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So many reasons to celebrate in 2017!

You know when you visit a place and you just know how meaningful that moment in time is, and that somehow, someway, it will impact your future? I knew it. As soon as we left the town of Val Marie, Saskatchewan and entered the park, I just had a feeling Grasslands National Park would forever shift my perspective on my homeland.

My time there allowed me to get in touch with myself, my boys, the landscape and all the incredibly diverse flora and fauna. But my kids – seriously my kids – upon seeing them free and wild, running up and down the hills against the incredible prairie skies, I felt like we’d arrived at a place we were destined to visit. Even now, if I close my eyes really tight, I can recall the feeling of the wide open space, the sweet smell of sage and the hot air on my skin.

And its for these simple reasons, stories resonate. Personally and with others.

I’m thrilled to share with my readers the articles I created based on our visit afforded me some very great honours in 2017. Last month, my story Discovering Grasslands for Saskatchewan magazine Prairies North picked up a Bronze Prize (Illustrated Story: Magazine) in the 2016 North American Travel Journalists Association’s annual awards. Thank you to editor Lionel Hughes for allowing me an 8-page feature for which I’m incredibly proud.

Grasslands Jenn Smith Nelson
If that wasn’t cool enough, I received additional Finalist awards for another Grasslands piece, Dancing Skies and Rolling Hills (Illustrated Story: Newspaper). And though it’s not a Saskatchewan story, the same award for a story close to my heart,  Sleeping with the wolves – both which I wrote for the Toronto Star. Thanks to editor Jennifer Bain for all of her support for these feature articles (and the many I’ve written since).

Jenn Smith Nelson Toronto Star

The Grasslands articles took on a life of their own in 2016.

I was very proud to have both those stories published but then this happened: I was able to place a third article in German online magazine, My Spotlight Kanada (thank you Kornelia Kahn!). Turns out, the Grasslands are appealing to so many, far and wide (and for good reason)!

Grasslands My Spotlight Kanada Jenn Smith Nelson

THEN, (like really – how could it seriously get better?) what every writer hopes will happen, my Toronto Star story was picked up and syndicated through Metro’s publications. What this equated to were millions of impressions/views/reads on my little story about Saskatchewan’s amazing Grasslands National Park. What a dream to have local, national and international coverage for this amazing region in our province! It really is what writers dream of achieving when providing coverage to a place they truly loved.

But that’s not all. 2017 is the year of celebrating even more Grasslands!

My work on Grasslands paved the way for another very coveted honour. I’ve been nominated for the fourth year straight for a Tourism Saskatchewan Awards of Excellence award in the Travel Media category. Last year, I was thrilled to win the award. This year, I couldn’t possibly be happier that the award celebrates my contribution to tourism in Saskatchewan by highlighting (you guessed it), Grasslands National Park!

Jenn Smith Nelson Tourism Saskatchewan Awards of Excellence Grasslands National Park

This year, I’m truly excited to be nominated alongside three other incredible and deserving Saskatchewanians who excel in sharing stories about our wonderful province.

Giant congratulations to blogger Ashlyn George of the Lost Girls Guide to Finding the World (a first time nominee – I knew the day was coming that she’d be nominated as she’s exceptional!) and travel writers/photographers/publishers, Robin and Arlene Karpan (who’ve also been nominated several times and are past winners of this award). Huge congratulations!

See the full list of finalists for Tourism Saskatchewan’s 2016 Awards of Excellence.

These achievements mean so much more to me than simply winning awards. They recognize the time, heart and passion for which I pursue travel, journalism and photography. They celebrate my connection with nature, animals and my home. But more importantly, they help teach and inspire my boys to pursue their dreams, stay wild, remain independent and live with curiosity and a zest for life.

Thank you for all that have supported me in this journey and transition from blogger to photo journalist. There are so many of you that have helped me along the way with kind words, mentorship and love.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Parks Canada and Tourism Saskatchewan for always having faith in me, helping me explore the places I want to go and write the articles I yearn to write. You both make dreams come true (I know this sounds corny, but it really is true!). Guy Theriault, you are truly one of my key partners in crime on this journey. Eternally grateful!

And to my incredible family (Mom, Finn, Zevin, Jamie, my brothers and sisters too – and Kim, my sister from another mother) – I couldn’t do any of this without your love, encouragement, support and time. xo

One last thing

Before I run, there’s never been a better time to visit Grasslands National Park – or any other National Park in Canada! In conjunction with, and to help celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Parks Canada recently announced entrance fees to national parks will be waived in 2017! So whatcha waiting for? Get exploring! Here’s some inspiration!

Atop 70Mile Butte Grasslands

2 thoughts on “So many reasons to celebrate in 2017!
  1. It’s sounds as though a love affair started when you wrote, “As soon as we left the town of Val Marie, Saskatchewan and entered the park, I just had a feeling Grasslands National Park would forever shift my perspective on my homeland.” GNP touched your soul and heart as evidenced by the many awards you were given based on the stories you wrote about it. Congratulations, Jenn! So happy for you!

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