Bezanson Agriculture Society – The Encouragement of Community Spirit

Bezanson Agricultural Society’s purpose is to enrich the community through the encouragement of community spirit and well-being by providing facilities, recreational and educational programs, and community opportunities. Facilities include: the operation and maintenance of the Knelsen Community Centre (which includes the Memorial Hall), Buffalo Gravel Gymnasium, two commercial kitchens, an outdoor horse arena, ball diamond, and the promotion of Bezanson’s rich history. The Centre caters to all local groups in the surrounding areal, hosts events, develops projects, and provides essential community initiatives, as well as being available as a rental facility.

Many programs are housed in the Bezanson Community Event Centre, including the Bezanson 4-H Multiclub, Parents & Tots, Rhymes Alive program, and school options curriculum. The hall is the hub of the community and is used for weddings, funerals, meetings, fundraisers, fitness, recreational and educational programs, and community events. The horse arena hosts clinics and an annual horseshow.

When the pandemic hit, the Centre was impacted by the closures and restrictions. During this time, they noticed the need for connection and provided as much support to the community as they could; from Christmas baskets to valentines surprises and volunteer check in’s with community seniors who were isolated.

What may have been most poignant was the lack of awareness of what resources and opportunities were available in the Bezanson area and how to access them. In the 2013 census, there were 125 people living in the hamlet and 2500 in the surrounding area.  Since then, it is believed that figure has doubled. The Ag Society facilitates a network of Community Groups and Organizations known as the “Bezanson Community Groups”. Members are comprised of 14 organizations within the community. As the groups have emerged from the pandemic, the groups have reconnected, and the participating groups have had discussions as to how to re-engage the community.

There is an identified need as to how to make aware and promote the opportunities that are available to the new families coming into the area, as well as those who have resided here for years and are still unaware of what the Ag Society and Community Groups do.

The groups are interested in how to engage the community in the enhancement of the organization, engage them in community activities, and develop resources that will further enhance and create connection for future families. Ultimately, there is a need to engage the younger generation in order to preserve the groups and to create sustainability. This engagement can allow these groups to continue offering the numerous opportunities that are available, whether events, financial resources, social connections, health and wellness, bursaries, agricultural activities, resource development for the local school, churches, babies and toddlers, children, youth, family, and seniors.

In 2021, the Bezanson Ag Society received funding from the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta for Unifying the Bezanson Community Project. The project began by working with Holly Sorgen, Executive Director with Community Futures to develop a strategic and business plan that included a built-in marketing plan. They created strategic steps with the other core groups and utilized the Chamber of Commerce’s Digital Service Squad to restructure their website and social media. Finally, they hired a coordinator to facilitate opportunities between the Ag Society, Kleskun Hills Museum Society, and the Bezanson Recreation Society.

A video using drone footage of the Bezanson area included Bezanson Ag’s Bezanson Community Event Centre, Kleskun Hills Museum, the old Bezanson Townsite, and other exciting tourist spots in the footage.

“The heritage here is rich and we want to showcase that.  We want to share the many opportunities that are available for all ages and interests. We are currently developing a resource list with the organizations, contact information, and what’s happening in this area, which will be available on our website discoverbezanson.ca” shares Audrey Hewings, the Ag Society’s Executive Director.

September 29th will be the conclusion of the project with the Bezanson Community Open House, which will welcome everyone from the area to a dinner and information evening of the many resources, organizations, and businesses.