Posts tagged ‘calgary stampede’

July 9, 2013

Why a Calgary Winter Stampede would be the Coolest Show on Earth

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A Calgary Winter Stampede may not have much of a rodeo presence, but it sure would be The Coolest Show on Earth. (Julia Pelish photo/Vacay.ca)

[This opinion piece was first published on Vacay.ca and then the Huffington Post earlier this week.]

As the Calgary Stampede completes its first weekend after a heroic effort by volunteers, organizers and workers to overcome the devastation of the June flood, there’s a heightened awareness of the importance of tourism to the city.

Had the flooding occurred a week later, the Stampede very likely would have been wiped out, jeopardizing one quarter of the city’s annual tourism income. Disasters reveal vulnerabilities, not just in infrastructure and urban planning, but in economics, as well. The flood in Alberta indicates a need for more significant tourism draws to the city.

The Stampede, now in its 101st year, created $340 million in economic impact last year, when it welcomed a record 1.5 million visitors. Tourism totals $1.4 billion and attracts 5.2 million visitors each year inCalgary. For a city of more than one million people, having one event account for 25% of tourism is far too high of a percentage. In contrast, the Montreal Jazz Festival and Just for Laughs comedy festival — which both bring in more than $100 million in spending to Quebec’s largest city — are each responsible for about 5% of the metropolitan area’s $2.4-billion annual tourism industry. Even if either one was as large as the Stampede, it still wouldn’t be responsible for a quarter of the share of tourism spending. Likewise, if either one was cancelled for whatever reason, the loss wouldn’t cut so deep because other international festivals exist in Montreal.

If there’s a lesson for the city and tourism operators in Calgary to take away from the flood it might be that now’s the time to dramatically diversify event offerings to have another giant festival that attracts global attention. In my mind, the surest way to make an immediate and sustained impact is through launching an annual Calgary Winter Stampede.

Such an event accomplishes several objectives for Tourism Calgary and mayor Naheed Nenshi.

  1. It adds another significant event to the annual calendar to entice visitors and generate revenue.
  2. It boosts employment in the tourism sector, which currently employs 10% of Calgarians.
  3. It allows for another way to demonstrate Calgary’s astounding community spirit.

A Calgary Winter Stampede takes advantage of the city’s best-known brand, “the Greatest Show on Earth” itself, and allows the city to capitalize on the winter sports traffic to its airport, where skiers and snowboarders land en route to the Canadian Rockies.

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December 29, 2012

Best of Canadian Travel in 2012

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The rodeo is only part of the excitement at the Calgary Stampede. (Julia Pelish photo)

[This article was previously published in Vacay.ca and the Huffington Post in December 2012.]

Jenna Skinner and Adam Carmichael reminded me of something I’ve known for a few years now: Travelling the world is great in part because it puts into context Canada and what makes it an amazing country. I met Skinner and Carmichael at Quidi Vidi Brewery, one of those Canadian finds few people outside of its region ever hears about.

Newlyweds in their early 20s, Skinner and Carmichael were spending their last days of summer travelling the nation’s east coast, doing what Canadians have done for decades — hitting the open road with gas in the tank and camping gear in the back. They left from Sauble Beach, a picturesque spot in Ontario that’s three hours northwest of Toronto. Heading east, they drove all the way to the edge of the continent. Gros Morne National Park struck them for its beauty, while Newfoundland as a whole earned praise for its welcoming spirit.

“It’s so different from Ontario,” Skinner said. “Canada is so big that you forget how unique different parts of it are.”

Both Skinner and Carmichael have travelled abroad extensively, which is a prerequisite, I think, for truly understanding what a remarkable nation we have here.

“We’ve been to other places and you learn to appreciate Canada. My priority now is to see Canada first,” Carmichael said.

Like the newlyweds, I spent the summer on the road, touching down in nine of the 10 provinces (see you in 2013, Manitoba). My impression is Canada is changing, fast. The wealth in Alberta and Saskatchewan is giving cities like Calgary and Saskatoon the chance to re-invent themselves, and thanks to artists, chefs, visionary politicians and proud communities, they’re doing it. The buzz in the west is palpable. In many ways, those provinces are the engine that’s driving the nation’s future. Meanwhile, Newfoundland has struck oil and St. John’s is thriving because of it. Unemployment is still high in other parts of the province, but the capital is enjoying some of its best times in its history, and that makes it a reason to go because even in lean times St. John’s is as fun a city as there is in the country.

Tourism opportunities abound in big centres and small, with people eager to search out local experiences, whether it be culinary finds or historic tours that are short on gimmicks and strong on depth and personality.

