Yellowhead County Photo

Masha Scheele

Slave Lake. Fort McMurray. Marlboro. High Level.
Are people prepped if Hinton is added to the growing list of communities that experienced an evacuation alert or notice?

Brenda Walsh was aware of the fires that were coming dangerously close to Fort McMurray in 2016, but on the morning of May 3, her daughter went to school just like any other day and she headed off to work.

“In the morning it didn’t look so bad, but in the afternoon with the heat and wind it starts raging and then we noticed it was bad,” recalls Walsh, who took videos of the sky and the ashes falling down outside of her office.

Coworkers started to leave town and after being made aware that her neighbourhood was under evacuation order she made the call to her boss and headed back home.

“I have a box of pictures that I never put into albums or anything and it came to my mind that I should’ve grabbed them, but it was like I was running around in circles and I had to have someone telling me what to do almost,” said Walsh.

She packed some clothes, water, passports, and a bag of apples while her husband picked up their daughter at school, and their granddaughter, as her mom couldn’t get back into the city to get her. In hindsight, she would have done things different.

“I wouldn’t wait so long and I would be more prepared, like with my pictures and things like that. Things that can’t be replaced, your pictures, your special momentos. Some people lost so much of that,” she added.

With the only open highway heading north, they headed to Fort McKay on a quarter tank of gas.

“That’s another thing I would do to prepare ourselves is having gas in our tank. We only had barely a quarter of a tank,” said Walsh.

Walsh now has copies of important documents distributed between a few family members and says she would worry less about packing clothes and things that could be replaced.

Closer to home, Rosanna Ploentzke, owner of the Dreamcatcher Golf Course in Yellowhead County, was caught off guard when she was told to evacuate during the Marlboro fire over May long weekend.

She still had golfers out on her course. With little time to take care of her customers, let alone allow them to hook up their trailers, all she grabbed of personal effects was her purse and her dogs.

“I didn’t even take a jacket, and we have two companies and I have an external hard drive I should’ve grabbed and I take photographs and I should’ve grabbed my laptop and external hard drive for that one. I didn’t think of it until the middle of the night,” she said, echoing Walsh’s sentiments that there are things she would prepare differently in hindsight.

Neighbouring Marlboro and Robb have been subject to evacuation notices or alerts in the past calendar year, a large fire blazed on Hinton’s doorstep last June, and fire conditions in the area’s forests are high to extreme.

The reasons are piling up for Hintonites to pay heed to lessons learned by Walsh and Ploentzke and others who have had to leave their homes and businesses at a moment’s notice. The fire situation and conditions led to fire bans and off-highway vehicle (OHV) restrictions in the Yellowhead region to limit the chance of a human-caused wildfire.

Yellowhead County Photo
Marlboro wildfire on May 19

Hinton Fire Chief Todd Martens said the Town often follows the lead of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) when it comes to fire bans.

“They have weather meteorologists and experts in fire behaviour. They look at the numbers, the humidity, the fire index,” he added.

AAF stats show that in 2018, over 60 per cent of wildfires were human-caused and in the last five years 81 wildfires were started by off-highway vehicles (OHV). The decision when or where to implement a fire ban is done provincially depending on the fire hazard, type of weather condition forecasted and the type and level of fire activity being experienced provincially.

“That’s a big indicator, all the resources are in High Level right now for forestry and municipal, so there’s not a lot of resources around here, that plays into the decision as well,” stated Martens.

Firefighters, aircraft and equipment are pre-positioned across the province in order to be ready to fight new fires said AAF.

“When a significant amount of resources are allocated to fighting existing wildfires in other areas of the province, fire bans and OHV restrictions are a good tool to help minimize the probability of new wildfire ignitions in that area,” stated an email from Mélissa Lamadeleine, acting information officer in the Edson Forest Area, in response to questions from The Voice.

“While the risk of wildfire in your area may have decreased, the provincial wildfire situation may be different and more active as well as other locations that fall within your area.”

The province could issue a ban for the Edson Forest District that is protected as part of Alberta’s Forest Protection Area (FPA) in which Hinton is located, and Yellowhead County is responsible for the area outside of the FPA.

Municipalities, town, villages and summer villages take on the responsibility to issue fire bans within the boundaries of the municipal districts.

Martens stated that the biggest concern for wildfires around Hinton is during springtime, when chinooks have dried everything out and there hasn’t been enough time for the trees to turn green.

