At­las Coal Mine wel­comes 500,000 vis­i­tor right on sched­ule

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Terri Hux­ley The Drumheller Mail sub­mit­ted

On Sun­day at ap­prox­i­mately 1:00 p.m., the At­las Coal Mine Na­tional His­toric Site wel­comed their 500,000th vis­i­tor with open arms.

Phani Adapa was the lucky vis­i­tor who was ac­com­pa­nied by his fam­ily for a trip to the val­ley.

Di­rec­tor Jay Rus­sell was elated to see the sheer vol­ume of visi­tors over the years.

“Well it feels fan­tas­tic ob­vi­ously, it feels great,” said Rus­sell.

Rus­sell has worked at the his­toric site since 1994, tak­ing on many dif­fer­ent po­si­tions start­ing by tak­ing on a sum­mer job, con­sciously ob­serv­ing the rise of visi­tors as days went by.

“The vis­i­ta­tion was only maybe 3,000 peo­ple a year so in the many years since my first sum­mer here, we’ve in­creased ex­po­nen­tially,” said Rus­sell.

“In my first year, I couldn’t imag­ine 500,000 visi­tors com- ing through here but now of course we are at­tract­ing peo­ple from all over the coun­try to come and see our site.”

The At­las crew was very ea­ger to meet the lucky vis­i­tor, hop­ing to have a com­plete fam­ily take part in the mile­stone.

“It was right on the but­ton where the very next fam­ily is go­ing to come in and we’re hop­ing it would be a full fam­ily, sin­gle vis­i­tor. I mean which is fine of course, but it’s nice when the fam­ily can share that experience to­gether,” said Rus­sell.

With his­toric a year chock full of land­marks in­clud­ing

Canada’s 150th birth­day, the fa­mous coal mine has a few events al­ready planned for the fu­ture.

“It’s been a year of all kinds of cel­e­bra­tion but we have had the Tip­ple’s 80th birth­day, and the At­las Coal Mine’s 100th birth­day and this fall we’ll have on Oc­to­ber 7th, an of­fi­cial un­veil­ing of the tip­ple when it is re­stored.” said Rus­sell. “It’s also the year that we turn 30 as a mu­seum.”

They plan to have the fourth and fi­nal phase of the large restora­tion project com­plete for the Oc­to­ber 7 date.

Rus­sell says the At­las is a great place for Cana­di­ans to learn about their her­itage, or peo­ple new to Canada.

“What are we about? We’re a place of knowl­edge, not only about in­dus­trial her­itage but about the Cana­dian experience and a lot of peo­ple who came here are es­cap­ing other coun­tries where things weren’t great.” said Rus­sell. “What we are talk­ing about are peo­ple who are ac­tively be­com­ing Cana­di­ans.”

With the many cel­e­bra­tions afoot for the year, the coal mine wishes to have their unique twist and make every vis­i­tor’s experience is one to re­mem­ber. `“We have a story to tell and a story of Canada through the lens of our experience in Drumheller,” said Jay Rus­sell.

At­las Coal Mine Di­rec­tor Jay Rus­sell poses for a photo with Phani Adapa and his fam­ily, the lucky 500,000th guest to visit the At­las Coal Mine Na­tional His­toric Site.

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