In all, 2012 was a fantastic year for seeing Canada. The 100th Calgary Stampede was a highlight, along with many other one-of-a-kind encounters.

My Best of 2012 in Canadian Travel

I’m glad I discovered …: Saskatchewan. And you will be too, when you drive up to Lake Waskesiu or grab a pint at the Bushwakker Brewpub in Regina or stroll along the river in Saskatoon. Canada’s most underrated province is truly a gem waiting to be discovered.

Three meals of a lifetime (naming just one is too hard): Langdon Hall, where chef Jonathan Gushue and his outstanding kitchen went all-out with an 11-course menu that included a cut of venison that might make a vegetarian think twice;Rouge in Calgary is immaculate, warm and downright perfect in so many ways; and Atelier in Ottawa, where chef Marc Lepine is letting his imagination run wild and winding up with some of the most unique dishes you’ll find in the country. (Naming only three is hard too — so, go to Les 400 Coups in Montreal for a sublime dining experience.)

Best gourmet meal I didn’t expect: The Willow on Wascana in Regina, Saskatchewan. Chef Tim Davies is doing many things right in his kitchen.

Best cheap meal that’s not a food truck: The Calgary Sandwich ($14) at the Galaxie Diner.

Best cheap meal from a food truck: The Bangkok Slaw from chef Adrian Niman and the Food Dudes in Toronto. (Runner-up: Sloppy Jose sandwich from Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro in Toronto.)

Best pizza: It’s still Nicli Antica Pizzeria in Vancouver. Even better than the first time.

Dish I can’t wait to try again: Former Black Hoof chef Grant van Gameren’s Blood Pudding and White Chocolate, which I had a taste of at the Roots, Rants & Roars food festival in Elliston, Newfoundland & Labrador. Weird and classy, silky and rich, sweet and potent, it is a dichotomy of a dish and also an absolute treat. Van Gameren is opening a restaurant soon in Toronto’s Little Italy and this item should be on the menu for all to try.

Best hotel suite: The Osprey Room at the Beach House in Portugal Cove, just north of St. John’s. The Osprey Room is 850 square feet of opulence with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out into the jaw-dropping cove. Simply stunning.

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August 13, 2012

Paul Brandt talks travel and songwriting

[I had a quick chat with Paul Brandt, one of the truly good guys in music world, for inclusion in the Rock n Roll Road Trips series Vacay.ca is producing. Brandt, whose new album is out this fall, talks about how travel informs his songwriting and names his favourite road-trip song of all time. The interview took place during the 100th Calgary Stampede, where he headlined the Grandstand Show each night. This article and video first appeared on Vacay.ca.]

CALGARY, ALBERTA — In “Alberta Bound,” Paul Brandt sings about the province’s “black fertile ground” and “big, blue sky” in an ode to the beauty of his home. The tune could be a contemporary anthem for Alberta, one that would fit hand-in-hand with Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds.” For the songwriter, though, “Alberta Bound” is a travel song. Brandt notes that its lyrics held significance for him while he was away from Calgary, touring the world and living in Nashville for almost 10 years.

During an interview with Vacay.ca last month, Brandt called “Alberta Bound” a song “that has defined my career in a lot of ways.” Its inspiration came from the drives he would make during the Christmas holidays, travelling from Nashville back to Calgary.

“The seeds for that song were planted during that time. We would always hit the Sweet Grass sign at the Montana border and we knew we were getting close to home and that made it into the song,” Brandt says, noting the song’s opening lyric that speaks of being 40 miles from Canada, a sentiment reminiscent of many road-trip tunes from this country, including “Last American Exit” by the Tragically Hip and “Coming Home” from City and Colour.

Recently, Brandt’s work has kept him home, to his delight. He headlined the “Century” Grandstand Show at the 100th Calgary Stampede, teaming with a roster of international entertainers to thrill attendees with theatrics and song. With that undertaking complete, he returns to recording and touring. His new album “Just As I Am” is due out in the fall and a cross-Canada tour will follow its release.

The country music superstar rose to prominence in 1996, earning Top New Male Artist of the Year honours at the CMT Awards. He has racked up eight Juno Awards during his career and has received more accolades than any male Canadian country singer — and he only recently turned 40. Brandt’s success has taken him around the world and also led him right back to where he started.

An avid fisherman and marathon runner, Brandt revels in the many outdoor activities that Albertans enjoy, whether it be hiking the Rocky Mountains or taking in the scenic trails around the province. He and his wife, Elizabeth Peterson, chose to raise their family in Canada rather than Tennessee, which is why they returned north.

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