You can tell a lot in a city’s name. Vancouver sounds cool, Toronto’s ratatat busy. Calgary has a lyrical country twang, Montreal a European shuffle, and Manitoba a muscular practicality. On hearing Regina for the first time, it reminded me of a girl I used to go to school with. Re-gee-na. No, said my new Canadian friends. That’s not how it’s pronounced. Regina rhymes with fun.
It’s a joke I have heard many times in the years since I immigrated to Canada, one that Regina locals are surely tired of. Still, every time I return to the city, fun is on the cards. For starters, there are few Canadian sports teams with the fanaticism and enthusiasm of the local Saskatchewan Roughriders. Whether you’re into Canadian football or not, head down to Mosaic Stadium on a home fixture to experience Rider Nation, the green, watermelon-infused passion that sweeps the city like a six-month carnival. The Riders aren’t particularly successful results-wise, but that has never stopped locals from coming out in droves, even for those freezing late season cold-weather games. As Saskatchewan’s only major sport team, Riders supporters are among the most devoted, and welcoming, fans in the world.
This week I was in town learning all about mustard. Did you know Canada grows 90% of the world’s mustard seeds? Next time you slather on some Dijon or French’s, there’s a very good chance it was birthed in Saskatchewan. I popped into Sprouts to taste Chef Jssel’s salivacious homemade mustards – apple butter, cranberry and hot. She won the coveted mustard-jersey at The Great Saskatchewan Mustard Festival, which takes place every year in Regina. Next up was a visit to Beer Bros to sit down with Chef Malcom Craig, a man who definitely cuts the mustard. Not only can he deep fry avocado – an unparalleled feat of culinary genius – he cooks up epic dishes and dips, with mustard at the forefront. After tasting the mustards and devouring a mustard-coffee rubbed trout, we shared a spicy bottle of Oregon craft brewery Rogue’s Sriracha Hot Sauce Beer. Food is only as good as the people you share it with. There are lots of good people in Regina.
Foodies can also indulge with the vodkas and honey cinnamon liqueur at the Last Mountain Distillery, taste juicy prairie-cherries at the Over the Hill Orchard, and shop with eyes and mouth at the gourmet Regina Farmers Market. For those interested in truly understanding life in Canada’s breadbasket, prairie farm tours will show you how to harvest wheat, flax and canola, and even ride a combine. Once satiated, take the short drive to Moose Jaw to experience the mystery of the tunnels, or pop into the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame for one of the largest rare books collections in North America, along with ancient manuscripts and religious artefacts.
Regina is also home to the RCMP Academy “Depot”, the national training facility from which all new recruits emerge. Adjacent to the training grounds is the fantastic Arthur Erickson-designed RCMP Heritage Museum Centre, which lets visitors discover the rich history of one of Canada’s most recognizable and endearing symbols. After learning about the Red Serge, head into the Depot grounds to view the Sergeant Major’s Parade, where new recruits are inspected and roll call taken. Pity the recruit who doesn’t step in line! Like myself, when I took a crash cadet course researching my book. During several dates over the summer, visitors are also invited to attend the Sunset-Retreat Ceremony, which includes troop marches and drills, military music, the lowering of the flag, and the opportunity to meet mounted riders.
Whatever Regina rhymes with, the city’s name is preferable to its previous incarnation. When the Duke and Duchess of Argyle visited the settlement in 1882, the princess renamed it Regina (Latin for Queen) in honour of her mother. However you pronounce it, the town’s former name – Pile of Bones – doesn’t rhyme with F-U-N.