Imagine a town full of zombies, ghouls, ghosts and spooks, all living in harmony. It's tough to wrap your head around (unless your name is Linda Blair) but that's exactly what you'll find in Spookytown – a miniature Halloween village, created by Jessica Nuttall.
Spookytown began in 2004 with the purchase of Castle Blackstone. This towering fortress began a 14+ year passion to build a community for the living, dead and undead to coexist together. After Castle Blackstone came the construction of the cemetery, the business district and then the "spooky" end of town, which holds the magnificent Victorian Mansion. The town includes hotels, cathedrals, restaurants, cafes, museums and a grain elevator. The town is like any other small town during the day – quiet, peaceful and relatively pleasant, but once night falls, Spookytown becomes a creepy village full of flashing lights, blood curdling screams and eerie music.
When asked about the population of Spookytown, Nuttall answered "Dead or alive?", followed by a mischievous smile. A quick headcount found about 75 spooks hidden among the village's dozen buildings, but that might not include the ones living in the buildings or sleeping within their coffins.
Spookytown's buildings come from two main miniature architectural companies: Lemax and Department 56. These buildings are purchased at a variety of places, such as Michael's stores, or Spirit of Christmas in Banff, Alberta.
When asked what part of the village she would live in if she could, Nuttall showed me The Happy Halloween Cat House, which is located outside of the main townsite. This house is a small, cozy building with a haunted church next door and a yard full of bright orange and red leaves and the occasional headstone. Nuttall said she would like to live here because it reminds her of her childhood home and "because of the cats".
Last year Nuttall entered the Lemax 2017 Video Contest, where contestants from around North America submitted videos to show off their Lemax Halloween villages. Nuttall approached the contest differently than most and submitted a video letting the village explain itself through snapshots of daily rural life. Instead of explaining each piece, she let the ambient music, flashing lights and moving figurines speak for her. Due to her creatively done video, she won the contest and was awarded over 20 new pieces to add to the village, including Wanda's Cupcakes, Reaper's Landing and the Dead Fraternity – a frat house inhabited with zombies.
Like any community, the town has a wide range of citizens, but Nuttall's favourite two are the "two old ladies" that spend time near the gazebo in the middle of the town. They fit in well and are "hilarious", although Nuttall never would explain why.
Spookytown has gone through a lot of transformations over the years, but the next year will see some drastic changes. Now that the population is increasing, and infrastructure is starting to take shape, Nuttall plans to turn the village into a proper town by adding more roads, trees and enhancing the surrounding landscape. With a surplus of buildings, she's also planning to expand into smaller townsites, like The Happy Halloween Cat House.
If you visit Spookytown, however, one of the things you'll notice after the village are the three, five-foot-tall skeletons sitting around the village like undead overseers. These skeletons are having a dinner party next to the village, with plates full of fingers and scooped out eyeballs. These skeletons are a new addition to the village and was meant to the replace the village for the first time in over a decade. However, Nuttall decided to mix the two and create one of her spookiest creations yet.
Spookytown, the surrounding skeletons and all the other Halloween decorations throughout the house – and there are many – are taken down the second week of November. "Some people," Nuttall says, "leave them up all year. I don't though. I'm not that crazy."
Although Lemax isn't putting on another video contest this year, Nuttall decided to create another video about Spookytown, this time focusing around "Robert Zombie."
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.
I don't often take blog requests, but a friend approached me recently and asked about Venice. He's traveling to Italy for a wedding this summer and is stopping in Venice for few days. He asked me if I knew what he could do in the Floating City, so I racked up a list of ten things for him to see.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if I missed anything, what your favorite thing to see in Venice was, or if you plan to go visit Venice after reading this!