Nestled on Provincial Highway 16 Neepawa is a small quiet town that anyone will fall in love with. Neepawa holds a very special place in my heart – it was where my grandmother was born and raised, where my great-grandmother lived until she died and a town I have visited many times throughout my childhood. I have always loved Neepawa and its small town charm. I have very vivid memories of sitting in my great-grandmothers kitchen eating her delicious home cooked meals (and I cannot fail to mention her homemade pies!!), the bakery on Mountain Avenue (no longer there) or time spent in Riverbend Park.
It has been quite sometime since my last visit (late 90s) and as of late my mother and I have been wanting to go back. It wouldn’t be the same without my grandmother or great-grandmother but we knew we had to go back. We left Winnipeg at 8am on July 26 and headed west. The drive was surprisingly short and not the long, super long, trek I remember as a kid. I commented to my mother that when you’re a child it seems soooooo long to get somewhere but when you’re the driver, not so much.
Arriving in town in record time (1h45) we found a parking spot in the Home Hardware lot and headed inside. We were in serious shopping mode and had a few items in mind that we needed to purchase. Just as we were about to pay for our items we noticed that the annual Lily Festival Parade was ready to begin. We added two lawn chairs to the mix and we were out the door, set up on the sidewalk and ready to watch the festivities. I’m a sucker for small town parades and find them 100% better than big city parades. There seems to be more care and much more involvement from the towns than a larger city would. Every business is in the parade and every small organization from the town is too. This parade lasted and hour and it was fantastic. We were lucky that the weather held out because two hours later a summer storm would move in and the town was in the middle of a torrential downpour. Not to mention the town was under a funnel cloud warning and two touched town a half hour north of Neepawa.
After the parade lunch was in order and we knew exactly where we were going – Chicken Corral. This restaurant has been a Neepawa institution for as long as I can remember and my mom can remember. Their chicken is juicy, coleslaw on point and their crinkle cut french fries are a mix of soft and crispy. It was exactly as I remembered it. Busier than usual but seated immediately upon arrival, our drinks were on the table within three minutes and lunch was served 20 minutes later. I had a delicious Santa Fe Chicken burger that consisted of a freshly cooked chicken breast topped with Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese, tomato, lettuce, onions and Salsa accompanied by a side of coleslaw and fries. Mom ordered a delicious plate of battered cod, onion rings and coleslaw. Our meal was reasonably priced at $25 for the two of us especially when it’s all homemade. We left without enjoying their freshly baked pies but promised to have a slice or two upon our next arrival. Before heading home we stopped at the cemetery to visit my great-grandmother and great-grandfather. I miss my great-grandma so very much (my great-grandpa died the year before I was born) and have always hoped that she lived a little longer so I could get the chance to bake with her (she really was a fantastic baker). The cemetery where they are buried is beautiful – flowers are planted on each plot, there’s a picnic area for you to enjoy lunch or dinner and is very well cared for.
So the next time you’re looking for a place to unwind for a few hours look no further than a small town in your area. Small town charm, local businesses and good food is always something to experience and sometimes you don’t have to go that far to enjoy it.