Cowboys and Klingons: Photos From a Small-Town Star Trek Convention
You don’t visit Vulcan, Alberta for its grain elevators.
On a recent Saturday night, while dressed in everyday clothes, Elyse and I are hanging out with Spock, McCoy, and Captain Kirk at the Vulcan Hotel. There are eight people in the town bar including the proprietor and a new immigrant who mistakes our order of rum and cokes for Bud Lights. A shitfaced hairdresser slugging quarters into one of the VLTs takes a break to tell one of our Starfleet officers that she has nice hair.
The screech of tires can be heard outside. A drunk local walks in, offering to buy drinks for his friends at the VLTs. He's a business owner himself. He initiates conversation, says he's happy to see "our kind" in town and that he supports Vul-Con—one of the town's two annual Star Trek conventions. He declares before entering into a drunk tirade about how the other local festival, Spock Days, with its packed bar and slow-pitch tournament is the real event to come to town for. What started off as a well-mannered—albeit slurred—conversation on his behalf became a set of accidental insults about which Star Trek convention was the best party. This is an exchange you will only have in Vulcan, Alberta, population 2,000.
Named after the Roman God of Fire, Vulcan is home to farmers, ranchers, and the occasional Klingon tourist. Vulcan's pre-Star Trek claim to fame was its 9-in-a-line grain elevators, and while it was once the largest grain-exporting site west of Winnipeg, it is now a typical rural community in need of tourism dollars. And for the last three decades, many of those tourist dollars have come from Trekkies, who have come for the two festivals, the replica Starship Enterprise and the recently relocated to Drumheller TrekCetera Star Trek museum.
I've been a closeted Trekkie since a child having watched the entire original series as reruns on my dad's VHS tapes, so this seemed like a unique opportunity to check out the most hardcore of Trekkie specimens.