[Article and poem first published in Vacay.ca on June 22, 2013]
From Beyond the Wake
Water, the menace,
knows no prejudice,
It slaloms, it stampedes,
A cavalry of catastrophe,
Brimming over with haste
Buck up in its face,
Flood back human grace,
A stoic swell,
A dam of pride
unbreakable by fate,
from beyond the wake
When your friends are in trouble and you’re far away there’s only so much support you are able to give. With Calgary, Canmore and so many other Alberta communities in grief, we wanted to do what we can at Vacay.ca to help. We are trying to ignite a Kickstarter campaign that will complement the Red Cross efforts to aid flood victims in need of financial assistance. But Kickstarter is only based in the United States and requires compliance with American tax law, so we are searching for colleagues south of the border to assist in getting it started. (Email us if you or someone you know can help.) Hey, if Gawker can raise $200,000 for a video of a fat mayor (allegedly) smoking from a crack pipe, there has to be enough human decency to raise the equivalent amount to help good people in need.
In the meantime, as we observe the historic flood and the damage it has done to this marvellous city and its neighbours, I wanted to list the great many things to celebrate about Calgary and southern Alberta. It’s a reminder of why you should visit, once the water has receded and the restoration has begun.
1. The People
When you first hear the term “Western Hospitality,” it’s easy to think it’s a marketing ploy. If you’re a journalist, you will even be keen to disprove the term or at least scrutinize its claim. Travel to Calgary a few times and you realize Western Hospitality is real and it’s real because the people of the city take the idea of welcoming visitors to heart. No city of 1 million people can match Calgary’s level of friendliness and gracious spirit.
2. The Calgary Stampede
Few massive events live up to their hype the way the Stampede does. It is everything you would expect from a giant, two-week-long celebration — and then some, as the free pancake breakfasts, early-morning cocktail parties and late-night music concerts combine to bombard you with incentives to come back. The Stampede is the highest-grossing festival in Canada, bringing in more than $170 million in economic activity each year. Its importance to the community is immense and why everything possible will be done to salvage it this year. [See 2012 Calgary Stampede coverage on Vacay.ca]
3. The Explosion of Culture
Food. Music. Multicultural festivals. Art. Design.
Calgary had little — or none — of it two decades ago. Now, this fast-growing, oil-rich city has blossomed with all kinds of contemporary flavours, not the least of which is a stellar culinary scene. On the horizon is the promise of even greater cultural importance as the new $135-million National Music Centre facility prepares to open in 2015.
4. The History
Too often, Canadians forget about the rich history — human or otherwise — we have in this country. In Alberta, that history is brilliantly preserved, whether it’s in the Badlands, with the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park, where 40 dinosaur species have been found, or in the numerous First Nations communities, where visitors can learn about what human life in North America was like 8,000 years ago.
5. The Landscape
The flooding of the Bow and Elbow rivers won’t alter the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, or the resplendence of the auriferous prairies, or the magnificence of the big, blue sky that skims above Alberta, a province whose landscape stands up to any other territory in the world.