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Plamondon society hopes to expand 'first little church' area

Plamondon church built in 1911 continues to draw attention

There's a small but pristine white church in the background, a snow-covered hill in the foreground, dozens of youngsters climbing up  and sliding down on toboggans. The sky is clear blue and a small stir of smoke is rising from a fire-pit in the church-yard where people are keeping warm and roasting hot-dogs.  It's like a Norman Rockwell collector's plate.

And if you're old enough to know about Rockwell, you might already know a thing or two about the 122 year-old church in Plamondon. Originally built as Plamondon's "first little church" in 1911, the foundations of what is now standing as the mostly-renovated building, has also been used as a clinic, a school, a museum, a theatre and a community centre over its long-standing history. The Chapelle Society was formed in 2004, and moved the church from its original location, on what is now the St. Idadore Church property owned by the St. Paul Diocese, to a 20-acre piece of nearby land. 

A recent Family Day hosted by Plamondon's Historical Chapelle Society on that property was like a walk-back in time — and that's how the society members like it — a chance to invite community members to look back on the history of the little building, and its big impact on the northeastern Alberta community. Carol Plamondon is one of the volunteer board members of the chapelle society, and an organizer of the recent event that drew families to the historic site for an afternoon of fun that wrapped up with a night-display of fireworks.

"We think this was our best year," Plamondon said. "We were really pleased and especially for the families and the kids. Everyone seemed to have so much fun."

The growing popularity of the event has led to some early talk about hosting similar events at other times of the year — but for right now, says Plamondon, the board members are happy with the one main event as they prepare future plans.

Plamondon says there are lots of plans for the property, including walking trails, historic signage, a playground, benches and picnic tables.

"Our goal is to offer a site that promotes educational tours depicting pioneer days, an opportunity for seniors to reminisce about the past and a tourist attraction of historical value," notes Plamondon.

Although the family event is only held once a year for now, she says visitors can access the grounds and the church for special occasions or community rentals.

"The church is available for use, for rent. We like to invite people to use it, to learn about it and the history," said Plamondon. "We've had people who don't know anything about the community come and see the history and we've had others who remember going to movies in the old building."

In recent months, the church has hosted family reunions and a wedding or two.

"It's nice to keep it going," said Plamondon, hoping that the success of the annual family day will continue to draw more attention to the society and the local history. "Hopefully we keep seeing more people who are interested."

The society accepts donations and requests for tours through their social media pages.

Society members credit many community supporters for the recent success of the family event, including local businesses that sponsored food, drinks and fireworks. Several community members — including the local fire department — also volunteered their time to coordinate the fireworks show, while others helped on the toboggan hill and others offered history lessons on the church.



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