An added concern to the area are the dead trees from the mountain pine beetle, which serves like kindling.

Hinton has been proactive in Firesmarting within the town each year, including removing trees affected by the beetle, but the risks for wildfires are still there and it’s up to residents to prepare themselves.

In preparation for a wildfire, the Town of Hinton has an emergency response plan, which Martens calls multi-jurisdictional, as they would work together with Yellowhead County and AAF.

Martens and deputy Bryan Hall both spent time working in Fort McMurray during the wildfire in 2016.

Both Martens and Hall came back to Hinton with new knowledge to make the emergency response plan more efficient.

“We took away that documentation was very important, people showed up that weren’t supposed to be there. The billing side of things. Someone would show up with a truck and bill the province, that documentation for everything, the graders, the hose, the water trucks, the pumper trucks, all that kind of stuff. To get that documentation started first, so you know who’s there instead of people going all over the place,” said Martens.

This prompted a new look at the plan in Hinton, which was then reviewed and approved by the province.

“This year, council approved $75,000 to renew our emergency response plan, our evacuation plans and our sprinkler deployment plan. That will be contracted out and they will work in partnership with us to do that,” stated Martens.

Communications with other agencies has improved as a unified command system was initiated in the early stages of the Chuckegg Creek fire in High Level this year.

The unified command system is an application used when more than one agency work together to establish a common set of objectives and strategies and come up with a plan to fight the wildfire.

A three stage evacuation process was developed and accepted by all levels of government in Canada, including an evacuation alert, an evacuation order, and an evacuation rescind. Residents of Hinton are advised to prepare a 72-hour evacuation kit in case of an emergency as outline in the Town’s Four Steps To Prep brochure, from which the images on this centrespread were copied.

“We give away 72-hour kits, multiple times per year. We see with the community in Hinton, where we are three hours away from a major centre, we’re an hour away in any direction to a gas station. The 72-hour kit and preparing your vehicle and your emergency plan is such a huge part of that,” said Josh Yaworski, communications coordinator for the Town of Hinton.

During emergencies, you can stay informed through, Hinton’s social media pages, or sign up to receive notifications by clicking ‘Notify Me’ on the Town of Hinton’s website.

Local teacher honoured with award nomination

Photo courtesy of Molly Marlow

Masha Scheele

Teaching a classroom full of teenagers can be intimidating, but one teacher at Father Gerard Redmond High School has started her career off strong with a first-year teaching award nomination.

“Middle school is just really funny, you can just see ideas happening in their brain and they’re already doing it. They just have no recognition of why they’re doing things, it’s just kind of happening and they’re just as surprised by it as you are every time,” said Molly Marlow, who teaches high school and middle school grades.

She said middle school was an eye opener for her in September, but principal Daniel Burkinshaw said she’s done a fantastic job switching between high school and middle school teaching.

Burkinshaw, together with vice principal Barb Marchant, and the rest of their administrative team nominated Marlow for the award, presented to first-year teachers for excellent work.

“Not only did she have the organization and the work ethic, she also really had a gift for connecting with kids, and connecting with tough kids. Understanding in a way that was well beyond her years,” said Burkinshaw about nominating Marlow.

“She was able to look at a kid and see them as who they are as an individual and she meets them where they are, she doesn’t expect them to meet her where she is, or where the curriculum says they should be,” he continued.

Based on the school’s nomination, the Evergreen Catholic Board then chose Marlow as their nominee. All nominees participated in a 30-minute interview as part of the winner selection process and the two winners out of 19 nominees were announced on May 24 by the ASBA (Alberta School Boards Association) from zone two and three at a celebration in Edmonton.

Photo courtesy of Molly Marlow
Nominees at ASBA celebration

“The night was very nice, all the nominees were honoured and received a certificate after introducing themselves and talking a bit about their year. I did not win, but the two winners seemed amazing and it is an honor just to be nominated,” stated Marlow.

Burkinshaw also noted that the school has felt very fortunate to have Marlow as a teacher and have been impressed with her willingness to help out in any way she can.

“I think any principal in this district would tell you, we’ve been really blessed with some really great teachers, but it’s not easy recruiting to Hinton. A lot of young teachers want to be in the major centres, and I really do believe that we have been blessed by the [teachers] we have gotten,” said Burkinshaw.

