BIGHORN – Celebrating how the West is now, a unique festival is looking to shine a light on the unique aspects of rural life.
Way Out West Fest founder Ingrid Schulz launched the event in 2017 with six different activities guests could participate in.
The goal, Schulz said, was to bridge the gap between urban and rural dwellers.
“I always found a big, big disconnect between the people in the city, urban Calgarians, with the West,” Schulz said. “It kind of tweaked me all the time that urban Calgary wasn’t getting to experience the West the way you should.”
She created the Way Out West Fest to bring people together and give them a hands-on experience hosted by people who lived in more rural areas.
“It’s meant to be a portal for people who primarily live in the city,” she said. “We really believe in the human connection to the West and lifestyle.
"The stories and the adventure of it, the magnificence of it and how important it should be for all of us to hold it dear to our hearts and protect it and be really proud of living here. It’s a pretty amazing place in the world.”
At the core of each event lies a drive to bring an exclusive experience to visitors, she said.
The 2019 festival included 16 events and the launch of a market with more than 30 vendors. The Way Out West Fest was slated to be even bigger this year, but was forced to pivot and downsize due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 festival will be COVID-19 friendly, Shulz said, because the majority of events take place outside and are designed to be engaged by small groups. She noted they are ready to adapt and change the festival based on health measures in place.
In the Cochrane area, visitors will be able to explore modern Western architecture during a tour of Carraig Ridge, located northwest of Cochrane.
Carraig Ridge has been a sponsor of Way Out West Fest since the first year and embodies the values of the Way Out West Fest, Schulz said.
The community built on a historic ranch site is akin to a collection of tiny homes, Schulz said. The community is focused on balancing the beauty and preservation of the area by creating a unique location for residents.
Carraig Ridge showcases how to experience the West without destroying it, she said.
“That’s one of the most exciting events,” Schulz said. “It’s so forward-thinking that entire community.”
Schulz said she hopes those that visit Carraig Ridge will be mesmerized by the beautiful views of the area and appreciate the vision that has gone into planning the community.
“Their philosophy is really quite in-sync with what we’re trying to do with the Way Out West Fest,” Schulz said. “I would really encourage anyone to go and take this tour if they haven’t done it before.”
She added on the way to the Carraig Ridge tour, guests will have the opportunity to visit the privately-owned underground Canadian Museum of the Making.
“It’s a collection of machines and tools and artifacts that have been collected over a lifetime,” Schulz said.
There are two tours available on Saturday (Sept 19) at 11 a.m. and noon. The three-hour tour includes charcuterie and beverages at the Rock House cabin.
Masks and hand sanitizer will be available for tour participants.
The biggest event of this year’s Way Out West Fest will be a debate taking place at the Deane House in Calgary, Schulz said.
The debate will feature a panel of speakers discussing the open-pit coal mining projects proposed for the Foothills area. The debate will be followed by dinner.
Visit wayoutwestfest.ca to register for a tour and find the event schedule.