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  Yesterday Tomorrow

THE BATTLEFORDS -- It's a place where you can view matchlock firearms from the 17th Century, visit the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame or see the works of a world-renowned Cree painter.
A featured firearm is this Arabian Snaphaunce (circa 1700).
It's also home to two golf courses featuring some of the most beautiful vistas in Saskatchewan and a museum that sports a delightful collection of mustache cups.

The Battlefords -- the town of Battleford and The City of North Battleford -- have much to offer the visitor. There's great natural beauty here, myriad recreational and cultural opportunities and a history as colorful and dramatic as you'll find anywhere in the West.

Located near the confluence of the Battle and North Saskatchewan rivers, the area that's now the Battlefords was a meeting place for aboriginal peoples long before history was recorded. A fur trading post was established here in 1785, and a North West Mounted Police post was built (on what's now the outskirts of The Town of Battleford) in 1876.

The early presence of the Mounties accounts for some of the fascinating artifacts on display at the Fred Light Museum in Battleford. The late Light, a businessman with family ties to the Mounties, collected guns for more than 40 years. His namesake museum features a wide assortment of firearms dating from an ornate Japanese Matchlock (circa 1645) and an Arabian Snaphaunce (circa 1700), to 19th and 20th century military long arms and western rifles. The large assortment of pistols evokes images ranging from pirates and gunslingers to cops and crooks.

On main street in Battleford.

Also featured at the museum is a collection of mustache cups, each manufactured with an adjunct to the rim that effectively separated mustache from tea. A mustachioed gentlemen offered tea in a cup that didn't have such protection could always use his portable "mustache clip'', an example of which also is on display the museum. It's another special collection that prospered from the prevalence of the Mounties and their British convention.

Fort Battleford National Historic Site is the busiest summertime attraction in the Town of Battleford. But there's much more to see here, particularly, but certainly not only, for the history buff. Grab a walking-tour map from staff at the tourism kiosk at the Fred Light Museum and set off on foot for a tour of the old town. Check out the Town Hall and Opera House (still used as council chambers) and many historic homes. See the beautiful court house (the oldest one in the province that's still in use) and the post office (the second oldest, still in use, in all of Canada) commemorated by a stamp issued in 1987.

The Battleford location of The Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, which houses more than 3,000 artifacts in the former Gardiner Presbyterian Church (built in 1886) on 20th Street, is appropriate given the first baseball game recorded in the North West Territories occurred here in 1879.

Drop in at the Queen's and enjoy a brew in the oldest hotel in Saskatchewan, or try the fine dining at Pennydale Junction restaurant, a converted CNR train station whose name derives not from the television show with a similar-sounding name, but from the first names of the couple who established it.

The Battlefords was the centre of government for the North West Territories from 1876 to 1883, when Regina was crowned the capital.

Sapp's "Going to Visit Friends" is on display at the gallery.

On the other side of the North Saskatchewan River, at 1 Railway Avenue East in The City of North Battleford, sits a solid old Carnegie Foundation building that served for years as a public library. Today, it's home to the Allen Sapp Gallery/The Gonor Collection. Sapp, a Northern Plains Cree Indian originally from the Red Pheasant Reserve but now living in North Battleford, overcame a sickly childhood, a speech impediment and illiteracy to become a world-renowned painter of life on the reserve.

The late Dr. Allan Gonor was Sapp's friend and a mentor who encouraged the artist to paint what he knew from his memories of the reserve. He arranged for the sale of Sapp's paintings and purchased others himself. Approximately half of the Sapp paintings here are from Gonor, donated by his wife Ruth. Travelling shows, often by other Native artists, are exhibited at the gallery, as well. Other local and regional artists are shown at Chapel Gallery, located at 891 - 99th St.

The Western Development Museum - Heritage Farm and Village, located at the junction of highways 16 and 40, is a good place to learn (or reminisce about) the history of farming in Saskatchewan. Antique farm equipment and a 1920s farm and village are featured, as are special events like the annual "Those Were the Days" threshing reunion held on the second weekend of August. The nearby George Hooey Wildlife Collection houses 350 exhibits of birds, fish and big game native to Saskatchewan.

The Gold Eagle Casino on Railway Avenue is the busiest entertainment venue in the Battlefords. The facility features 159 slot machines, a table games and poker room, and a simulated horse-racing track. There's a restaurant, lounge and gift shop, and live entertainment weekends at Blackjack's Saloon.

- courtesy The North Battleford Golf & Country Club
The Battlefords area offers a great natural setting for golfers.

With two river valleys in the immediate vicinity, the Battlefords are blessed with handsome natural surroundings. Finlayson Island, on the North Saskatchewan River near the Town of Battleford, is a pleasant area for hiking, picnicking or just exploring. In winter, the trails are used by cross-country skiers. Golfers, meanwhile, can choose from the picturesque North Battleford Golf & Country Club, on Riverside Drive, or the Saskatchewan Hospital Golf Course.

The heritage village at Western Development Museum.

Arts and crafters from far and wide, meanwhile, look forward to the Saskatchewan Handcraft Festival staged each summer in Battleford. The festival is a weekend-long celebration and sale of crafts that has grown to include parades, fireworks, and a street dance and fair.

For two communities with a total population of about 20,000 souls, the Battlefords truly have much to offer the visitor. It's a place to delve into Saskatchewan's past, yes. But it's also a place to see much of the best of what this province has become, and to catch wind of where it might be going.

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