Wanuskewin Heritage Park sits above Opimihaw Creek and the South Saskatchewan River near Saskatoon. It is a window into a part of Canada’s history that remains largely undiscovered, and a link to our past unlike any other National Historic Site in Canada. Wanuskewin shows us that there exists evidence of ancient peoples and many different aspects of habitation, hunting and gathering, and spirituality all in one place.
Being a resident of Saskatchewan I had to check out Wanuskewin for myself and talk with the many people who manage everyday operations there. One individual that stood out for me was Chris Standing.
Standing is the Visitor Services Manager at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. He has deep ties to the land for his grandfather, Elder Cy Standing, was a member of the original team that brought the dream of Wanuskewin to fruition.
His passion shows through each day by greeting guests and sharing his personal stories to enhance the visitor experience.
“I got started at Wanuskewin in dance performances and presentations.”
Some of the everyday activities Chris does includes maintaining connections through social media, extending personal invitations to events and celebrations, and developing relationships with repeat visitors to the park. He also designs and facilitates the majority of cultural programs, while developing festival and event concepts.
“Before Wanuskewin I worked as a youth worker in a group home and youth centre. I also had summer student positions at Dakota Dunes Casino, as well as I produced live music concerts for Independent Dog Face, an entertainment promotion company.”
When I asked Chris what he loved most about working at Wanuskewin he mentioned that he loves the trails all over the land and walking them. He mentioned there are plans to soon have bison roaming the land which will be an extra treat for the trail walks.
“One of the best moments so far working at Wanuskewin has to be winning the 2017 Tourism Saskatchewan Employee of the year award.”
Chris reflects back to 2017 when he was invited to the Saskatchewan Tourism Awards of Excellence Gala night. This night is meant to acknowledge quality in marketing, service, business practices, human resource development and other areas. He received the Tourism Employee of the Year award for his outstanding performance.
I asked Standing what advice he might have to others looking to follow in his footsteps and be as successful as him, “ You have to work hard for what you want to do. Everyday I do what I love and that should be your goal too.”
“What I love about living and working in Saskatchewan is my Dakota and Plains Cree communities who gave me the knowledge I have today. I will continue to learn my culture and history to share that with anyone that comes to visit Wanuskewin.”
For work and sports I travel often. This means I spend a lot of time in hotels. But sometimes I find myself wondering who are the people behind what makes a hotel operate.
Patty Schweighardt, the General Manager at Delta Hotels by Marriott Downtown Saskatoon shared with me some insights about how she came to work in the hospitality industry.
“I moved to Saskatoon in 1984 after high school and took a job as a dishwasher at the Saskatoon Inn. My intention was to take a year off while working and then apply for nursing at the University of Saskatchewan,” Patty explained when I asked her about how she got started.
“Within two months I was moved to the restaurant first as a bus person, next as a host, then promoted to supervisor all in a one year span.”
“I then moved to the front office in 1988. I progressed quickly to front office manager in 1993, director of operations in 1999 and general manager in 2001.”
Patty said that during this time she fell in love with hotels and customer service and she could not imagine doing anything else.
“Front Office was by far the greatest learning opportunity for me. It taught me about strategic thinking and planning, how to coach and lead, how to handle difficult situations, and cost controls as well as profitability.“
“I had the opportunity to mentor under some exceptional leaders that took time and invested in my future. Customer service and problem solving was an area that I excelled and people started to notice my passion for the industry.”
Patty mentioned that the challenge and the changes are just some reasons why she loves her job so much.
“I love the customer interaction and the fact that I can make a difference. My team calls me ‘pop up Patty’, as I seem to pop up when needed and can almost instantly make a connection with the guest to set their minds at ease.”
“I love seeing the ‘AH HA’ moments with staff when they get the message I bring to them about engagement, service and how they make an impact by committing 110 per cent with every interaction”.
Patty wants everyone to know how proud she is about starting in the industry as a dishwasher and how she worked my her way up to a general manager.
