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From Here to the Stars, All Are Welcome in St. Paul

Nestled roughly two hours - or three if you're like me and like to take your time - northeast of Edmonton, St. Paul, Alberta, is a town with a unique claim to fame: the World’s First UFO Landing Pad.

Yet, this community offers much more than an otherworldly attraction. Over the past week, I explored St. Paul, experiencing its rich heritage, tight-knit community, and the serene beauty that surrounds it.

Driving into St. Paul from the west, you’re greeted by a sign showcasing the pride of the community, featuring notable individuals who have made significant contributions in various fields. Canadian Country Music Star Brett Kissel, World Long Drive Champion Jamie Sadlowski, World Curling Champion Marla Mallett, and world-renowned fiddler Calvin Vollrath are a few names from St. Paul that the town is proud to call their own. This pride is evident in every corner, from the old buildings downtown to the stories shared by locals, making St. Paul a welcoming place for residents and visitors alike.

During my stay, I attended an annual general meeting of AlbertaHUB at the Landing Hotel. Even within the hotel’s conference rooms, the sense of small-town pride and strong community bonds was evident. Friendly interactions among attendees, hotel staff, and local decor all pointed to a town deeply connected to its roots and proud of its identity.

St. Paul’s sense of community is palpable. People bustle in and out of downtown businesses, exchange friendly greetings on Main Street, and walk their dogs along well-maintained trails. The hashtag #LoveLocalStPaul prominently displayed on the welcome sign is not just a slogan; it’s a way of life. In St. Paul, there is a genuine love for the local community, a feeling of being part of something larger yet intimately connected.

After the convention, I set out to explore the hidden gems of St. Paul. Despite having only read about the community, seeing it up close and personal was an entirely different experience.

The trails in the north section of the community offer a tranquil escape, where one can easily get lost in the beauty of nature. The wide-open spaces and the sounds of birds and ducks provide a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of larger cities, reminding one of what makes Alberta a destination for those seeking natural beauty and peace.

In larger communities, it’s often hard to find such serene spots. But in St. Paul, taking a moment to stop and listen reveals the true essence of Alberta – the chirping of birds, the distant calls of farm animals, and the gentle rustle of the wind through the trees. It’s a place where the stresses of the big world seem to melt away, offering a rejuvenating retreat for both residents and visitors.

No visit to a small town is complete without a stop at the local coffee shop. In St. Paul, I grabbed a large iced coffee for a morning pick-me-up and found myself amidst the "coffee shop senate" – a group of regulars who gather to discuss the issues of the day - every community has them. Among them was Dave, a gentleman in his mid to late 70s who shared insights about the community’s challenges and strengths.

Engaging with Dave and his fellow 'Senators' provided a candid look at the local concerns. From the lack of activities for younger generations to the rising cost of living, the conversation was a microcosm of the broader issues facing small towns across the country. Roads in the county, access to diverse shopping options, and the desire for more local businesses were among the topics passionately discussed. These conversations were not just idle chatter but a reflection of the deep care these residents have for their community.

For those fascinated by the mysteries of outer space, St. Paul offers a unique attraction: the World’s First UFO Landing Pad. Adjacent to the UFO Tourist Information Centre, the pad was built in 1967 as part of Canada’s centennial celebrations. The plaque nearby reads, "Is a symbol of our faith that mankind will maintain the outer universe free from national wars and strife." These powerful words resonate as a reminder of a time when the world seemed smaller and more united.

The UFO Landing Pad is not just a quirky tourist draw; it’s a monument to peace and friendship, reflecting the optimistic spirit of the 1960s. In today’s world, where division often seems more prevalent than unity, this symbol of hope and harmony stands as a poignant reminder of what can be achieved when communities come together with a shared vision.

St. Paul’s commitment to peace and friendship extends beyond its famous UFO Landing Pad. It’s woven into the fabric of the community, evident in the way residents interact with one another and welcome visitors. The challenges facing St. Paul, like those of many small towns, may seem daunting, but the foundation laid by those who viewed the stars as a safe place is strong and enduring.

In St. Paul, "All Visitors from Earth or Otherwise are Welcome." This welcoming spirit reflects the town’s values and its hope for a future where peace and friendship prevail. The legacy of the UFO Landing Pad, built to commemorate Canada’s centennial, is a reminder that even in the face of challenges, the spirit of unity and goodwill can shine through.

My trek to St. Paul, Alberta, was more than just a visit to another town; it was an immersion into a community that embodies the best of small-town life. From the proud celebration of its notable residents to the deep-rooted sense of community, St. Paul is a place where connections are forged, and the spirit of togetherness is alive and well.

So, if you ever find yourself in Alberta, make sure to take a detour to St. Paul. Experience the tranquillity, engage with the locals, and witness firsthand how a community built on a legacy of peace and friendship continues to thrive in today’s world.


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