Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why This Just Might Be The Most Exciting Time To Live In Fort Mac - Ever.

When I moved to this city one of the first people I encountered was a woman who hated it here. I mean she deeply and truly loathed it with every fibre of her being. She was probably not the best person to meet upon arrival, but her passionate hatred made me think it couldn't possibly be as bad as she claimed - and it wasn't, at least not to me. The problem for her was that it wasn't  "like home", home being a city in eastern Canada. I never said it to her but I kept thinking that of course it wasn't like that other city - it's northern Alberta, it's a different population base, and the industry is very different. When she finally moved away I don't know about her but I know I was relieved because her hatred was infectious, and it spread to so many it touched.

When I first arrived here almost ten years ago the city was different from what I was accustomed to, and was in some ways disappointing - but what has been so amazing to me is how it has improved since then. Yes, you read that right, I said improved. How? In recent years there has been a tremendous influx of new people, new ideas, and new life into this city.

I look at groups like Events Wood Buffalo, which I think has totally breathed new life into the events they organize. Under the leadership of Claude Giroux I think they've done an incredible job. I'm always amazed at how well organized they seem, and at their enthusiasm. They aren't afraid to take risks, which is so refreshing.

I look at new publications, like McMurray Girl, the brainchild of editor  Kyla Getty. It's a polished, professional publication, and I think it stands up well against similar publications in much larger cities. Again, Ms. Getty took a risk with this publication, and I'm delighted that it appears to be successful. I think it adds immensely to our community to have this kind of magazine showcasing our residents and businesses.

It seems every day I am discovering someone has undertaken a new venture in this city, whether it be a podcast (YMM Podcast), a new website devoted to current events (Everything Fort Mac), or a new retail store of some sort. There just seems to be a sense of possibility in the air, and it seems just as infectious as the hatred I mentioned earlier.

There have been new public facilities built, like MacDonald Island Park, that give the residents a place to play and learn and recreate. MIP is second to no other facility in our province, and has already played host to several sports events attended by athletes from all over Alberta, and even further afield. The potential for more events seems limitless, and what I think is so terrific are the partnerships being formed between groups like MIP and Events Wood Buffalo. These partnerships, along with involvement from the municipality, allow us to explore even more new ideas and possibilities.

In recent memory there have been events like WinterPlay and the Northern Classic. In the near future we have Kiss, arguably one of the most famous American bands ever to hit the stage, coming to play the Canada Rocks festival. I can't speak for anyone else but I find all of this incredibly exciting. I feel like we are on the cusp of something very special in this city. It's almost like we are seeing the birth of a true community as opposed to a loose collective of people who happen to live here.

It seems we are beginning to attract more and more people of vision, enthusiasm, and ability to our city. These people bring with them the skills and ambition to improve the community, and the best part is that they also embrace it and make it their home. I can't help but wonder what the woman I mentioned above who hated the city so much would say about it now. Perhaps she would look around and see all these exciting developments and be as hopeful as I am about the future for this city. Perhaps she would still hate it because it is not that city in eastern Canada. If she chose the latter I would say it is her loss, because frankly I think we have the potential to be a far better community than we'd ever dreamed or hoped to be. The secret, people, is that achieving that potential is up to all of us, not just these new visionaries and enthusiasts. It is up to every resident of this city, new and old, to contribute to making this not just a city but a community. Get out there and make it happen, people. Let's spread this infection.

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