Before moving to Hinton, Marlow lived near Toronto where she finished her teaching degree at York University.

“I couldn’t really think of anything else that I wanted to do. Every time I thought of what I wanted to do when I was older I just pictured still being at school and I like working with kids,” she said about choosing her career path.

With the lack of teaching jobs in the Toronto area, many of her fellow teachers in the Toronto area were moving to find a full-time job.

“I decided to go somewhere else and it worked out amazing. I subbed for one semester and then I got something full time so it’s been great to get to do that,” she said.

Marlow was initially hired as a high school English teacher and currently teaches English to grade 10, 11, and 12 students, health to grade five and seven students, and options to grade seven and eight students, which has allowed her to meet many of the schools students and build up her experience with different age groups.

For Marlow, teaching has been unlike what she thought it would be, which has made her first year both overwhelming and exciting.

“Every day is so different. I never know what to expect and it’s a good thing. I’m never bored. There’s just always something happening, a kid is really excited about something or something new is happening in the school,” she said adding that she expects to be better prepared for her second year of teaching.

“Having the connection with the kids will make it a bit of a smoother transition.”

Positive reinforcement – that’s the ticket!

Masha Scheele

On a sunny day in Hinton, one local kid strapped on his helmet and grabbed his bike for a ride around his neighbourhood. As he pedalled along he suddenly saw blue and red flashing lights out of the corner of his eye.

A little beep of the horn notified him to pull over, and as a Hinton Peace Officer got out of his vehicle and walked over the kid said “hi, am I doing something wrong?” 

The officer replied, “I just pulled you over to talk to you and give you a positive ticket.”

“Oh, was I speeding?” responded the kid, “how fast was I going?”

Receiving a ticket from an officer is not something the majority of people enjoys, but Hinton’s youth may feel differently about the positive tickets handed out over the past four years. 

“Peace officers wanted to do some public education with the youth and be more engaged in the community with the youth. These [tickets] are for kids that are riding their bike with a helmet, using a crosswalk, using a helmet with a skateboard, or picking up garbage. Friendly interactions,” stated Todd Martens, Protective Services Manager in Hinton.

Each year, peace officers and RCMP are on track to hand out around 200 positive tickets for doing active or safe things in Hinton. Once kids receive these tickets, they come with their parents to the fire hall where their name is entered into a draw for an iPad and they get to pick a prize, which range from youth passes at the recreation centre, or the trampoline park, to coupons for sundaes at Dairy Queen or A&W burgers. 

“Originally we started with not too many tickets. Below 100, then the next year it climbed to 120, and then now it’s around 200,” said Martens.

“That’s a lot of interaction between our peace officers and our community. They do school patrols in the mornings and in the afternoon, in the evenings they patrol the bike park, or the skate park, and that’s where they go and speak to the kids. Talk to the kids about active healthy lifestyles and that kind of stuff.”

In one case, Martens said, community peace officer Ben Sharpe wrote up a positive ticket for a 10-year-old boy outside of his family’s home, which upset the boy as he figured that this would ruin his chances of getting into college.Sharpe explained it was positive, and that he would even get a prize.

“That prompted us to do a little bit more public education, a little bit more facebook media stuff and with the town to say peace officers aren’t just out there writing tickets, they’re writing youth positive tickets,” said Martens.

“It’s not always a negative thing why an officer may stop you, it may be for public education or to help you out.”

Two years ago, officers started carrying extra helmets in their vehicles of different colours and sizes to give to kids who aren’t wearing one and the program further evolved to include new bikes.

“We have a linked bike program. Kids are able to come in if they don’t have a bike or their family doesn’t have the funds, then we size you for a bike and we have bikes out back that are brand new, from little ones to big ones. That’s kind of how the positive tickets spiraled a little bit more. It’s been good to have that interaction with the kids,” said Martens.

Currently, officers have no more helmets available but they have applied for another Traffic Safety Grant to fund the program. 

“That’s how we got the helmets to begin with. We’ll be applying again for that grant this fall and then we should have enough again to buy for two years. Every couple of years, every two years we get another 50 to 60 helmets and use those,” said Martens.

“We’re trying to run it all on grants but there is a little bit of money in my budget to print the tickets.”

Martens added that they are also looking into the Canadian Tire Kickstart program to cover the bikes 100 per cent, while before they received deals from Canadian Tire. 

