I have known Lindsay Vallance most of my life, but as she is a few years younger than me I didn’t really know her, if you know what I mean. When I moved back to Fernie, I began to learn things about her that happily surprised me. Her involvement in theatre, her artistic nature, her unique humour and ability to laugh and make others laugh. In our 2016 Green Issue we featured her as an artist as she had an exhibit at the Arts Station… and it blew me away! She had taken discarded cardboard boxes, junk and newspaper and created decorative masks – yes, masks! It was fascinating.
But this is only scratching the surface of such a multifaceted person.
Lindsay grew up in Fernie, and after graduating pursued art at University.
“I took multi-disciplinary Fine Arts, which is the most useless degree… although I seem to be using it for a lot of things,” she realizes as we are chatting. “Then, I went to cooking school for a year, because I needed some skills to feed myself.” I can’t help but laugh and then think, good point!
Lindsay then decided to spend some time in New Zealand and it was during this trip that she applied to work at Fort Steele Heritage town.
“I went there every year as a kid in the summer to see the show… it was a childhood dream come true!”
She would spend five summers working a Fort Steele, living across the road in a field where they had a series of trailers and cabins with canvas roofs.
“We would cross the highway to go to work, it was a good way to spend a summer! We would do street theatre in the morning, and vaudeville in the afternoons, with singing and dancing,” she tells me, adding that she would go back to Calgary to work in the winters.
Lindsay then decided to take some time to travel in Europe, coinciding with a Mask Workshop in Italy.
“It was Performance and Mask Making, in an old monastery hosted by a Berlin-based company, Familie Floz. It was a really interesting workshop, and afterward I went to Germany, Istanbul, over to Greece and back to Italy and flew home,” Lindsay says.
Initially she went back to Calgary, but realized it was not her ‘favourite.’ Fortunately, Fort Steele got in touch looking for professional help to run the theatre. Lindsay moved back home, working at Fort Steele and also began working with the museum.
“Lori Bradish was hosting a Victorian Tea at the museum and was looking for a bunch of ladies to wear Victorian clothing and act. I wrote that, and then was hired to be at the front desk twice a week. If you hang around long enough, you know where things are and become half of the museum staff… and that’s where I am at right now.
Lindsay is currently the Manager of Collections, Archives and Artifacts.
“Like a curator, but with more jobs. And I do programming as well as some events,” she adds.
Cory Dvorak is currently the Museum Manager who has taken on many ED tasks such as grant writing, bookkeeping, and some programming and events as well.
Early on in Lindsay’s role, Louise Ferguson, the Executive Director at the Arts Station asked for them to write a Ghost Tour.
“I was like, what? A ghost tour? So, I started researching it,” she tells me, adding that she found it surprising as she had not heard any of these stories growing up, and neither had I! To this day, she continues to uncover interesting stories and experiences that residents share with her that may be added to the Ghost Tour experience.
Originally, the Ghost Tour was specific to the Arts Station, but after COVID they broadened the tour to visit various locations around downtown, quickly becoming a very popular late autumn experience.
“It has evolved over the years and it keeps evolving. We learn and adjust to make it better and also it can depend on the crowd. Last year was the first year we advertised it, and we had like 20 people on tours which was shocking!” she says. But Lindsay likes the big groups, as she has realized they are great at scaring one another.
The tours begin at the Arts Station, and then follow a route that passes various buildings that have tragic or frightening stories to tell.
“We start in the well-lit areas, and move to the dark alleys, discussing the tragic events that have taken place in this valley. It’s an hour and 15 minutes, and we don’t waffle! We walk fast and try to spook people. We really want to drag them into a place where they can see and feel the story, identify with the characters. It’s a little philosophical as well with some mystery. And sometimes, bears!”
Lindsay shares some of the stories with me, and while I am intrigued, I admit that my girls wouldn’t last ten minutes on this tour!
It’s an exciting opportunity to share with your friends or family, to learn a little about Fernie’s history, have a little ‘spook’ this Halloween, and enjoy a bit of theatre and trickery on a dark night in the historic downtown. The Ghost Tours begin October 22 and run through to November 5.
Lindsay plans to continue working with the Fernie Museum, with some exciting new events and exhibits on the horizon, as well as singing with the local group, The Audielles. You will also likely find her in theatrical roles and volunteering and participating as a member of Fernie’s performance community in a plethora of ways. Stay tuned…
Visit FernieMuseum.com for more information on what’s up and coming or to book your Ghost Tour!
1. When did you first arrive in Fernie and what brought you here?
I arrived in 1983 in my mom’s uterus and was actually born in Calgary as I was in an incubator for a while. I lived here until I was 18 and came back when I was 29.
2. Who do you remember first meeting?
I guess my parents! Pretty formative experience.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie?
I grew up in Cokato which is different… to us Fernie was the big city. We would get everyone together and go into town, see exotic things like sidewalks and then do all the errands you needed to, load into the van and go back to the farm. Miniature version of farm and city life. It was only 3km… but when you’re seven it is a long way to go.
4. What keeps you here?
I have a life here - friends and family and a warm, dry place to sleep and a job that I mostly enjoy.
5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
I like hiking. I started last year and made a pact as I was sick of sitting at the desk and giving people directions to trails that I had never done. It’s nice! But I’m still terrified of bears and cougars…
6. What time of the year do you love most in Fernie, and why?
I really like fall, it’s one of my favourite times of year. The pretty leaves, it’s no longer 37 degrees and there is also Halloween and weird supernatural things which helps.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years?
I think we’re going to have to start transitioning away from skiing, the snow is not going to be as good. Summers are going to keep being smokey, so there will be more tourism in spring and fall. I would like to see us continue to exist, that would be good. I have concerns…
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
I go to Soar every working day and do whatever is happening at 9am. It’s a really big part of my being able to function. I also do creative writing projects, so write for about an hour each day depending on how well it goes.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I love baking, but I bake really ugly cakes. I’m terrible at the decorative part, but it tastes okay!
10. Quote to live by: When I go to the gym, my motto is ‘mediocre consistency.’ You don’t have to be awesome every day!Do the minimum and it will get you a lot further than you think. It’s okay to be lame if you need to!
Pĥoto by Krista Turcasso