US, UK & Canada — How Hard Is the Recession Really Hitting Us?

US, UK, Canada and the RecessionBecause I work for clients throughout the globe, I’m often asked if the recession has hit us hard here in Canada. I’d like to say yes, but as an outsider watching the US economy and the world as a whole, I’m really not so sure. It has certainly affected us, I don’t think anyone is exempt from it entirely, but I certainly don’t think it has crippled us the way it has so many others.

US and the Recession

The US as a whole seems to have been hit really hard. People are going homeless by the droves, homes are sitting empty, and don’t even get me started on the banks and auto industry. Entire states are going broke and there seems to be no end to the fallout. It’s no surprise that low-income families are feeling the brunt of things and children are experiencing a higher level of stress.

Not everything seems to be going horribly wrong there, however. Some industries seem to be doing quite well. Some people who were fortunate enough to play their cards right also seem to be profiting quite nicely.

UK, Ireland, Europe, and the Rough Economic Waters

Across the big pond, you don’t seem to notice the people dumping their Irish credit cards too quickly or going sour on their mortgages. Their systems have undoubtedly tightened up, but it doesn’t seem to be too serious, or at least not to the point that people becoming homeless like they are in the US. Everyone there seems to be making it through relatively unscathed with a few adjustments in the way they’re doing things.

People seem to travel just as much including the Irish, reward credit cards in hand, having a good time. Of course, many are staying a little closer to home, or going less frequently, but overall, it seems unaffected. Shopping seems alive and well, the housing market has slowed down a bit, but all in all, pretty good.

Canada and the Current Economy

Canada has survived in about the same manner as Europe and the UK. We’ve seen a bit of a slump, but not like the US. Yes, some people here have lost their jobs and their homes, but Saskatchewan has also created a record number of jobs to give it the lowest unemployment rate in the country. In my own copywriting business, I’ve experienced exponential growth because everyone seems to be moving to the Internet either for improved marketing or just to start a business and a new income stream.

Our retail industry is slow, but not as bad as you’d think. Everyone seems to be finding a way to make ends meet. People are changing their spending habits, and considering how out of control this seemed to be, it’s certainly for the better. Those who don’t, well, they’ll figure it out eventually.

I’ve seen entire towns continue to spend until the money dried up then attempt to defend themselves when taxpayers started getting angry. Germany has also seemed to discover what happens when you gamble a little too much.

The way I see it, we’ll all learn and rise from the ashes. Some just take a little longer than others.

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The One Thing Saskatchewan Doesn’t Have

Rollercoasters and Other Fun RidesHave you ever been to Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England? Well, if you haven’t, you should definitely check out this theme park in the UK. Of all the theme parks I’ve seen in the UK, this one would definitely top my list of spots to see on a holiday. It’s packed full of rides, all kinds of shows to see, great places to eat and grab something to drink including the treats that theme parks are known for. Then, there’s an awesome hotel to stay in right there.

Cool right? Well, Saskatchewan doesn’t have any amusement parks or theme parks…not permanent ones anyway. I’m not sure why, but I’m thinking that I’d have a pretty good idea after trying to get my skin unstuck from the metal roller-coaster after a ride at -40 during a snowstorm would tell me.

We do get rides, but for those, you’ll want to attend Agribition in Regina or one of the local rodeos or stampedes. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any fun rides though.

Kenosee Superslides Waterpark

Instead of the Infusion or the Avalanche roller-coaster in the UK, which do look like tons of fun, you’ll find Twister, Bonzai, and Kids slides at Kenosee Superslides Waterpark. (You’ll find this exciting place close to Carlyle in Southeastern Saskatchewan). Anyway, tons of fun things to do here too, even if you aren’t quite that adventurous.

There’s tubing and the ‘Lazy Canal’ as well as shopping at the clothing store, sports such as volleyball, and all kinds of special events. Then, you can grab something to eat while you’re there, or enjoy some of the other local attractions in the area including the Bear Claw Casino and all of the events and activities hosted there.

Sundance Hot Air Balloon Rides

There’s absolutely no better way to see the beauty of Saskatchewan than from the calm, drifting serenity of a famous Sundance Hot Air Balloon. For around an hour, you can see the best of Saskatchewan from a 1000 feet in the air. There’s no dealing with busy airports, gates, or trying to sit comfortably in the middle seat. You’ll also enjoy the immense peace and quiet of this form of air travel as well.

Sundance offers ride in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset through most of the year, so you can go when it works best from you. You’ll also want to make sure that you remember your camera so that you can preserve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Horse Drawn Sleigh and Carriage Rides in Beautiful Saskatoon

If you like a touch of the old, a horse and carriage (or sleigh ride) around Saskatoon’s Spadina Crescent is perfect. You’ll enjoy a slow and relaxing tour of the city’s best areas just as Saskatchewan pioneers would have a hundred or more years ago. You can even havea fire and warm up to end your trip off nicely. It’s certainly romantic and the kids will love it. Regardless who you bring along, it will be one of those activities you’ll never forget. Mmmm roasted marshmallows. Anyone else craving marshmallows? Now where was I? Oh yeah…

Sadly, Saskatchewan doesn’t have any full-time theme parks like the UK, but the rides it does have are just as special. Try them out for yourself and see.

