June 19, 2016 - 4:30 PM
VULCAN, Alta. - The "next generation" in a Star-Trek-obsessed southern Alberta community involves a solar park and art display.
The latest attraction in Vulcan, a town of about 2,000 that shares a name with Mr. Spock's home planet, is getting some attention for boldly going into a new era of power production.
And, since planet Vulcan was forged in flames, perhaps it's only fitting that the town's new power project harnesses energy from the fireball that is our sun.
The solar park, which cost about $680,000 to build, includes solar panels both stand alone and as part of stylized grain elevators, a green living space and an art exhibit that lights up at night. The community believes the park is the first of its kind in Canada.
That being said, the town's mayor acknowledges it only generates enough electricity for two homes — certainly not enough to power up any spaceships — so it really qualifies more as a tourist attraction than as a way to light up the community.
"We are boldly going where no man has gone before," Mayor Tom Grant said. "It's like anything in life — one person's junk is another person's treasure and one person's art is another person's solar energy. I think we just have to look outside the box and work with it."
For decades there was little to note about Vulcan, named after the Roman god of fire, other than golden fields of grain, a smattering of cows and grain elevators.
But in the 1990s, local tourism officials realized they could make something of their town sharing a name with Spock's birth place.
In 1995, Vulcan unveiled its own Starship FX6-1995-A to welcome visitors. Its plaque includes greetings written in English, Vulcan and Klingon. Another sign welcomes visitors to Vulcan with the "Live Long and Prosper" motto.
Three years later, the space-themed Vulcan Tourism Trek Station was opened. The community also holds an annual Vul-con Convention and the Spock Days Rodeo.
Leonard Nimoy, who played the Spock character in the original series, in spinoffs and in movies, visited Vulcan in 2010 and was greeted with much fanfare and adoration.
"I think there's always the naysayers in anything that anybody does," Grant said about the solar park. "I'm sure some people don't think it's the best way to go. "But as they buy into the concept, see what it produces and what it can do for our community, I think the majority will be on side.
"Hey! This is the future."
Grant, who has lived in Vulcan his entire life, said the Star Trek influence and the town's science-related endeavours have been embraced by most residents.
He said it has also put Vulcan on the map.
"There are people who still think it's as hokey as can be, but I was in Boston and I had a coat on with a symbol from our tourism," Grant said.
A woman asked where he got the jacket and he told her Vulcan.
"She said, 'Not Vulcan, Alberta?'
"We have to look at these things as a positive no matter what ... and every small town community is trying to survive. We all need that niche in our communities and this is ours."
— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016