“It has kind of evolved, but the main idea is that interaction with the kids and rewarding them for being safe,” stated Martens.

“It builds that trust with the kids and that’s what we want. For them to trust us and they can come to us if they had to, or flag us down if something was wrong.”

All is wellness with canine companion at St. Greg’s

Masha Scheele Photo
Wellness dog Ginger is shown here at St. Gregory School with handler and Grade 2 teacher Mary-Jean Newman

Masha Scheele

Ginger was just arriving at St. Gregory Elementary School during recess when a little girl in kindergarten walked towards the school entrance with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Ginger was brought up to the girl, who was still crying, but after a short interaction the girl forgot what her tears were all about and turned right back to the playground to enjoy recess.

It’s just another day on the job for Ginger, a multi-generational Australian Labradoodle who was born on June 17, 2018 to two very well trained parents who were also assisting dogs.

“It happens constantly, when they see her, she de-escalated anxiety, behaviour if a child is having a moment, if they’re just not having a good day, lonely, sad, that’s part of wellness,” said Mary-Jean Newman, a Grade 2 teacher at the school and Ginger’s handler.

Newman first thought about bringing a wellness dog into the school after reading an article about the benefits of dogs for students. She then researched the idea and found Danielle Clarke, an animal behaviour specialist from Dreamcatcher Nature-Assisted Therapy.

Dreamcatcher is a private practice in Alberta that offers animal assisted therapy and has been educating others in the practice for the past 10 years.

“Dogs in schools are becoming very popular, and people wanting to bring their pets everywhere with them is very rampant. But really wanting to do it in an ethical way, really seeking out the best information, and being willing to invest time, energy, and funds into doing it well, I think they’re at the forefront,” said Clarke.

“This seems to be the flagship, not only in Alberta the only program of its kind, but Western Canada. The only program that’s actually going to have a fully trained and full-time wellness dog.”

Before moving to Hinton, Ginger was screened as a puppy by her breeder in Calgary and by Clarke based on the needs of the school.

“You’re always taking a bit of a gamble with a puppy, because just like children, we can hope they’re going to become a doctor at two years old but we don’t know what they’re actually going to turn into. But she screened out beautifully as a puppy,” said Clarke.

When Ginger turned six months old, she began visiting the school to socialize, train, and get used to being around children.

“I will say that she loves kids. Sometimes she can be a little bit aloof with adults, but around the kids she’s really great. She’s definitely in the right place,” said Newman.

Beyond Ginger’s calming effect on children, she has also inspired Newman to empower her students in body language observation using bingo sheets for noticing Ginger’s subtle canine body language points.

“They’re learning, they’re able to go and educate their families and the community at large about calming signals and what does it mean when she licks her lips and what is this and that. They’re becoming little canine experts,” said Clarke.

A lot of the staff at the school have gone through training sessions with Clarke, but as her handler, Newman’s training has been a lot more intensive.

“She’s undergoing courses through Dreamcatcher to learn to facilitate really effective animal assisted intervention in the school. Once she has completed her courses, they will be certified as a team to work together,” explained Clarke.

Other education professionals at the school can also undergo further training in order to work more closely with the wellness dog. After Ginger turns one, she will become certified to work in the school with children by undergoing a series of tests to examine various skills.

In September she will start coming to the school on a regular basis with the goal of her becoming a full-time wellness dog. 

“There are studies out there in animal assisted therapy but also in education of the multiple benefits of having animals around. There’s buzzwords like oxytocin releasing when petting the animals, lowering of heart rates all those things,” said Clarke.

Oxytocin is a hormone that is sometimes referred to in studies as the ‘cuddle hormone’.

Clarke said they also see animals as being motivators for children depending on if they want to have a relationship with that animal. Being able to build trust between the educators and the child,” said Clarke.

“[The dog] allows for another focus point in a dynamic between a professional and a child, often times children can feel intimidated in an adult-child dynamic so a dog helps to facilitate that.”

A common misnomer about Labradoodles is that they are hypoallergenic because they are limited in their shedding. However, they still have skin cells, dander and saliva that kids could be allergic to, but Ginger is as good as any dog can get, according to Newman.

