‘Are they here yet?’ Alberta’s UFO landing pad

Patriotism was exhibited in every conceivable fashion during 1967. But in perhaps no other community in the country was there greater Centennial optimism shown than in St. Paul, Alberta.

“We had over 100 projects,” boasts former Mayor Jules Van Brabant. “We decided that no project would be refused, whether needlework, putting Centennial tags in cows ears… nothing.” However, the piece de resistance emerged one Friday afternoon at a local drinking establishment when “somebody said, ‘Let’s build a cement platform for the kids to play on… and let’s invite everybody to come and see it… even from Mars!'”

The St. Paul UFO Landing Pad Centennial project was born.

“The idea,” remembers Van Brabant, “was that even little St. Paul, in the middle of Alberta, could stretch out our hands in welcome to anybody who wished to visit during Centennial… from heaven or earth.”

And visitors — the famous and he not-so-famous — came. Alberta’s lieutenant-governor turned the first sod in the spring of 1967 and by July first, the Minister of National Defence, Paul Hellyer, flew out from Ottawa to unveil the 54-tonne landing pad. During its first year Mother Theresa vised. And a contingent from northern Alberta sent a smaller version of the Trojan horse, whence came citizens of High Prairie dressed as little green men.

In 1996, the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce built an avenue and a tourist booth at the site, and over 2,000 visitors signed the register. But in the 30 years since the welcome mat was rolled out in St. Paul, not one UFO has dropped by.

“No matter,” says a proud Jules Van Brabant. “They’ll get here. Besides,” he says inexplicably, “St. Paul is closer to Mars than any place on Earth.”