Muriel Jensen turned 100 on Jan. 5 and the first edition of the Lakeside Leader in 2021 featured a front-page photo of her holding a big bunch of roses on the occasion at the birthday party held at Vanderwell Lodge in her honour.
‘Locals help with wildfire fight in Australia’ was a front-page headline in January. The locals mentioned were forest protection professionals based in Slave Lake. They were part of a force of ‘wildfire management specialists’ pitching in Down Under in what was a terrible fire season.
Darcie Acton was the only candidate in the byelection for the vacant M.D. of Lesser Slave River council seat. So the vote never happened, and Acton slipped into the seat she’d already occupied for three terms, before taking a two-term break. The seat became available after the passing of councillor Jeff Commins late the previous year.
The region said goodbye to two prominent political and community leaders in the first days of 2020 – Chief Frank Halcrow of the Kapawe’no First Nation and former Slave Lake Mayor Peter Moore.
At a public forum on crime, attendees heard that as bad as thefts (especially from industrial properties) had been in the past year or so, it’s much worse in other areas of the province. In other words, don’t expect to see much in the way of extra law enforcement in Slave Lake, in spite of the millions the government is investing.
An editorial item in the Jan. 22 Leader entitled ‘Hoping for the best’ was about the disappearance of Joel Judd. He had been missing for about three weeks by then. (As of this writing, he is still missing.)
Slave Lake boxer Humberto Espinoza was in the news in January, after he won a provincial championship in that sport in Spruce Grove. The win qualified him for the nationals in Montreal in May.
A two-year fish-trafficking investigation hit the front pages all over the province in early February. Alleged by Fish & Wildlife was that a lot of people (33 were charged) were involved in selling or buying fish netted from Lesser Slave Lake and Winagami Lake, “under the guise of Métis and Treaty domestic fishing rights.” Some of the accused are from Slave Lake, Faust and High Prairie.
Top-ranked curler Brendan Bottcher paid a visit to Slave Lake and spent some time teaching junior players the finer points of the game at the Slave Lake curling rink.
Good news in the sporting world continued in February with a gold medal performance in figure skating by Isabella Prah of Slave Lake. A member of the Lakeside Figure Skating Club, Prah won the medal at a competition in Whitecourt.
Some good news for once on the crime front: an attempted theft of an ATM from the credit union in Slave Lake failed. Apparently the tow strap they’d brought for the purpose was too short and they ran out of time.
The Town of Slave Lake got a nice surprise when a gentleman dropped off a 53-year-old time capsule he had apparently fished out of the old daycare building – also known as the Centennial Hall. Nobody got the guy’s name, and he had nothing to do with the contractor that was in the process of demolishing the building. Inside the capsule were bits of paper dating from 1967.
A variety of views were expressed a ‘Fair Deal Hearing’ held in Slave Lake in February. This was one of the round of sessions organized by the provincial government to gather Albertans’ views on whether Alberta is getting a fair deal in the federation. Some said yes, but most thought not.
‘Budget good news for Alberta, says MLA Rehn’ was a front-page headline in the first edition in March. The news included measures on debt reduction, job creation and investment stimulation. Notably missing, the story said, was something near and dear to the hearts of people in this region – improvements to highways. Asked about it, Mr. Rehn said he’d been hearing from constituents on that subject and had been talking with Transportation Minister McIver about it.
Dogs, dumping and unsightly premises were all mentioned in M.D. of Lesser Slave River peace officer Paul Mulholland’s annual report for council. Those were the type of matters that came to his attention during 2019 by way of complaints from the public. He also talked about doing 250 traffic stops in the year, and the need to spend time patrolling the landfill access road.
Nobody knew it at the time, but when the Slave Lake Midget Thunder won their league championship over Barrhead in early March, that was as good as it was going to get. ‘Provincials next’ said the headline in that week’s Sports section. But the Coronavirus was about to make its appearance on the scene, and that was the end of the hockey season. The Thunder were the runaway regular season leaders, but Barrhead had them on the ropes in their league final series; in one of the great comebacks in local sports history, the Thunder staved off elimination and ended up winning the series.
The Slave Lake Icedogs finished their inaugural Junior ‘A’ season with the best record in the three-team Western Division of the GMHL. As such, the team had a bit of time off while they waited to play the winner of the semi-final series between High Prairie and Enoch. But as we know, that never happened. COVID quashed the playoff and the Icedogs were declared league champions for 2019/20.
The ‘virus scare’ arrived full force in the middle of March. The front page of the March 18 Leader showed bare shelves at a local supermarket that are normally full of toilet paper. ‘Schools, daycares suspended,’ the headline read. In related story, the first cases of COVID-19 in the area were announced on March 20.