“I learned so much along the way about myself and how to connect with people. I also learned what kind of leader I wanted to be at the start of my career back in the ’80s.”
I asked Patty what would be some advice she could give to someone looking to start their career in the hospitality industry. This is what she had to say,
“You must give 110 per cent at everything you do. Be honest and act with integrity always. Take great pride in each encounter and never underestimate that attitude and passion are key to success.”
“I love this province and the people in it”, Patty said.
“I love how diverse it has become over the last 35 years and that we are constantly told by visitors from far and wide that Saskatchewan people are the most friendly people they have had the pleasure to meet.”
Thanks to Patty for sharing her story and being a positive light on the hospitality industry.
Rolando De Guzman - Executive Chef at The Resort Restaurant
I’ve travelled to many places in the world, but nothing compares to the beauty of what Saskatchewan has to offer. From the places to the people, something keeps me coming back and wanting to explore it more. My travels around Saskatchewan have me wondering, who are the people behind the hidden gems of Saskatchewan?
When I was young my family and I went on a camping adventure to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park on the Saskatchewan side. Now as an adult I decided to travel back and rekindle the memory of camping there as a youth. Part of my journey now is to get to know the people who make Cypress Hills great that you might not know about.
Part of the Cypress Hills experience is dining out and tasting some of the unique restaurant menu options in the area. I found myself at The Resort at Cypress Hills and enjoyed a Bison Burger at Ivan’s Restaurant. After, I got to meet up with Rolando De Guzman, Executive Chef and heard his story.
“I love working here. My passion for cooking keeps me excited each day and challenges me to create great dishes,” he says, when asked about his experience of cooking at The Resort at Cypress Hills.
“I am originally from the Philippines. Friends of mine that work and live in Saskatchewan encouraged me to come here. I did some research and applied online for a position at The Resort at Cypress Hills. I’m not getting any younger, just trying to live my life to the fullest and to me that means getting to work in Saskatchewan.”
From that entry-level position, over his seven years working at The Resort, Roland has transitioned into the Executive Chef of the restaurant.
“Cypress Hills is unique to me. It’s a different culture with different food ethics. I found I was challenged to cook outside of my element.”
Rolando reflected on growing up in the Philippines, he didn’t have a chance to work with the types of meats or ingredients that are local to Saskatchewan.
“I try to mix my personal background of cooking western style food. You have to be creative in this industry. When people come from all over to Cypress, they find this is their favourite place to dine because of my creative food choices. When they are done and I see the smiles on their faces, I know they are leaving happy. Means the world to me.”
Working as the Executive Chef Rolando has the freedom to play with the menu each week. They have signature dishes which are comfort foods, and they have a special menu of everyday features which are more unique as he personally creates them for the restaurant.
“I personally spend time experimenting with creating unique dishes. I found my passion for this when I was working in Dubai alongside Chef Gordon Ramsay for fine dining. Having worked with many celebrity chefs in my time has prepared me for this opportunity to showcase my talents within Saskatchewan.”
His personal goal is that families can come in for food that is top quality, great quantity and good value for money.
When I asked him what inspires his passion in this career he reflected on how his brother was a great influence in his life.
"My brother was a chef in hotels and I learned a lot from him. He encouraged me to push myself to go abroad to meet new people and learn new cooking skills. My brother was a big help pushing me in life.”
“My favourite part of being a chef is feeling like I’m not at work but just playing with my passion everyday. Without passion you have nothing. I want to make the customer happy and make them smile. I feel like I do just that.”
Motivated by his words, I asked what advice he has for others looking to start a career just like him, “Work hard and put some passion into pursuing your dreams.”
There are many opportunities to work at Cypress Hills Provincial Park in any field. From a seasonal position to more long term options you will find them here at the website below:
It's Labour Day Weekend! Here are my picks...
Sunday - Saskatchewan over Winnipeg.
Monday - Hamilton over Toronto.
Monday - Edmonton over Calgary.
There you have it! Hope to see you at the Labour Day Classic at Mosaic Stadium. This game is about to get wild!