For our latest edition of Charitable Choices, we spoke with Sarah Hughes, Director of Fund Development at Heritage Park Historical Village.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Heritage Park Historical Village first opened its gates on July 1, 1964. Since opening its doors, the park has grown into one of Calgary’s premier tourist attractions and one of North America’s largest and most successful living history museums. Throughout the year, guests have the opportunity to interact with nearly 100 years of history. Heritage Park’s exhibits span the early 1860s fur trade to the petroleum and automobile-dominated 1950s. It is the park’s mission to connect people with the settlement of Western Canada and preserve our culture and heritage.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Heritage Park strives to present Western Canadian history in an authentic and engaging manner. We want to ensure that the stories we are sharing capture the diversity of the people and places from our past, and that they resonate with our visitors, no matter what age or back ground. Learning about the past helps people have a better understanding of the world we live in today.
When did you start?
I joined Heritage Park in May 2019.
What made you want to get involved?
History has played an important part in my life since I was a child, going on to study it at university. As someone who wasn’t raised in Western Canada, Heritage Park was the first place I visited both on holidays and when I moved here with my son. The park plays a vital role in telling our stories from the past, and helps build resilience within our community as a place that people love to visit, build new memories and share their own stories. Our education programs are one of the largest offered in the city. In a world that is rapidly changing and reacting, the chance to join the team to help Heritage Park stay relevant for future generations was an amazing opportunity.
What was the situation like when you started?
Heritage Park was just launching a great summer season when I arrived. The S.S. Moyie paddle wheel ship was back in the water after being out for a year due to work on the Glenmore Reservoir, and we opened our newly restored Colonist Rail Car after years of on-site restoration work. Heritage Park was buzzing with new energy, and getting ready to move forward on lots of exciting plans, new events and ideas.
How has it changed since?
The COIVD 19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all aspects of Heritage Park effectively severing our ability to raise revenue from our multiple revenue streams; guest attendance, education programs, retail, fundraisers, private events rentals and ticketed events. We were able to reopen the park in late June of 2020 in a COVID-friendly way with limited capacity; however we saw a large decline in our daily guest attendance numbers. Our catering and private events came to a halt in March and have been very slow to bounce back due to COVID regulations. Our school programs continue to be on hold. In- person fundraising events have had to be cancelled, postponed or adjusted and have made reaching our targets extremely difficult. Overall, revenue and attendance is drastically down, but we’ve been working to find new and innovative ways to raise money for the park.
What more needs to be done?
Our top priority for 2021 is getting people to come back to Heritage Park- whether that’s through annual pass purchases, booking their wedding or function here or supporting our ticketed and fundraising events.
How can our readers help?
There are so many ways to support Heritage Park.
You can purchase an Annual Pass for yourself or as a gift. An Annual Pass pays for itself in less than three visits and the experiences guests can have at the park are priceless. Upgrade your Annual Pass to a Heritage Club Membership, for additional benefits including free parking and discounts at various restaurants and stores at the park. If there is an exhibit, a building or a car you love, you can adopt it for a year—and, no you don’t get to drive it! You can honour a special person or moment in your life on one of our Memory park benches and picnic tables. You can participate in our online campaigns: our 50/50 raffles and auctions, or our in- person fundraisers, hopefully returning sometime this year. You can buy a ticket to one of the park’s many special events, dine in our restaurants and cafes and shop in our retail stores. You can choose Heritage Park as your next location to host a business lunch, seminar, or staff party, or celebrate a family reunion or wedding —once we can gather again— in our beautiful and unique venues. Finally, you can simply make a donation to Heritage Park.
Do you have any events coming up?
Visit our website www.HeritagePark.ca for a list of all of our upcoming events. We have an amazing summer season planned this year!
Where can we follow you?
Facebook, twitter and instagram @HeritageParkYYC
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I choose Seniors Secret Service as my charity. As someone who has parents a long way away, I take comfort in knowing there are organizations like this out there that connect with seniors. This is especially important right now as the COVID pandemic has been extremely hard on seniors.