2020, am I right? I mean, let’s be honest here, friends – what more truly needs to be said to encapsulate the bizarre, the eyebrow-raising, and the uncharted waters that have comprised the last twelve months?
Well, I think you’d be surprised. While it’s true that the COVID-19 viral pandemic has kept the province of Saskatchewan in a mighty grip since March and dominated the larger daily media outlets and nightly news broadcasts, we here at The Outlook have, for the most part, just been here doing our thing. Pumping out all the news, views, commentary, and photos that are important to you, our loyal readers, and keeping it L-O-C-A-L. It’s a fan-favorite recipe that has kept us here for almost 112 years (first issue rolled off the presses in February 1909) and we’re not altering our potent “seven herbs and spices” anytime soon.
We keep things local because we know it’s what readers want out of this newspaper; we are called The OUTLOOK, after all. We’re content to let the 6:00 evening news recap all the latest COVID stats and info because we know you’d rather read about the latest in what’s happening in your own backyard: town council news, local sports, hallway headlines from schools, and the wide array of community events in Outlook and the surrounding Lake Diefenbaker region that helps enrich the quality of life in this chunk of the province that we all call home.
That being said, the COVID pandemic did indeed make its presence felt in this area, but I argue that the impact it left forced some of us to dig deep and show more resiliency and creativity when it came to planning key events in nearby communities.
With that, I welcome you to The Outlook’s annual edition of our ‘Year in Review’.
The results of the 2019 Campaign of Outlook Donors’ Choice perplexed the seven-member executive board. While things were said to be “generally satisfactory”, citizens had donated $37,425 in 2019 – the fifth lowest amount in the past six years. More alarming was the number of donors, which at one point in the late 1990’s had seen more than 550, but had now reached a point of seeing a steady decline, with 208 people making donations in 2019, down 31 from the previous year. On the positive side of things, more than half of the accumulated monies would remain in the community, with the Outlook swimming pool, Outlook & District Food Bank, Variety Place Association, and the Outlook & District Health Foundation being designated the highest sums.
The Outlook & District Music Festival, a staple springtime event in the community, marked its 40th anniversary with a celebration on Sunday, January 12 at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church that included a smorgasbord of talent from years past and present. The afternoon entertainment reminded the audience of memorable performances from past festivals and highlighted the current crop of talent making their mark in Outlook today.
The pride that the village of Dinsmore had in their Dynamos senior hockey team was on full display inside the Dinsmore Composite School gymnasium on Friday, January 17 when a rally was held to highlight the team and serve as a kickstart to the community’s campaign for the annual Kraft Hockeyville contest, which affords one grand prize-winning community with $250,000 and the opportunity to host an exhibition NHL game. Players with the Dynamos squared off with students in a floor hockey game full of shenanigans and it seemed like the village was preparing for a great shot at winning the online contest.
Daniel Erlandson, president of the Outlook Minor Sports organization, spoke exclusively to The Outlook about an incident involving the group’s finances after it was discovered that the then-treasurer, Jaclyn Lemon, had been misappropriating a very large amount of money over time. Erlandson noted that Minor Sports was able to prove and document that a total of $174,619.57 had been taken, dating as far back as 2013. The fraudulent process involved cheques that had been written to Lemon and e-transfer payments that weren’t deposited into the bank accounts held by Outlook Minor Sports. On the advice of legal counsel and the RCMP, Minor Sports opted to seek the recovery of funds instead of pursuing criminal or civil charges. As a result, the organization was swiftly on track to recover the money, with $112,500 having already been recovered at the time of our article. News of this incident caused a swirl of emotions and viewpoints in the public eye, which remain to this day.
The Harbor Golf Club down in the lakeside village of Elbow had plenty of reason to celebrate after the course was ranked number one as the Best Value Golf Course in all of Canada by the website GolfAdvisor.com. The ranking was determined by combining the averages of a golf course’s overall rating as submitted from reviewers in 2019.
After serving for 47 straight years, technically 50 altogether when you consider the three years that he served in his teen years, Bob Reid decided to hang up the helmet and call it a career as a member of the Outlook Fire Department. Bob was 16 years old when the then-chief came up to him and asked if he could drive a truck, and it was a calling that he stuck with until he came to the decision to step back and let the younger guys handle things.
