Lacombe is a great place at stop for all seasons, especially ski season or summer holidays when going or coming back from the mountains and want to feast of fast or real food. In the non-snow season, you can trail ride/run/walk around the lakes and do all sorts of touristy stuff. When old Harold was a kid though, visiting Lacombe was to play hockey, and they always provided stiff competition. The old Red Deer Arena was a massive wooden structure that had a funky smell, especially under the stands during summer hockey camp. The Lacombe arena, however, was mainly constructed of cinder block, giving it rich prison-like atmosphere. The ice was also slanted in favor of the home team by refs suffering from intermittent ocular degeneration. I never played much baseball, but I know Lacombe also has a rich history in the sport. Even today, a few blocks from old Harold’s house is Mitchener Park, home to multiple ball fields, skate park, campground, and a wooded multi-campsite that can be rented for special occasions complete with its own pond.
Michener Park also serves as the site of the Lacombe Farmers market, which on Friday mornings includes a ½ mile stretch of locals hocking homemades, and commercial vendors making more money than selling wholesale. You also run across community information booths, works from local artists, coffee peddlers, food trucks and the hot dog/sausage vendor strategically located at the far end of the strip. The Park also boosts a gas station/convenience store, and a strip mall with the best bistro in Alberta (Tollers), known for their eclectic menu and some of the finest handmade donuts you’ll ever eat. The Park is such an attraction, it’s home to a motel and newer hotel complete with waterslide. Highway 12/50th Ave going past the park is also a favorite place for local law enforcement to greet you when you don’t slow down…and a note of caution…when you get closer to downtown, the limit goes down to 30 km/hr during the day Monday to Friday. Lacombe’s resort like status is also confirmed by having the highest per capita number of churches, liquor stores and weed shops in Alberta. Throw in a movie theater, bowling alley, bars/taverns, hospital, ice cream shop, Italian desert bakery, fine dining and fast-food alley and it’s no wonder we achieved ‘city’ status a few years ago.
Lacombe also has three auto dealers representing Ford, Chevy and Dodge. Spend a little time in Lacombe, however, and you’ll see a huge number of cars sporting an Empire Auto sticker. Empire is a small lot that brings in a lot of quality used cars for resale in Lacombe, and they also sell on consignment. Businesses in small towns and cities have to rely on repeat business, and they do it by being fair, providing quality service and good deals…which brings me to 2A Auto…a small garage that had the opportunity to screw old Harold, but my truck only had a minor fix instead of what I though was going to cost at least a grand.
Lacombe also hosts a bull riding event, and at the Lacombe Agricultural Grounds you can catch an antique machinery show and a heavy horse pulling event. Lacombe is also home to the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lacombe Research and Development Centre, which includes the national program for red meats research, and the Jim Helm Barley Research Centre, which was part of Alberta Agriculture, but when the province dropped all its ag-research, it was given to Olds College. Another major employer for Lacombe is just over the East hill at the world scale Joffre Petrochemical plant.
So visit Lacombe on the way by to go to the bathroom, grab a bite to eat, stop at the Museum or Blacksmith shop, or stay a bit longer for a trail walk/run, maybe buy a car or get yours fixed. We’ve got more going for us than Blackfalds, and stopping in Red Deer will risk you sanity due to horribly timed stop lights, and a snow removal policy that relies on warm spring weather.