With a few allergies in the school, they have taken precautions like permission forms for all the children and policies for which areas the dog is allowed in the school, what the dog can eat, where the dog can go to the bathroom, how the school is cleaned, when a child with severe allergies is allowed to enter a room the dog was previously in and other considerations.

But the belief is that Ginger will bring a new dynamic to the school; a way to help children in various situations. One thing is for sure, the students at St. Gregory Elementary School already love having her around, asking to pet her as she walks down the hallway, waving to her, and telling her that they love her.

Museum unveiling ‘How Our History Fits’

Madison Sharman, manager at the museum, shows off one of the miniature historical buildings
Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

After some time tinkering around with a model train from the 1970s, the Northern Rockies Museum recreated a scene of Hinton using miniature models of historical buildings for the new exhibit, How Our History Fits.

The model train was donated to the museum, and the staff have given it their best work to get it running once again.

Madison Sharman, manager at the museum, explained that the train would be an ongoing project at the museum, and it plays a central role in this new exhibit.

“I have the mill homes, and I’ll be building the Roxy movie theatre that burnt down in 2009. The train station what it looked like in the 70s, and that’s the Hinton hotel, that burnt down in 1999, it used to be where Starbucks and the weed shop are now,” said Sharman pointing at all the buildings in the exhibit that she’s worked on diligently.

“People have such strong connections to old buildings in town, and to see them recreated is such a novelty for them. But we only have so much space. There was this Chinese food restaurant called the Highway Cafe, and everybody always talks about it so I have to have that on here.”

Also featured are the Athabasca river and the Canadian Northern Bridge, which is the bridge that Hwy. 40 uses to Grande Cache, built in 1912. The Brule sand dunes are also present in the display, with the old train station consumed by the sand poking out in a few areas.

The exhibit will evolve over time featuring new buildings and places, like a beaver pond or the railway tunnel in Robb, which is the longest, most narrow tunnel in Canada still used by the trains, said Sharman.

“They don’t have kits of our buildings so I had the blueprints for the station and the mill homes, so I was able to take those measurements and make them into HO scale, I didn’t have a blueprint for [the hotel] so I measured how big a window was in a picture and then used that as a reference point,” explained Sharman.

Masha Scheele Photo

The walls around the miniature town are painted with a mural of Roche Miette, done by a volunteer, and above the mountains a timeline is shown of Hinton’s history compared to the rest of the world.

Terra Verch, public relations director at the museum, was the main researcher for the history portion of the exhibit, while Sharman put most of her efforts into recreating the buildings.

“It’s a comparative look at the history of our region with the rest of the world, because it’s kind of hard to understand where we fit. Our history is relatively new in comparison to the rest of the world,” said Sharman about the timeline.

Sharman points at one spot on the timeline, “A seedling that starts growing at the Columbia Icefields around 1265 and it’s still growing. Because it can’t grow very fast, it’s so cold in the winters so it grow super slow.”

In another spot she points out the first people moving into the area, compared to the middle east where they’ve already domesticated sheep, indicating a major civilization.

HCHS wins way into rugby 7s provincials

Tyler Waugh

The Harry Collinge High School girls senior 7s rugby team rolled to a zone championship May 27 in Thorsby and punched their ticket to the inaugural Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) provincial championships this coming week in St. Albert.

And while this is the first-ever sanctioned provincial tournament in 7s rugby, the road to the championships has been a long one for an experienced Harry Collinge team.

“These girls have been working hard for years to get to where they are. They are all strong athletes, and I feel lucky to be able to work with them.  This is a great step for our program, and will hopefully encourage other students to take up the sport in the years to follow,” said coach Rebecca Turnbull.

Harry Collinge opened zones with a close win against host Thorsby, a team that Turnbull said has made massive strides in their first season. The second game was against Drayton Valley, a contest where Turnbull said the squad needed to properly ruck – a term used to describe when the ball is on the ground and the opponents battle over the ball for possession.

“When they did, they were able to come out on top,” said Turnbull.

“Both teams that the girls were playing against here had significantly less experience than our girls, and ultimately that was the difference.”

As has been the case all season, the Harry Collinge squad continued to improve through the day, despite having a relatively small lineup that doesn’t allow for a lot of subbing. That was even more of a challenge at zones, where the squad dealt with a hot day and little breeze leading up to the final against Thorsby.

“We were lucky with the schedule in this tournament, as we had ample time to recover in between games, which was often not true for our opponents,” Turnbull said.