Well over 300 people packed the town hall in the village of Kenaston on Tuesday, February 4 to hear guest speaker, Dr. Jody Carrington give a talked entitled, ‘Lighting the Way to Community (Re)Connection’. The presentation blended funny, razor-sharp anecdotes from life and Carrington’s own background to help provide spectators with perhaps a few new tools to use when it comes to strengthening connections with all of those around us.
Could the village of Elbow use some new infrastructure in the form of a new recreation space or multi-use facility? The answer to that question was an overwhelming ‘yes’ from those gathered at a meeting on Thursday, February 6, held in order to gauge public opinion on how to approach an application for major grant funding through the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). Such funding would cover just over 73% of a project’s estimated cost, and a multi-use facility for Elbow was deemed to cost close to $2 million.
A presentation held at the Outlook Wheatland Library entitled, ‘The ABC’s of Dementia’ helped highlight what it takes as a community to assist those living with the disease, which carries many different types. As a result, a committee comprised of Daryl Olson, Shelley Luedtke, Cindy Busse and Leah Larson was formed to help Outlook become what’s known as a ‘Dementia Friendly Community’.
Outlook’s recreation director, Jordy Jones decided to step down from his duties in order to pursue a new venture: managing the ticketing department for the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. Jones had served as Outlook’s rec director since 2016.
Long-time ice official Kim Sobkowicz of Outlook was honoured with a special ceremony just before the February 15 hockey game between the hosting Ice Hawks and Wilkie Outlaws. Sobkowicz had reffed his 1500th game the previous fall and officials with Outlook Minor Sports and the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, Aaron Williams and Darick Forbes, wanted to make it official with an on-ice presentation.
It appeared as if Douglass Street in Outlook is where one could find some out-of-the-box ideas centered around giving back to the community. In the back alley at 423 Douglass sat The Shelf, a makeshift donation hamper where food and goods are taken and provided as needed by the public. Over at 220 Douglass was the Little Free Library, a modestly-sized library system where books are taken out, returned, and provided.
The village of Beechy turned a negative into a positive when its scheduled event, an NHL alumni hockey game pitting former Montreal Canadiens players against a local squad, had to be cancelled due to travel issues involving the Montreal team. On Friday, February 28, a flurry of phone calls and arrangements were finalized just in time to see the local Coteau Bay Bombers match up against a team of former NHL players, including Travis Moen, Byron Blitz, and Mason Raymond.
The Jim Kook Rec Plex in Outlook was the location for one of the largest funeral attendance crowds in recent memory when over 1000 people packed the bleachers on Friday, February 28 to say goodbye and pay tribute to 44-year old Brad Barton, a local trucker and long-time hockey player who was tragically killed in a snowmobile collision earlier that month. A convoy of semi trucks roared through the streets of Outlook in further tribute to the man affectionately known as ‘Danger’.
Amber Thompson, a Grade 4 teacher at Outlook Elementary School, spoke to The Outlook after she was part of an award-winning research trio with two fellow educators. The group’s research report entitled, ‘Promising Practices in Meaningful Family Engagement’ looked at ways for teachers to engage with families and maintain a strong connection between home and the classroom.
Speaking of education, the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation was in the midst of tense negotiations over what they believed was underfunding on the part of the provincial government. As a result, the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee moved to begin implementing job sanctions starting on March 12 after teachers voted 90.2% in favor of them.
Pro football and basketball athletes visited Kenaston School on Wednesday, March 11 to play a wildly entertaining basketball game against the boys’ and girls’ teams and highlight a positive message about stamping out bullying, or rather, dunking on it. The lineup included Charleston Hughes, defensive lineman for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, as well as former CFL’er Nik Lewis, Riders wide receiver Mitch Picton, and Lawrence Moore of the Saskatchewan Rattlers basketball team.
The middle of March saw the COVID-19 pandemic take such a turn that Saskatchewan and this specific part of it became impacted, with events being postponed or outright cancelled and schools being closed for the rest of the academic year, as well as businesses being forced to adapt to the new climate. As such, The Outlook’s Derek Ruttle and Shelley Luedtke provided different perspectives on the pandemic with feature stories that highlighted viewpoints from the local area, as well as around the globe.
A Facebook page entitled, ‘EAT DRINK SHOP OUTLOOK’ was created to serve as a hub of information related to local businesses that were adapting their services to meet the requirements presented by the COVID pandemic.
Readers from Outlook and the surrounding area sent us photos and captions of how they were spending their time at home during the pandemic, finding new ways to perhaps reconnect and relying on technology to keep them in touch with loved ones who live outside of their close ‘bubble’.
