Telling the story of my life in my home - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

McMurray Musings - People of Note - Claude Giroux, Executive Director, Events Wood Buffalo


Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a person who appreciates people of vision and passion. There is a third element that intrigues me, though, and that is the ability to combine those two qualities with a third - drive. There is a person in our community who I believe embodies these three qualities, and who has combined them in a way that has benefitted Fort McMurray in a tremendous way - and that is Claude Giroux, Executive Director of Events Wood Buffalo.

I suppose Claude first appeared on my personal radar shortly after Events Wood Buffalo started operation. Events Wood Buffalo was formed specifically to organize and plan community events - but under Claude's leadership it has done so much more, people. It has revitalized the entertainment scene in this city. It has started a renaissance in our arts and culture community. It has turned us into a city of people who say "why can't we?" instead of "we can't".

Now, I spoke to Claude recently and he is a very modest individual when it comes to his contribution to this community. He gives great credit to the support he has received from Mayor Blake and city council, and to the funding from all levels of government, as well as corporate sponsors. He also gives great credit to his staff at EWB, and I fully agree that they are doing a remarkable job. I know, however, that every great team has one thing in common - a dynamic leader. I think Claude is that leader. He has a way of infusing his enthusiasm, belief, and drive into those around him, and I don't think EWB would have achieved what they have without his direction.

So, why  am I so impressed with what Claude has done? I don't think without Claude that we would have ever seen KISS in our little city. I don't think we would have seen events like winterPLAY emerge,  or the growth of events like interPLAY. Now, don't get me wrong - I think people in this community have done a remarkable job with these sorts of events over the years. After a time, though, I think a fresh pair of eyes can see possibilities that we ourselves may not see. We may become a bit mired in how "things are" and not see what things can become. Sometimes we just need someone from outside to come in and shake things up a bit. And sometimes that shake up can have benefits beyond what we expect.

Claude says that operating EWB has been a bit like "running down a hill". He says there has been great infrastructure support , and great support from all those people who believe in EWB and Fort McMurray. He has been supported by an ever-growing group of volunteers. He says that this all happened at a very appropriate time in the development of the community, and that there is "no place on earth that provides this kind of support", and I fully believe that to be true.

Of course the hard part of all this is that soon Claude will leave EWB to take on a new position in another community. There are challenges ahead for whomever takes over as Executive Director, too. EWB is a still a fledgling group, and attention will need to be paid to fiscal stabilization, and just stabilizing the organization in general. There is also great opportunity, too, as Claude pointed out to me. The arts and culture scene here is burgeoning, and EWB could play a very important role in this development. This is a scene that needs support and fostering, and EWB is in a perfect place to help provide this assistance. So many of the events they organize, like interPLAY, are in essence arts and culture festivals, and the growth of these events can only help that aspect of our community grow.

Speaking to Claude is absolutely inspiring, people. As Claude says we can put Fort McMurray on the map for so much more than the oil sands. Events Wood Buffalo, under Claude's leadership, has taken enormous steps in that direction. When we finished speaking Claude said to me that what he does is "way better than a real job". All I can say is Claude's presence has benefitted our community in astonishing ways, and he has my complete respect. "Real job" or not, Claude has all the things that make for success - passion, vision, and drive - and his success has also been ours. We have been so very fortunate to have him here in our city, people - and he will be missed, but I wish him the very best in the future.

 There is one more major event that will be held while Claude is still in place at the head of EWB, and that is SummersEnd - I hope to see you there people. If you happen to see Claude, maybe stop and say thank you from all of us, okay? I think he deserves that, don't you? See ya there, Fort Mac!

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