US & Canada

Star Trek fans set to beam up to Canada

Klingon Assault Group
Image caption Klingon Assault Group lands in Vulcan - but did they come in peace?

Fewer than 2,000 people live in the small prairie town of Vulcan in Alberta, Canada.

But the town sees its population swell every June as it trades on its name and its association with Vulcan, the home planet of Mr Spock in Star Trek.

Fans in costume, or wearing Spock's signature pointy ears, come from around the world for Vulcan's annual three-day Star Trek convention: the "VulCON Spock Days Galaxyfest".

Hard-core enthusiasts, or Trekkies, admire the town and its replica of the USS Enterprise. Vulcan even has a tourism centre designed to look like a spacecraft coming in to land.

"The whole community gets involved," says Cricket Courtney, who travelled from the US and dressed as a Klingon, the villains of the show, for last year's Galaxyfest.

"We went to the bakery where the baker was wearing his Spock ears. The mayor dresses up in a Star Trek uniform, people come and talk to you on the street, take your picture. I feel like you come home to Vulcan."

'Dream come true'

And in April, Mr Spock did just that: he "came home" to Vulcan. The actor Leonard Nimoy visited the small prairie town where he was greeted by hundreds of fans.

"We have welcomed him and he has a key now, and he can come home whenever he wishes," says Vulcan's mayor, Tom Grant. "It is just so great that he participated in this."

"I think Leonard Nimoy coming home to Vulcan was probably the biggest event in Vulcan's history, and it certainly is a dream come true," says Dayna Dickens, Vulcan's tourism co-ordinator.

"It has been something people have been dreaming of for years and years."

Image caption Vulcan's mayor takes his duties very seriously

Mr Nimoy has developed a relationship with the residents of Vulcan in the last year. Thanks to his efforts, 300 residents were taken to Calgary to see a preview screening of Star Trek XI.

The town had bid to host a premiere screening, but was turned down - partly because it does not have a cinema.

When Mr Nimoy heard about the failed attempt, he called Paramount Studios and organised a private screening.

"I thought it was only appropriate, since the town of Vulcan has been so supportive of Star Trek and I thought it was about time Star Trek did something for the town of Vulcan," he said.

Dayna Dickens believes the actor's endorsement of Vulcan helped double visitor numbers to about 23,800 last year. She thinks they will rise even further because of the international attention Mr Nimoy's visit brought to the town.

Vulcan has been declared "Official Star Trek Capital of Canada" by CBS Consumer Products, which handles Star Trek series merchandise for CBS Entertainment.

Ancient history

The Star Trek connection has been a success for the community, but the town's name has nothing to do with the show.

"No, we weren't named after Mr Spock's home planet," explains Dayna.

Image caption Townspeople used to suffer a lot of Vulcan ear jokes - but not any more

"We were actually named Vulcan back in 1910 by a Canadian Pacific Railway surveyor who had a fascination with Roman Mythology, and of course Vulcan is the Roman god of fire in the forge.

"And when he was laying rails in the area he thought that would be a fun name for this community."

She added: "Fifty-six years later, when Star Trek hit the airwaves, our local sports team started to be teased about the size of their ears. And from there on our coincidental association with Star Trek just grew and grew."

That association with Spock's home planet keeps attracting Trekkies each year. It allows them to celebrate their fandom without ridicule.

"Star Trek has been something that's been part of my life since I was a child, and it's about being able to express myself, because it really is about creativity," explains Cricket Courtney. "I do costuming, and I get to dress up and can be a warrior when I'm not usually a warrior."

Image caption Vulcan's Starship FX6-1995: Not your average town monument

Fans like Ms Courtney will get a chance to beam into Vulcan once again this year.

The 17th annual "Spock Days Galaxyfest Star Trek Convention" takes place from 11-13 June.

Beam me up, Scotty.

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