Walter Wood, who has served as principal of Outlook High School since the start of the 2015/16 school year, had decided to call it a career in education and retire, looking for a new challenge in life outside of the classroom and hallways. Wood told The Outlook that he was looking forward to taking classes in order to possibly enter into the financial services industry. However, Wood would be called to remain in action due to his successor being away on maternity leave.
The Town of Outlook’s newest recreation director, Trevor Ouellette of Davidson, spoke about entering his new role amidst some challenging and unheard-of times with the pandemic, which had severely hampered recreational opportunities in the area. Nevertheless, he was looking forward to coming up with new ways to keep recreation alive in the community and get people active.
Local musician Kevin Harcourt of Outlook spoke to The Outlook’s Shelley Luedtke about his career and his love of touring to bring his music to audiences. Life on the road was at one time a family adventure for Kevin, his wife Marg and their young children.
A couple of “drive-by” birthdays for 11-year old Lexi Read and 8-year old Marek Ball, both of Outlook, opened the floodgates to becoming the new normal when it comes to marking someone’s special day. Both kids were the recipient of a steady stream of vehicles cruising by their homes to honk and wish a Happy Birthday, as well as visits from the Outlook RCMP.
Dawn Thomson, an educational assistant at Dinsmore Composite School, teamed up with her daughter Paige to sew together what were called ‘hero bags’, used by nurses and health care staff in order to store their uniforms and essential workwear. Thomson was inspired by a similar effort being carried out in Alberta, and at that point, she and Paige had made 114 bags for health care staff.
After roughly six weeks of the COVID pandemic making its presence felt, the Saskatchewan government introduced its five-phase plan to gradually reopen the province. This would include the reopening of medical services, retail businesses and select person services, as well as low-impact recreational activities. The rollout of phases 3-5 were dependent on the success of the first two phases.
Garry and Nadine Ivanco, long-time operators of the Reel Theatre in Outlook, departed the business and thanked local moviegoers for ten years of support and patronage. While it was sad to see the couple move on from the movie theatre, Garry and Nadine would soon close out the year by starting up a mobile snack business, Happy Days Mobile Snacks.
The Outlook’s Shelley Luedtke invited readers to explore the history, the myth and the magic of Bran Castle in a feature story highlighting a trip she enjoyed with family to the castle, located in the Transylvanian region of Romania.
The Outlook started running ‘The Good News Collective’, comprised of short, positive news blurbs from around the globe designed to highlight the good that is still happening in the world despite a viral pandemic dominating the airwaves.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Outlook held a special drive-in worship service on Sunday, May 3, working in consultation with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to make it possible while still abiding by the province’s health and safety precautions. Vehicles were parked at prescribed distances and everyone was required to remain in their vehicles for the duration of the service.
The COVID pandemic forced a change to how LCBI High School in Outlook presented its graduation weekend, which is typically held in the middle of May. Plans would eventually be made to hold the school’s grad ceremonies in late August.
Speaking of LCBI, a former Bison was on to big things in his young life when Kayden Johnson, who graduated in 2014, was officially drafted into the CFL. The 24-year old Johnson, a decorated football player who impressed many on the field while wearing the maroon and gold of his Outlook alma matter, was now set to don the jersey of the BC Lions.
The Sun West School Division Board of Education announced that it had selected its newest Director of Education following the departure of Dr. Guy Tetrault. Randy Emmerson, previously a Superintendent with the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, was set to commence his duties on August 1.
A special advertising section in The Outlook put a deserving spotlight on local businesses, services, front-line workers and essential personnel. The heart-shaped advertisements helped put out love and respect for the services provided, the risks being taken, and the sacrifices being made on a daily basis so that life in this part of the world can maintain a semblance of normalcy.
A very special parade, the first of several The Outlook’s Derek Ruttle would cover, made its way through the streets of Outlook on Mother’s Day, May 10. Organized by local resident and health care worker Whittney Greig and with the assistance of others, the parade’s target audience was the town’s senior residents as the cavalcade of cars rolled by the Pioneer Home, Golden Acres, and Luther Place. The heart-tugging event proved that while people couldn’t be together in-person at the time, they could all be together as one in spirit.
