Back in Time: The District of Cactus

The small town of Kennedy Saskatchewan is undergoing a renaissance, digging into its roots and slowly reverting back to an old western town.

Dan Cole is the Manager/Director for the “District of Cactus,” which is the idea of an 1800’s western town, with horses and wagons parked along main-street rather than vehicles.

“Childhood dream,” is what Cole called it. “This is something we’ve been working on, trying to find the right spot for over twenty years.”

The District has already made progress since Cole announced the project in May 2021. Aside from the two 1800’s style homesteads being built on the land Cole purchased just outside of town, multiple old buildings on main street have been bought and are in operation.

Coles General store, District of Cactus Tack and Repair Shop and the Flaming Star fast food restaurant are all established, and more is coming.

“The next step is getting the Chuckwagon Grill and Saloon up and running,” said Cole, “That is the project that we’re working on right now.”

Not only are the interiors getting remodelled, the District of Cactus will have wooden sidewalks, hitching posts and awnings on all their buildings.

The general store and tack shop already have the sidewalk and hitching posts complete.

“As far as what we will be able to do in Kennedy, we’re hoping to have that part completed next summer. We have more wooden sidewalks to put in, we’ve got awnings to put over the sidewalks, we’ve got more hitching posts to put in,” said Cole.

Town support is crucial for Cole’s plan to succeed. “The (Tack) shop has had lots of support … Flaming Star is doing very well,” said Cole, but the general store had to close for the winter due to “lack of support.”

Kennedy resident and R.M. of Wawken Reeve Dawn Cameron thinks the potential is great, but there are hurdles to overcome.

“We’re so remote from bigger centres, and the people that are going to be interested in taking part in this are not going to be already rural people,” said Cameron. “Drawing the right crowd is going to be challenging.”

“They are running into issues with the municipality and development,” said Cameron, “based on our bylaws and such … they aren’t set up currently to allow the type of expansion they want to make.”

The bylaws have been the greatest challenge so far. There is a line that is drawn on how far Cole can go in his endeavour. An agreed upon blend of old and new is needed for resolve.

“We wanted to put in a stable, just a small 10 or 12 stall stable, because a western town always had a stable,” said Cole. ” We had the building for it, but the town said no. It is against their bylaws and they are not prepared to change.”

The rise of lumber prices also presented a challenge, along with hiring employees. “we’re trying to find carpenters, we’re trying to hire a full-time carpenter,” said Cole.

Selling people on the idea of undoing progress is bold, but both Cole and Cameron believe it’s a great for the town.

“It certainly would increase the tourism population in the area, and tourism always brings  profitability to a community,” said Cameron.


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