V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer
Quirkiest city in Canada
Published in the Toronto Sun and Sun Media papers March, 2009.

People living in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones, especially when the house is made entirely of empty embalming fluid bottles.

On the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake in Boswell, B.C., funeral director David H. Brown recycled 500,000 such vessels weighing 250 tonnes to build a 1,200 sq.-ft home.

When it’s cold, they put the caps back on the bottles for insulation, his son Eldon Brown quips.

Though it may never have the warmth of Fermont, Que., where the population roughly 2,471 — including schools, stores, restaurants, hotel, pool, police, hospital and supermarket — is housed in a 1.3 km-long, self-contained wind-breaking structure.

Known as the “wall”, it permits residents to remain inside during frigid winter months.

We looked far and wide, but Sun Media’s search for the quirkiest community eventually settled on a town that’s simply out of this world.

It’s not exactly the final frontier, but Vulcan is a place where few have boldly gone before. Midway between Calgary and Lethbridge, Alta., residents have built a Star Trek empire in the middle of the Prairies in honour of the name they coincidentally share with Spock’s home planet.

It captured international headlines last week for gaining the support of actor Leonard Nimoy to host the Star Trek XI movie world premiere. Nimoy played the pointy-eared Vulcan Spock in the original TV series.

You know you’ve arrived when your drive along Hwy. 23 is interrupted by the otherworldly sight of a sleek, mean flying machine. The starship FX6-1995-A greets “intergalactic visitors” in English as well as the Klingon and Vulcan languages.

Further in town — population 2,000 — the Vulcan tourism office is housed in a futuristic space station where visitors can get dressed up in starship uniforms, pose with their favourite character on the ship’s main bridge, play the Vulcan Space Adventure virtual reality game, and take in more than 800 pieces of Star Trek memorabilia.

A trail-blazing starship graces the community newspaper banner, the Vulcan Advocate, while inanimate aliens helpfully point the way to local landmarks. Even the cancellation stamp issued by the post office is shaped like a space station.

The town’s annual VulCON Galaxyfest attracts tourists and Trekkies from France, Russia, South America and Australia, doubling the town’s population for a few days each summer.

Tourism co-ordinator and Ontario transplant Dayna Dickens is the captain at the helm of this starship and has been working at warp speed trying to set Vulcan apart from other nondescript Prairie towns and bring it world-recognized legitimacy.

She’s trying to get the town officially licensed as a Star Trek destination with TV network CBS and put up a valiant, but failed, effort to host the movie premiere of the latest Star Trek film, due out in May.

“It’s audacious of a tiny town to try and host a world premiere,” Dickens admits.

But this bold ambition is bred in the town’s history. In 1910, a Canadian Pacific Railway surveyor named the town after the Roman God of Fire. The man had a penchant for Greek and Roman mythology, and also christened the streets after mythic characters Juno, Neptune, Apollo, Minerva, Mars and Jupiter.

Old and new legends, meanwhile, made at least one true believer come here to rest, while others come to mark new beginnings.

It was one Calgarian Trekkie’s dying wish to be buried under a Star Trek memorial in Vulcan. The grave is marked by a headstone in the shape of the Star Trek insignia. Two other Cowtown residents, Ron and Pam Smith, got married in Vulcan, exchanging vows in Klingon.

“For three years I dragged him to Galaxyfest,” said Pam, who works in resource performance management at Telus. “He told me he knew how much fun I had running around dressed up as a Klingon and wanted to have a Klingon wedding.”

About 40 wedding guests noshed on traditional Klingon fare such as “gagh,” live worms and blood wine. (For the squeamish, human-friendly substitutes were available like jelly worms and sherbet punch.)

This modestly-sized town has attracted the attention of media giants worldwide including Gulf News, South China Post and CNN. However some residents consider the relationship to the science fiction show a blight on their community.

“You either love it or you don’t,” Dickens acknowledged. “It’s a bit of a risk to put such an investment in a quirky theme.”

But for thousands of Trekkies around the world, including Nimoy, their wish for this quirky Canadian town is to live long and prosper.

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