Outlook resident Kimberley Case, who had been furiously at work making masks during the pandemic and leaving them readily available for the public, was unfortunately the victim of theft after she said two people visited her home and made off with a bucket of donated money, as well as a large handful of masks. The loss equated to about $80 that was designed to be given to charity, but Case said she decided to forgive the thieves during such a unique and different time in our lives. This story would have a positive ending though as reader Ryan Fiacco of Red Deer, Alberta reached out to Case and sent her an online money transfer to replace the $80.
The Outlook’s Shelley Luedtke explored how recreational options in town such as golfing, camping and swimming would look and operate differently due to the pandemic, highlighting the fact that while there were still restrictions and guidelines in place, the community would not be stopped from providing residents and visitors with services that add to everyone’s quality of life.
Staff and faculty from Kenaston School got together with a number of people from the community’s business district and made their way up and down the streets of town in a special parade on Wednesday, May 27. The school had been challenged by the neighboring Davidson School to host a Hometown Spirit Day event, and with the smiling faces and heartfelt waves on display, Kenaston seemed to step up to the challenge in spades.
Violent winds in the local area on Saturday, June 6 put a damper on peoples’ plans for the weekend, but the 69 km/hr gusts did more than that in Outlook as the roof of the Red Wheel Motel was jarred loose off of one of the building’s units in the early evening hours. By morning, the infrastructure was left leaning against a pair of trees on the front lawn, eventually being reduced to four pieces. Motel manager Graham Ackeral said that luckily no one was hurt, though the falling roof narrowly avoided a nearby vehicle.
Unfortunately for rodeo fans in Outlook, the third edition of the Riverbank Rodeo was officially cancelled due to the limitations brought on by the COVID pandemic. The event was supposed to take place over August 21-22 on the grounds located just south of LCBI High School, but instead the committee was looking forward with positivity in the hopes of holding another rodeo in 2021.
Striking workers from the Co-op Refinery plant in Regina were hoping to get their message out in different parts of the province, with their makeshift ‘tour’ bringing them to the Co-op bulk fuel tanks located just west of Outlook on Tuesday, June 2. The peaceful protest saw no issues from the workers, who were on the site over the course of two days. The workers were highlighting the labour dispute between Unifor Local 594 and the Co-op Refinery Complex in which the union was seeking a return-to-work agreement with no jobs terminated.
On Saturday, June 13, Dinsmore Composite School turned lemons into lemonade with its graduation event when the community pitched in to put on a town-wide parade for its departing senior students: Cole Buchanan, Will Norris, Jesse Thorpe, and Dailey Wollen. On top of the parade, teachers and staff made personal visits to each grad’s home to hold mini ceremonies and present them with awards.
Troubling graffiti saw the exterior of the Outlook Civic Centre’s heating system marked with bizarre, nonsensical symbols and numbers. It was unknown what their relation was to previous markings on other buildings in town.
A number of couples with ties to Outlook and area spoke to The Outlook’s Shelley Luedtke about how they were approaching their nuptials in the midst of the COVID pandemic, in which they were trying to say ‘I Do’ during a ‘You Can’t’ time in our lives.
The Van Raay & Community Swimming Pool in Outlook was eyeing a Canada Day opening to the public, and the town’s recreation director, Trevor Ouellette spoke to Derek Ruttle about all the new guidelines and protocols being applied to the facility in the wake of the pandemic. Outlook’s pool would turn out to be the proverbial last man standing as aquatic facilities in the nearby communities of Rosetown, Kenaston and Davidson were not opening at all in 2020 due to the COVID impact.
A massive parade helped the graduating class of 2020 at Outlook High School mark the landmark occasion on Saturday, June 20. A long lineup of vehicles made its way through town to salute the students, who were dressed in their evening best outside the school and waved to their supporters. Following the parade, photo ops were enjoyed as the class was seated on bleacher seating that was loaded onto a flatbed trailer, and then the departing Blues were driven around Outlook and shown off to the community in style.
Staff at Lucky Lake School hopped on a bus and traveled a total of 203 km over the course of a day in order to visit students at home with their families and say goodbye for the summer.
A special drive-thru was set up on the bus loop located just outside Outlook Elementary School on a blazingly hot Friday afternoon on June 26 so that parents and students could make their way through and pick up items such as fun summer games, puzzles and activities. Teachers manned each station and enjoyed the time to reconnect with families, also taking the time to say their goodbyes to the students for the summer.
Stay tuned for Part Two of '2020 - The Year in Review' encompassing the months of July to December later this week.