(This post also appears on Travel the Prairies at

Qu’appelle River Valley — Where The Land Tells You Its Own Story

Fort Qu'appelle 1910

Fort Qu’appelle 1910

Dividing the province of Saskatchewan from Lake Diefenbaker to the mouth of the great Assiniboine River in Manitoba, the stunning Qu’appelle River (link has a great video of the area!) and its beautiful valley has been the center of many Saskatchewan lives for centuries.

One look and you’ll be in awe of the lay of the land while the kids will be screeching ‘go faster, go faster’ from the back seat. It is definitely the highlight of many road trips.

Qu’appelle Valley — Its History

Historically, both the Hudson’s Bay Company (known as ‘The Bay’ today) as well as the North West Company, which had a post at Fort Esperance, used the river as early as 1781 and 1819 respectively. As a main trading route, many of the goods throughout Canada and Europe during those years came down this river.

The Qu’appelle River Valley was also an important location for the area’s Cree people. The legend says, as a warrior was crossing Echo Lake, he heard a voice call his name. He answered the call by yelling back ‘Qu’appelle’ or ‘who calls’ or ‘who is calling’. The sound he heard was that of his princess who called his name with her dying breath. Many still say they can hear the calls of the two lovers today. (Lebret, Saskatchewan is said to be the best spot for echoes.)

Qu’appelle Valley — The Land

The Qu'appelle Valley near Cutarm, Saskatchewan, circa 1910

The Qu’appelle Valley near Cutarm, Saskatchewan, circa 1910

The valley was created just after the last ice age. The result of runoff from the glaciers, the fertile land is brimming with native vegetation. Some of the species here are unique to Saskatchewan and the world in some cases. In fact, the area is one of Saskatchewan’s most ecologically sensitive regions.

The water system links Katepwa, Echo, Mission, Pasqua, Round, and Crooked Lakes that come to life from May long weekend until September long weekend. There are tons of places to camp and different events to attend throughout the season. Hiking in the area is fantastic and there are some amazing fishing opportunities all year around.

For me, however, it isn’t the destination that intrigues me as much as the drive. Tons of little back roads and main highways will take you across the river, but they all seem to have one thing in common:

As you approach the valley, you can almost tell something is coming. The roads take you up and down soft river hills and past farmyards that give you a glimpse of life on the farm. My personal favorites are the abandoned farmhouses long since forgotten, but still standing triumphantly against the horizon telling their stories to anyone who will listen.

All of a sudden, you find yourself at the top of a hill and the road all but disappears. You are looking at the hills in the distance (a couple of miles in many spots) with the Qu’appelle River twisting its way through the rugged terrain below. You can see how the water has cut into the land revealing earth than hasn’t been seen for thousands of years. It is like standing on the edge of a cliff and going over knowing you’ll land safely at the bottom.

I will tell you that my favorite ones are the little gravel roads. They have a certain rustic feel that plays my romantic heartstrings and temporarily appeases my hunger for history and culture. Some even wind along the side of the river valley and take you on a quiet scenic tour not many see.

However, I recommend that you not take any of the less traveled roads without knowing for certain which ones to take. Not that you’ll suddenly find yourself without a road at the top of a cliff, but many of them do not take you across the river. You can get lost easily, and with little to no traffic and few farms along the way, it could be a bit tricky finding help. Also, the deep valley also means that cell phone service is patchy at best.

For more information about the area, check out Virtual Saskatchewan’s entry on the Qu’appelle Valley.

(Dedicated to the 4 most loyal readers ever. You guys are the best!)

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An Interesting Post on “Top 10 Reasons to Live in Saskatchewan”

You all may enjoy this interesting post on reasons to live in Saskatchewan. While many of them are made in jest, some of them bring up some interesting points. For instance, our economy and housing market is booming here, but one can’t help but wonder what will happen when the world comes crashing down and Saskatchewan moves back into the territory of “have-not.”

Our Alberta counterparts have been the unfortunate victims of an economy that grew far too fast and too large. Thousands of people moved to the province with a promise of higher paying jobs and the chance to live the Canadian dream only to find that rent is hitting $1000 a month or more if you are lucky to find one.

With the introduction of new fees and the promise of future environmental measures, gas and oil companies clawed back their operations putting many families out of work. Many Albertans have lost their homes as a result and are unsure of where to turn. The government doesn’t seem to be jumping up with any immediate solutions.

Will the Saskatchewan government learn from these mistakes and put solutions into place? We can only brace ourselves, grit out teeth, and wait.

On the bright side, you have to admit that “Buying a huge John Deere mower makes sense” does cause a few entertaining ideas to cross your mind.

The post can be found at

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Four Days of Great Music and Unforgettable Fun at Craven Country Jamboree

Include some fantastic music in your summer travel plans!