“The Thorsby team had played more recently than we did, so we had fresh legs, but we needed to overcome being out of the ‘swing of things’ and back into the rugby frame of mind.”

Harry Collinge rolled over Thorsby in the final, with coach saying that the squad did all the little things well, adapted to the other team’s strengths and played to their own strengths when possible.

“Our back core (fly half, centre, and wing) were careful to ensure that they were always on a side of the field where they had the opportunity to break away. They did a lot of running in this game, and scored many tries throughout,” Turnbull said.

Provincials will take place May 31 – June 1 at the St. Albert Rugby Club and according to the latest schedule published on the ASAA site Harry Collinge will have its first match at 11:40 am against St. Andre Bessette out of Edmonton. The squad closes out round robin play at 3:25 pm against JC Charyk from the South Central Zone.

The top-ranked squad from that pool gets a bye into the semi-finals at 12:05 pm. 

The championship and bronze medal games will both be played at 1:55 pm on Saturday.

Hinton dancers go international

Masha Scheele Photo
Hinton School of Dance year-end recital

Masha Scheele

Thirty-eight dancers from Hinton are committing their time and effort to gain international credentials through the International Dance Academy this year.

After a successful and organized year, Hinton School of Dance (HSD) showed off their best routines during two weekends of performances in May. Around 100 students took to the stage and 38 of them form the exam division who after precise training will take the international exam on June 13 and 14.

“I hold a huge value to the exam process. It helps the dancers really work towards a goal, work harder because they know they are going to be examined and adjudicated on that. I believe it brings up the quality of the school,” said Tanya Strandlund, artistic director at HSD.

The exam program was brought back by Strandlund last year after a few years hiatus and now it’s a fast growing program once again.

Masha Scheele Photo
Hinton School of Dance year-end recital

“When people really wanted it back they were asking me and that’s when we formed the program again and now it has a different weight to it. People understand the prestige behind it, and in small town when people tell you this is prestigious, this is an important program, you’re lucky we’re able to afford it, you don’t always hear that. This time around everybody was very excited and very grateful,” noted Strandlund.

According to Strandlund, more dancers have made the commitment this year to take the exam than previously. An international examiner will come from the Cecchetti Canada Society International, said Strandlund, and this year the examiner is from the Alberta Ballet.

“Then we bring in a pianist from Edmonton who is used to playing for exams. It’s a really cool experience, and we do it here in Hinton,” said Strandlund.

Dancers within the program are held to certain requirements, like an outlined amount of training each week and physical expectations. 

“In the end it’s so worth it because they have international credentials, stating that this is the level they’ve completed. They could go to any school internationally,” said Strandlund.

Strandlund said some students from HSD have gone on to train in England, dance for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and even dance for the National Ballet in New York.

“One of our dancers left last year and was accepted into the Vimy Ridge program at Edmonton School of Ballet. She’s there now. We have another dancer going to Lethbridge, one to Calgary. They’re doing fantastic, their exam results last year were wonderful,” stated Strandlund.

Strandlund is a qualified teacher of the exam program, for which she took extra training. Besides the exam division at HSD, the school also offers a recreational division, in which they learn the fundamentals of dancing but there are no time requirements, the acrobatics division, and the competitive division. The competitive division requires attendance to a specific number of classes each week in order for the dancers to compete in other areas.

HSD took part in three competitions this spring in Camrose, Edmonton, and Hinton.

Strandlund noted during the first competition HSD dancers competed against other dancers who had done three to five competitions already, which was slightly intimidating, but by the second one they nailed their craft and competed well.

Masha Scheele Photo
Hinton School of Dance year-end recital

“We only do three per season. Some schools do upwards of seven. But we won’t do that, we will never do that. We’re just not that school. We consider ourselves a very good school, but because we don’t spend all the time travelling away, it takes away class time. We feel that we’ve hit a good balance,” said Strandlund.

Strandlund organized the Hinton competition, Dance Summit, for the fourth year in a row on May 3 and 5.

Her idea for the competition was to allow the dancers and dance families to experience the competition and be able to go home at the end of each night.

Since its inception, the competition has grown from one and half days to a full three day event.

“Where I feel like it’s really grown is how we operate the school is so inclusive, it’s such a friendly environment, we really operate as a team. And that’s hard to say with a board conjoined with a faculty,” said Strandlund.