Home » Putting the spotlight (and movies) on Nanton’s historic lifts

Putting the spotlight (and movies) on Nanton’s historic lifts

by Stewart Cole
Reading time: 4 minutes

For the past two years, a volunteer team in Nanton has been presenting its heritage lifts in new and exciting ways.

“Our goal was to really revitalize the lifts,” said Leo Wieser, chairman of the board of the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Center Society.

“We are trying a new tactic – turning them into an urban and cultural center.”

And it’s an effort you can only notice when you walk through the elevators at night.

Giant, colorful pictures are displayed on their walls – as well as summer and Halloween movies. Wieser and his fellow volunteers hope that elevators will one day become a venue for concerts, theatrical presentations and events such as poetry readings.

The Nanton lifts, which look at Highway 2 as you head north through the city, are the last three of the seven remaining. They were built in the late 1920s on a former Canadian Pacific line running from Calgary to the U.S. border.

Two of the elevators are twins, which are painted green and last belonged to the Alberta Wheat Pool. Pioneer was the last owner of the big, single orange. In the 2000s, rail traffic stopped, railroads were removed, and elevators were designed for demolition.

“For the twins, it was literally hours before the bulldozers were going to roll in before they were rescued,” Wieser said.

Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas” gets a little creepier when you park in a small dark area and see it next to a century-old elevator.

Is provided

A community committee launched the Save One campaign in 2001, but actually saved three of the seven elevators. The committee was quite active and set up a lift museum to preserve its history before closing in 2013.

The current council, which consists of nine volunteers, still has a museum and a collection of objects. But the team has started showing off the lifts themselves.

“Part of the idea of ​​activating them is to project on the sides of the elevators, because the twins, over time, have lightened up a bit,” said Wieser, who has a background in theatrical lighting design and special effects. .

“There is a cool bowl space where people can drive (for a movie with a car). The first movie was last Halloween. We played the silent movie “Nosferatu”.

Another movie from the 1920s, Buster Keaton’s “The General” also starred last summer.

This spring, the lifts were a satellite space for the Calgary Moving Company and featured Heather Henson’s “Handmade Puppet Dreams.” (Henson is a puppeteer and daughter of Muppet creator Jim Henson.) The Calgary Animated Objects Company also screened “Little Shop of Horrors” in the lifts this fall, and Nanton helped sponsor “A Nightmare.” “. before Christmas “Halloween.

The lifts have also been made on their own, with screenings such as giant snowflakes for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day and pumpkins and cobwebs for Halloween.

The location is ideal, Wieser said, because there are not many other light sources around and it is a busy freeway.

“We get between 4,000 and 6,000 passengers a day on this highway,” he said. “We wanted to bring the elevators to life and bring some joy to the people.”

Given Wieser’s history, it is no surprise that he is one of the light shows. But there was also a strong desire for Nandon to stand out.

“In our council and with the mayor, we all discussed what would revitalize the city. “Things with color and art invigorate and bring this joy, but also the feeling that something is happening,” he said. “We wanted to influence. We wanted to say, “Hello everyone, we’re still here and we need your attention.”

The reviews were extremely positive and the group is considering fundraising activities and members were talking to musicians who would like to appear in the elevators.

Making them a community gathering place would not be new, Wieser added, noting that in the past, delivering farmers were usually late for a cup of coffee (or another drink) and to sit and talk or play cards. .

“It was a social center of the people – it was the social media of the time. “That way people would know what was going on.” “In a way, by saying that we are an urban center, we bring back the whole social aspect of the place where people can come and talk and talk and meet.

“This, for us, is as important as the interpretation of rural history, which is also important because people are so disconnected from agriculture and the origin of their food,” he said.

Volunteers also want to expand the reach of Nanton lifts and attract more tourists (and possibly donors) from Calgary and Letbridge, he added.

“Calgary is 40 minutes away from here. It’s not that far – it takes 40 minutes to drive to Calgary. “

To learn more, go to nantongrainelevators.com.

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