Fernie’s Cultural Values

There are plenty of people who parrot the mountain-town refrain, “Came for winter and stayed for the summer” in these parts. While it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, it’s also fitting to say, “Came for the outdoor rec and stayed for the culture.”

Take a walk down and around Victoria Avenue and you can see where this little town’s priorities are. Nestled between gear stores and restaurants are shops that feature the work of local artists, artisans and authors. And check out the local art on the banners hanging from the light posts downtown. Even when you slip off the main drag, you’ll find painted dumpsters, back alley murals and metal sculptures. Tourism Fernie has a downloadable Art Walk Map and Guide available on its website. (Also available for download is a heritage map that is a wonderful primer to Fernie’s historic buildings.)

Don’t forget to check on the exhibits at The Arts Station and the Fernie Museum. The Arts Station features many local artists on a monthly rotation, with openings on the final Thursday of every month. The Museum has a permanent exhibit on the ground floor, while the second-floor exhibits change every few months or so. (The Museum also has a couple of interesting virtual exhibits on its website that feature old-timey photos of the area and its people.)

When it comes to books, there are more than a handful of local authors whose books you can find at Polar Peek Books & Treasures (just ask the knowledgeable staff!), but worth mentioning are Kevin Allen’s Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary and Terry Nelson’s Fernie Area Hiking Trails and Natural Plant Compendium.

Allen’s book began as a gig as historian-in-residence at Calgary Outlink in 2012 and morphed into a much larger project that resulted in a website, guided tours, a documentary short and Our Past Matters, which tells the stories of Calgary’s gay history in 70 short stories.

Nelson’s book has been a long time in the works, as Terry has been travelling, planning and building the local trails for several decades. Fernie Area Hiking Trails is a much-needed companion to the growing trail network in the area. It’s also colourful and packed with information about local flora.

Finally, Fernie loves music all year, but especially in the summer. Wapiti is an annual affair and is Fernie’s love letter to emerging Canadian musicians. Intimate and family-friendly, Wapiti Music Festival takes over Annex Park August 9 and 10 with a variety of bands and singer-songwriters. And then don’t forget to take the little ones to Rotary Park on the 11 for Bibbity Bobbity Boo for the Children’s Festival at the Mountain Market.

The Wednesday Socials are also a must-do and a personal favourite. Every Wednesday evening in July and August, come see live bands at Station Square. There are drinks, food and atmosphere, all before it gets dark. The Socials have become a summer staple and feature acts from across the country and around the world. 

For complete listings on events and cultural offerings, check on ferniefix.com or tourismfernie.com.

Photo by Vince Mo