Sask. national historic site set for June festival, even as cuts threaten future

Off the beaten tracks of Saskatchewan is one of the province’s hidden secrets, a national historic site that springs to life every June.

Claybank Brick Plant Heritage Day organizers say loss of funding puts next year into question

The Claybank Brick Plant Heritage Day takes place on Sunday, June 24, with people invited to see the old brick plant in operation and take hayrides out to see the clay canyons, among other activities taking place during the day. (Claybank Brick National Historic Site/Facebook)

Off the beaten tracks of Saskatchewan is one of the province's hidden secrets, a national historic site that springs to life every June.

The tiny hamlet of Claybank, Sask., invites people into its long-dormant brick plant for its June 24 festival, with the machinery firing into action, dust flying and the clay earth churned into hot bricks.  

"It's one of those things you can touch and feel and actually handle the stuff. It's just so cool," said Danny Flegel, 65, a volunteer and a former employee of the brick plant that's been left virtually untouched since 1912.

A blacksmith demonstration inside the brick plant. (Claybank Brick National Historic Site/Facebook)

Visitors have come from places as far flung as Australia, all captivated by the fact that the brick plant still exists and can operate, he said.

"When you see the people and they're just so amazed, you think, 'Maybe we're on to something.'"

The Claybank Brick Plant Heritage Day is back in action this Sunday, with brick plant tours, hayrides, a cowboy entertainer, rides out to the clay canyons and demonstrations. But the future of Saskatchewan's national historic site, located about 90 kilometres southwest of Regina, is in doubt.

"We had our funding cut 100 per cent," explained Krista Wallace, an organizer for the event, noting this equates to a loss of about $50,000.

Wallace works at the site throughout the year, offering school tours, organizing summer students and helping to plan the annual festival.

For her, it's more than just a job — it's her history, with her grandfather once working at the plant.

"My family's been volunteering here my whole life, so this is home."

During Claybank Brick Plant Heritage Day on June 24, people can take hayrides to see the clay canyons on site. (Claybank Brick National Historic Site/Facebook)

The site is a national historic site wholly owned by Saskatchewan, and it relies on funding from the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation to stay afloat and keep its doors open, she said, with the foundation having had a 40.5 per cent cut in funding from the government.

Now, the roof is deteriorating over the plant and Wallace said the board is trying to figure out how to raise money for a temporary roof, as well as how to stay afloat.

She hopes people will come out to Sunday's festival, with organizers arranging a postcard campaign to send to MLAs, asking to step in to provide it with direct funding.

"If you want to step back in time, get out to Claybank," she said.

"We have to get people to see it."

About the Author

Janani Whitfield

Janani Whitfield is a web writer with CBC Saskatchewan.