International Peace Garden continues promise
by Candi Helseth
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International Peace Garden Clock. Photo courtesy of Kari L. Barchenger
More than 80 years ago, the United States and Canada created the International Peace Garden (IPG), 2,400 acres of stunning floral gardens, natural woods and wildlife, and peace-themed monuments and structures. With borders in North Dakota and Manitoba, IPG stands strong as a geographic testament to peace between two nations.
Last July, Canadian and American leaders gathered to renew their countries’ commitment to peace as they dedicated The Promise of Peace, a new 6-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture depicting hands releasing a dove.
This year, in honor of Canada’s Sesquicentennial (150th birthday), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is displaying a compelling exhibit at IPG. “Our Canada, My Story,” on display through Oct. 31, stirs observers to consider the importance of equality for all people through its story of the Northern Arctic Inuit people. Story sharing programs and writer in residence programs have also been implemented to help Canadians and Americans – and all visitors – share their reflections through oral and written traditions.
“Part of the reason for these programs is to emphasize the true purpose of the Garden, that you can live quite peacefully with the longest undefended border in the world,” IPG CEO Garry Enns said. “We have a lot of new citizens on both sides who visit because they find it almost unbelievable that there are two countries living side by side without war for over 200 years. These people have left refugee camps and war-torn countries to find new lives.”
The Promise of Peace joins other peace-related structures such as the Peace Chapel and 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial. Summers are the peak time at IPG, when carefully designed gardens and special floral features – such as a large working clock – display the beauty of more than 100,000 annual flowers in bloom. Cacti and succulents in the conservatory greenhouse attract visitors year-round. Known as the Vitko Collection, it consists of more than 6,000 plants with 4,600 varieties donated by Minot native Don Vitko.
“The Vitko cacti collection is rapidly becoming one of our focal points,” Enns commented. “It’s definitely contributed to our winter appeal.”
Open year-round, IPG sponsors several public events on its grounds. August and September schedules include free concerts presented by the International Music Camp, a country gospel festival, quilt show and gardeners’ retreat with Don Vitko as guest presenter. A full schedule of upcoming events is available on the IPG website.
Enns manages IPG under the direction of a 16-member board of directors with equal representation from each country. North Dakota and Manitoba provide operational grants. Private donations help with projects such as the Promise of Peace, which was funded by the Wally Byam Caravan Club International.
“We need this place now more than ever,” Enns asserted. “I hear that so loud and clear from the people who visit. The Peace Garden reminds us how we all must work together for peace for all citizens. This is one place where no one needs to worry about which side of the border they are on.”
Admission is $20 per day per vehicle or $30 for a season pass. Overnight accommodations are available. Passports are required for those traveling into Canada. A photo identification will be accepted for those just traveling to the IPG. Identification may also be requested for children in the vehicle.
For more information, see www.peacegarden.com or call toll free 1-888-432-6733 in the United States.
Candi Helseth is a freelance writer from Minot.