Centennial Celebration - 2001

Over the weekend of June 22-23, 2001 over 200 people gathered at the Gilby Community Centre and the adjoining Medicine River Recreation Area for a province-wide celebration. For over 100 years Estonian families and their descendants have been living in the Medicine Valley. Many of these families retain connections with today's Medicine Valley community and it was many of the third, fourth and fifth generation descendants who played a pivotal role in planning the successful weekend.

At the Gilby Centennial in 2001, a horse and wagon convoy provided a ride from the Gilby Hall to the original Gilby Cemetery for a rededication ceremony. 2001's midsummer celebration was an ideal opportunity for guests to rediscover their heritage, visit homestead sites and share stories with friends and relatives. The festivities officially began with a breakfast served at Gilby Hall. Bob Kingsep, the grandson of Hendrik Kingsep who was the first Estonian to homestead in the area, was the host of the opening ceremony. Dave Kiil, representing the Edmonton Estonian Society, outlined the history of traditional summer solstice celebrations.

The original Gilby Cemetery was located on a sandy hill overlooking the Medicine River on the Raabis homestead. A plaque to commemorate this cemetery was unveiled during the Gilby Centennial celebrations in 2001. Guests were invited to participate in self-guided tours of the Medicine Valley using maps provided by the organizers. In the afternoon guests gathered for a dedication of the Gilby Cemetery on a secluded hilltop at the original Raabis homestead. For those in attendance, the restoration and dedication of the Gilby Cemetery represented a tangible link to the past. The cemetery was groomed, headstones replaced and a chain link fence was erected. A plaque was also unveiled during the ceremony paying tribute to Alberta's Estonian pioneers.

The bonfire is an important part of a Jaanipäev celebration at the Gilby 2001 Centennial. Saturday evening featured a spectacular pig roast accompanied by traditional Estonian dishes. The Gary Raabis Band entertained the crowd as people sang and danced to the music. The highlight of the evening for many was the traditional bonfire where people gathered and sang traditional songs late into the evening.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage