid.”
Twenty years later and the Krysows are pleased with the evolution of St. Jean Baptiste Festival, which took the place of Frontier Days and was held at the same time of year. “It’s getting better,” Mrs. Krysow said. “At first it wasn’t much, but I think it’s good now.”
The Krysows note the change between Morinville’s current music and artistic focus in the festival with the more home grown feel of Frontier Days.
One of those home grown aspects was the importance of baseball and a tournament was held each year during the festival. Mr. Krysow is quick to point out the difference between the baseball of his day and the softball played today. “We had a good team,” he said. “We used to travel to all the towns – Namao, Barrhead, Redwater. But now they got into slow pitch. We had baseball. I used to pitch and play second base.”
But while the style and speed of baseball may have changed along with the direction of the annual festival; there is a belief with the Krysows that the fundamental spirit of Morinville has remained intact. “You have the people that are doing the Morinville festival now. They are the sprouts from the roots of the old people,” Mrs. Krysow said, adding there is a nice mix of new people working alongside the long-time residents.