My family – that’s my husband and two boys, ages 2 and almost 4, and I – were invited to Minnedosa for their annual summer weekend festival, Fun Fest. On our way out the door my husband says to me, “I read somewhere that a 4 year-old asks an average of 437 questions a day. So we’re about to get asked almost 900 questions.” So, here’s a small sample – just 20 of the questions from our family adventure in Minnedosa.
1. How long ’til we get there?
This classic kids on a road trip question is asked about 2.5 minutes into the drive. Minnedosa is just over 30 minutes north of Brandon or about 2.5 hours from Winnipeg. Or a little less than that if you listen to your GPS which suggests you drive 60 kilometres on a gravel road (shout out to Hwy 227 for being one heck of a nice gravel road).
2. What’s a Happy Rock?
Happy Rock is this friendly guy, who waves from the highway as you pass by Gladstone. Also on the way is Neepawa, renamed in a fit of giggles as “Meatball-wa” by the kids.
3. What will we see in the parade?
One of the big attractions of Fun Fest is the community parade. So big in fact, most businesses, even the Co-Op Gas Station, shut its doors to join the parade and the crowd of onlookers, including throngs of kids waiting to catch candy. Making their way down Main Street we see dogs, horses, proud veterans and bagpipers. We also see tractors, a tank, classic cars, a mini airplane and the driving skills of the Shriners.
4. What’s a heart attack?
Seems like an odd question, but in the end, the answer to this question is a menu item at the Main Street Café. My husband is disappointed that it’s just way too hot to even consider ordering the Heart Attack, instead we all choose some lighter fare for lunch from this cozy place, with its comfort food and boutique selling cute little knick knacks (I have to say “Don’t touch that!” about 127 times).
5. Where’s the engine?
At the classic car show, we take a peak under the hood (once again repeating, “Don’t touch!”). The one with the flames is proclaimed to be the favourite, and rightly so, it’s pretty rad.
6. Where’s the train?
Look at those two giant rail cars RIGHT THERE. “Oh, there’s the train!”
But their lack of observation can be forgiven as the Canadian Pacific cars in Tanner’s Crossing Park are right next to the bouncy castles and other kids’ activities set up for Fun Fest. We practice taking turns at the fishing hole and sharing at disc golf.
7. What are they doing with all those ducks?
The duck drop is a favourite fundraiser used by community groups and somewhat of a puzzling experience for my boys. We purchase our tickets in support of River’s Edge Park and watch as they dump hundreds of rubber ducks into a cement mixer. As the water, and the ducks, come pouring out, the kids squeal with delight.
How do you tell a kid not to get into a tub filled with rubber ducks? You don’t. To his credit, it is really hot and he found a great way to cool off.
8. What was a dump?
Surprising, considering its current state, but River’s Edge Park used to be a dump. Paul Laliberte along with five other “worker bees” have volunteered their time to reclaim this land along the Little Saskatchewan River and turn it into an all ages park. My kids have a blast climbing the hills and slopes of the bike park as Paul’s kids race around in a rousing game of tag. Paul, a physiotherapist in town, then shows us the dog park, outlining the vision for the park: “It’s about bringing generations together in the community. You have the kids on their bikes and grannies and their dogs.”
The park also features a secluded picnic area and lots of trails to explore. The trails at River’s Edge connect this western part of the town to the network of trails around the lake in the eastern part of town.
Paul’s kids take us to the top of a rise where we get a great view of the river and the golf course on its opposite bank. The volunteers are planning to build a disc golf course and a skatepark for even more recreation options.
9. What does it taste like?
“It tastes kind of minty,” my four-year-old says about his Tiger Tiger ice cream cone. Even if that’s not quite right (later he gets much closer when he tells me it’s the flavour of black licorice and orange licorice), the frozen treats we have at Dari Isle Drive-In sure taste good on this hot summer day. My lemon sorbet is particularly satisfying and the Tiger Tiger is particularly messy.
10. Can we go swimming?
YES! There’s no better way to spend a hot day than splashing in the refreshing water of Minnedosa Lake, the happy result of the dam built in 1912. The beach, one of Manitoba’s best, is literally minutes from the town centre and is the perfect place for a summer afternoon, or morning, or evening if my kids had their way.
