Carle Steel called me this morning to wish prairie dog “happy birthday!” which was good since I’d forgotten as usual*. The first issue of prairie dog was published on Feb. 2, 1993, but every year when Groundhog Day rolls around, I totally space. Too busy worrying about shadows, maybe?

Nineteen years! Who’da thunk. This paper was launched during a brutal global recession exacerbated by terrible provincial economics (the post-Grant Devine debt crisis) and phony-baloney federal austerity measures (Jean Chretien and Paul Martin’s massive sneak-attack cuts to federal transfer payments). Launching prairie dog was a pretty damn ballsy thing for a bunch of young lefties to do, especially since their demographic was an endangered species in 1990s Saskatchewan.

This was a time, remember, when the province’s young adults were fleeing for Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto. Occasional contributor and friend o’ the dog Gord Gilmour calls it “the era when even McDonald’s wasn’t hiring”.

But start prairie dog those young lefties did, and hey! We’re still here! Founders Mitch Diamantopoulos and April Bourgeois were eventually joined by fanatics like current publisher Terry Morash (proud son of Churchbridge, SK) and me (accidental immigrant from Winnipeg). Over time we accumulated freelance writers like Greg Beatty, Paul Dechene, James Brotheridge, Stephen LaRose, Carrie-May Siggins (welcome back!), Aidan Morgan, Carle the birthday-rememberer and many more. With Paul Klassen (design), Lois-Anna Kaminski (long-suffering copy editor), Darrol Hofmeister and Kim Jay (photography), and Myron Campbell and Dakota McFadzean (illustration), it’s clear we have a lot of pretty damn talented people contributing to this thing.

And while some of our friends have moved on (sniff, Mitch, boo hoo, April**), the passion they brought to this mad enterprise remains in the DNA of every page, web or print, of the paper to this day.

In February 2012 it’s a different world and a different Regina. A lot of people who left town in the ’90s are coming back. I’m feeling pretty damn good that we’re here to greet them — prairie dog, Regina’s own answer to independent publications like The Georgia Straight, Fast Forward and Now. Every city needs one, after all.

I’m especially glad we can drink without fake I.D. now.

Nineteen years. Who’da thunk!

*Carle says she remembers because we have the same birthday as the Saskatchewan Arts Board. I can live with that.

**Actually, we share beers with Mitch and April semi-regularly although one of them is a naughty person who doesn’t come out to play often enough MITCH.