'Corner Gas' fans can now do a self-guided walking tour of town where series was filmed
Fans of 'Corner Gas' can now go on a self-guided walking tour in Rouleau, Sask., the town where the series was filmed.
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ROULEAU, SASK.—There’s a steady stream of eager visitors marching into the post office here to get a Canada Post cancellation stamp on a postcard or envelope. The stamp says Rouleau because it goes on all the actual mail as well, but the real draw is that it also says Corner Gas and Dog River.
The post office is one of 14 stops on a new self-guided Dog River Walking Tour of the quiet town where Corner Gas, the Canadian TV series about small-town life in the Prairies, was filmed. Saskatchewan comedian Brent Butt’s sitcom lasted six seasons and 107 episodes on CTV, spawned Corner Gas: The Movie, and is slated to return to the small screen in 2018 as an animated show on the Comedy Network.
“When people are driving across Canada, they make a point to stop here,” Canada Post’s Linda Rumford explains. “You’re the fifth or sixth person today, and I’ve had 15 people in the last two days.” Sure enough, a family driving a Travelaire with British Columbia plates pulls up as we leave.
Although the Corner Gas tour is strictly DIY, councillor Phyllis Sali shows me around the town of 500 that is pronounced the Anglo way (“Row-low) and not the Francophone way (“Roux-low”), like I expected.
We meet at the site of the original set that was demolished last year, since it wasn’t built to last. A trio of signs shows a map of the town, marking this as the original site of the gas station and Ruby Diner and hypes the upcoming animated series.
Across Hwy. 39, we can see a grain elevator that’s painted with the show’s fictional name “Dog River.” Like a few of the tour stops, it’s private property and can only be viewed from a respectful distance. Other stops are on town property, and there’s a second map just outside the Rouleau Community Complex (“Town Hall”), so people arriving at all hours can access it.
If you do visit weekdays during office hours, the town hall has a couple of those big wall maps where people stick in pins to show where they’re from.
On the world map, “there’s Australia, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, and that’s kinda interesting,” Sali says. The Canadian map has pins from as far north as Iqaluit, Cornwallis Island and Belcher Islands in Nunavut.
The office hands out postcard-sized tour maps, which are perfect for the post office pit stop.w
Outside on Main St., it seems fitting that there are a couple of dogs barking like mad and providing the soundtrack for “Dog River.” There’s no Corner Gas paraphernalia for sale anywhere in town, but there is a liquor/insurance store that triples as a convenience store.
As we wander the quiet town, Sali tells me that people in this farming community don’t mind fans dropping by for a look, but don’t want intrusions or trespassers, either. The show’s producers pitched the self-guided but interactive tour, the town agreed, and the July launch attracted Corner Gas executive producer Virginia Thompson, actor Cavan Cunningham (Mayor “Fitzy” Fitzgerald), the Rouleau mayor and Saskatchewan’s Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport.
“There are people in Saskatchewan who didn’t know where Rouleau, Sask., was,” Sali says. “Now, we’re on the international map.”
To do the tour, I download the Simple QR app and scan the QR codes at the bronze plaque at each stop. You get photos, videos and factoids and are asked to share your photos and comment using #DogRiverTour.
We wrap up on Main St., posing for photos in the Corner Gas character cut-outs. Sali, a proud grandmother, sticks her head through the face of the show’s matriarch, Emma.
I duck into the Dog River Hotel (a.k.a. the Rouleau Hotel) for lunch. There’s no Chinese on Tuesdays, so I go Canadian with chicken wings and watch another parade of Corner Gas fans come in to reminisce and quietly ply the waitress with questions.
When you go:
Get there: Rouleau is 53 kilometres southeast of Moose Jaw, or 50 km southwest of Regina.
Stay/Eat: I stayed at Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa in downtown Moose Jaw. The hotel’s restaurant, Harwood’s, makes and excellent burger and Saskatoon berry crisp.
While in Moose Jaw: I took both Tunnels of Moose Jaw theatrical tours. Passage to Fortune tells the story of early Chinese immigrants and the discrimination they faced while working in appalling conditions. The Chicago Connection explores Moose Jaw’s connection to Al Capone and supplying bootleg booze to the United States during Prohibition. Across the street, check out Common Café + Bakery and Prairie Bee Meadery. Make time for Mac the Moose, a giant roadside attraction just off the Trans-Canada Highway at the Tourism Moose Jaw visitor centre.
Do your research: tourismsaskatchewan.com.