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Friday, June 2, 2017

Traveling Cowboys: Reconnecting With Old Friends and New Family at the Waterton Food Festival 2017, Alberta, Canada


Alberta has its own Brigadoon. You will find it at Waterton Lakes National Park on the southern border of the Province. It is called Waterton Village. Like its counterpart in the Brigadoon story, the Village wakes up every 8 months, instead of every 100 years, to be the setting for a microcosm of activity. When the snow arrives in October it is shuttered again, only to reappear in late Spring the next year.

In this little community, a unique group of people, from all over the world undertakes an annual pilgrimage to spend four sunny (and often windy) months together. A place where they come to celebrate their short Canadian summer. In Waterton, teenagers start their first jobs, children take over family businesses, and the ones that retire, come to say goodbye. It is a very special place because of its natural beauty. It is magical, because of its people.

This is the first of a three-part installment about Waterton in 2017, courtesy of the Waterton Park Chamber of Commerce, Chinook Country Tourism and Travel Alberta.  The Two Cowboys feature the season's opening with the Waterton Food Festival.


Eating Pie

Our schedule was set with the Friday night kick-off of the festival at the Thirsty Bear Socialhouse. It is a newly renovated part of the Bayshore Inn on the waterfront. Shameer, the owner, explained that it took them a whole year to decide what should make it onto the upmarket pub-style menu. The food was delicious, and the Truffle Mac & Cheese was divine! Everything in the establishment is brand spanking new, except for the reclaimed wood of the bar and the solid timber beams that still exhibits the cattle branding marks of the old Saloon.

The kick-off delivered tasty samples from the festival's participating food businesses. Business such as the Taco Bar, Wieners of Waterton, Zum's Eatery and others were well represented. The local brewery, Coulee Brewing Company from Lethbridge, was also on hand to deliver tiny tasting servings of their popular beers. The food was just enough to entice us to visit the restaurants individually during the festival week that followed.

It took a good solid morning of recovery from the night before, to be ready for the Pie Cruise with the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company. Participating businesses contribute two unique pies each to the excursion and try to out-do each other with pie creativity. The pies were served to patrons on the scenic boat ride that took us to the border with Montana (and back, of course). The favorite was the Chocolate Moose Pie from the newly opened Larkspur Coffee House. We were told that it took two full days to layer the amazing creation. Pie is apparently a Waterton thing!

The rest of the festival included a chef's dinner and special set menus at the various food establishments.


We can continue to list the festival's experiences, but it won't do it justice. Instead, watch our video about the event. It is the second time we covered the festival. It is growing into an annual feature for Waterton and for the Two Cowboys. You had to be there to appreciate what was on offer.

Waterton Village is not the gourmet capital of the Rockies, and it doesn't try to be. It is rather a unique group of people with a lot of creativity and a passion for food and their village. They bring something fresh and new each year to serve to visitors. All businesses are family owned and operated. Many are run by second and third generations.

As a tourist, you can drive through Waterton in a few minutes and miss most of what it has to offer. If you decide to stay for a short while, the local folks will go out of their way to get to know you. It can get very busy at times so prepare for standing in line.

Be warned. Waterton Village and its people have a welcoming way to pull you in and make you part of their world. Soon you will be one of them and also make the annual pilgrimage to Waterton's Food Festival. Before long, you may become part of the family in Alberta's own Brigadoon.

Hendrik van Wyk
Waterton Pie Cowboy

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Where to Eat

Thirsty Bear Socialhouse

Lakeside Chophouse

Welch's Chocolate and Pies

Zum's Eatery

Wieners on Waterton


The Taco Bar

The Moose Lick Ice Cream and Shaved Ice

Big Scoop Ice Cream Parlor

Trappers Mountain Grill

49th Degree North Pizza




Ice Cream Happiness

Pie People




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