Include some fantastic music in your summer travel plans!

©2008Angie Haggstrom

Running in the beginning of July is one of the biggest music festivals in Canada. Craven Country Jamboree 2008 is over, but next year’s show is already in full swing. With some of the biggest names in country music in one of the friendliest places in the Canadian Prairies, it’s no wonder people travel here from all over the world.

Located at Craven, Saskatchewan in the beautiful Qu’Appelle valley, the World’s Greatest Country Music Festival is a short drive from Regina. Their show has hosted some of the world’s biggest music stars on their stage throughout their 25-year history. Reba McEntire, Roy Orbison, Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and the list goes on and on.

Besides an amazing lineup the show also includes a wide variety of activities. You can hang out in the beer gardens and listen to the tunes. There are Pro Bull Riding events, beach parties, a 50/50 lottery, and cowboy church. The surrounding communities also hold many different events and sales throughout the show.

So where do you lay your head while you’re here? Right here, of course! The grounds includes open group camping where you find yourself a spot and set up camp. Reserved camp sites are available as well away from the crowds, but you might want to book those early. The general camping area is $40 for their 2009 show and reserved areas range from $75-$100.

The 2008 Jamboree had sold out all 23 500 tickets before the show had even started. The music linup included the talents of Sara Evans, Mark Chesnutt, Paul Brandt, Toby Keith, Sawyer Brown, and many more. Tickets are already on sale for the 2009 festival. Prices range from $139 – $179 for the entire show and there are only 21 000 available.

If you are looking to include an unforgettable event in your travel plans next summer, you should definitely consider this event! If great music and a fun time isn’t enough, there are so many more things to do. Regina has a natural history and science museum as well as a host of other attractions and services. Until then…

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Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan: Romantic Scenes and Year-Round Fun

Travel to Cypress Hills Saskatchewan For Family Vacations or a Romantic Getaway

Travel to Cypress Hills Saskatchewan For Family Vacations or a Romantic Getaway

©2008Angie Haggstrom

The Saskatchewan side of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a favorite spot for family vacations, romantic retreats, and outdoor enthusiasts alike. This portion of the park has enough amenities to make it easy and convenient to stay in while maintaining its stunning scenery and natural appeal.

In the 20-minute drive from Maple Creek, Saskatchewan to the Cypress Hills, you can feel your ears pop from the sudden 600-Meter rise in elevation. The amazing scenery begins at the top of ‘park hill’ before you even get into the official park boundary. The narrow road winds peacefully through the trees past a farmyard and quaint acreage (watch for the family of wild turkeys that live near the road just past the bridge). After going past the marsh full of cattails, you reach the park gate where you can pay for your passes and collect valuable information about the area from the knowledgeable and experienced staff.

The first building on the right is the park office and should be your first stop when you enter the park. The antique jailhouse door out front is great for pictures, and inside, there is a variety of animal bones and plants as well as tons of interesting stories about the area and its residents. The small general store sells all of the necessities as well as all kinds of souvenirs, summer toys, and camping supply. Next door, the fast food shop (currently called Dar’s Little Dipper) is a favorite spot for the locals as well as visitors to the area. The delightful café situated in front of the lake is a great place to enjoy a light meal.

When it comes to places to stay in the Cypress Hills, there is a wide variety of camping. There are group sites, full electrical sites, tenting spots hidden in the trees, and pair camping sites. If you prefer the comforts of a warm room and a soft bed, head deeper into the trees to the Cypress Hills Resort. Here, visitors have their stay of hotel rooms, cabins, or luxurious condominiums. You can eat in the delicious restaurant, have cocktails in the lounge, or grab a bag of marshmallows and a package of hotdogs for a weenie roast and an evening by the fire.

The Park is certainly not lacking for things to do. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, there are a variety of boats and bikes to rent, and a walking path heads around the entire lake and throughout the park. A golf course and a mini golf course are also located in the park.

What the park is truly famous for is its trail, vegetation, and wildlife. One of the best ways to see the area at its best is to take one of many self-guided walking trails. The easy to walk trails show you habitat and give information on the area’s animals and vegetation. Some of the things you can see include animals such as beavers, moose, elk, and white tail deer and plants such as orchids and the famous Lodge Pole Pine that can’t be found anywhere else except in the mountains. Cougars have also been sighted in the park, however, the chances of seeing one are pretty slim.

Winter brings with it entirely new experiences. Camping might not be too pleasant, but the resort is open all year round. The cross-country skiing is some of the best in Canada. Why? It is quiet, peaceful, and the terrain ranges from easy to difficult. Snowmobiling, skating on the lake, and tobogganing are favorite activities in the winter sunshine.

Unlike typical forests with heavy underbrush, the pine trees stand tall, straight, and have branches only on the top half of the trees allowing you to see farther into the wilderness. Other trees and bushes mix into the pines heavier in some spots, but perhaps what is most interesting is the mix of prairie grasses and grassland that meet up with the forest. It is amazing to see how the three ecosystems collide.

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