The water is clear and shallow for a long way, but drops pretty quickly as you approach the buoys. There are kayak rentals and a boat launch, and there are lots of people out enjoying the water.
11. How do you move a building?
One of three buildings of its kind left in Canada, this completely restored building is filled with interesting artifacts, like a beautiful quilt from 1916 in amazing condition and a much, much earlier version of the Chutes and Ladders game we have at home (“No, we can’t play with it…stop touching that!”).
We tour the spacious Cadurcis Home, a 1910 home that had a generator for power and a cistern for running water – a luxury for the times.
One of the museum’s current volunteers lived in the house until she was 11, and the furniture, décor and household items – like this potty seat – make it easy to picture as a bustling family home.
Roy Munroe’s Blacksmith Shop is packed with tools and equipment, including the forge which apparently still works. Thank goodness there is no live demo today, because the heat in the small building would have been unbearable, and you know because, “DON’T TOUCH!”
We finally find something he can touch. The typewriter in the Havelock School is a new experience for this iPad expert, but he figures it out pretty quickly.
The final stop on our tour of the village is the main museum building – the Minnedosa Hydro Building – the former power house built below the dam.
We see a large collection of artifacts, including a train bell, a telephone switchboard and a “flat bear” on the wall. We also go on an ostrich egg hunt – see if your kids can find it when you’re there!
12. Can I have macaroni?
Thankfully, the Cornerstone Grill delivered on this dinner request, and neither seems to care that it is penne – “tube noodbles” instead of macaroni – in a delicious cheese sauce topped with breadcrumbs. I enjoy a tasty pizza, along with a Farmery beer, an obvious choice since the barley for this brew is grown just down the road near “Meatball-wa”.
13. Do you like bacon?
After our family’s first night ever sleeping in a tent, with the rumble of an overnight thunderstorm echoing through the valley, it’s time for breakfast with a view. While we need to work on the sleeping part of camping, I could get used to this way of life. Our campsite at the Minnedosa Beach Campground is spacious and the kids love the playgrounds.
14. What kind of adventure?
Kids are great at answering a question with a question, so this is question I get in return when I ask if they’re ready for the next adventure, exploring the Oxbow Nature Trail.
We count four people fishing along the spillway and the fish ladder, which allows fish to bypass the spillway to get from the Little Saskatchewan River into Minnedosa Lake, so it’s no surprise it smells “a little fishy”.
15. What’s a swinging bridge?
It only takes a few steps to figure this one out.
16. How do we get to the lookout tower?
After consulting the map, we make sure we’re going in the right direction to get a great view of the marsh and the Flag Walk, which connects the spillway to the Heritage Village.
Although I’m guessing whoever is in this floatplane has a better view of the scenery than us!
17. What’s a boardwalk?
It’s when the kids get off our shoulders and want to walk.
Thankfully, there are a few boardwalks along the trail. And if you do happen to be carrying a small child on your back, the trail is mostly flat and easy to walk.
18. What’s this green stuff in the water?
What does it do? Why is it there? Can I touch it? Etc, etc.
19. Is there a white bison?
I’m not sure where this fixation on a white bison came from, but I reply that we might see some light brown bison at the town’s Bison Compound. And we do see some calves enjoying a rest (hint hint, kids).
Even at a distance you get a feeling for how huge these animals are, and it smells “a little bison-y”. We say “bye bye” to the bison as we get ready to head home.
20. Can I buy a toy?
This is the last question asked, those hundreds of rubber ducks still on his mind. And although he asks it several times as we pass by the fair grounds and catch a glimpse of the action at the Minnedosa Ag Society Summer Fair, they are both asleep before we hit the highway. And that is the end of the questions. Well, at least for the two and half hours it takes to get home, enjoying the scenery in silence.
The kids are already talking about “next time we go to Minnedosa”. Maybe we’ll visit in winter to see how the landscape looks covered in snow and head to the lake for skating instead of swimming. We’ll just get ready to answer another 874 questions while we’re there.