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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Where I Got Crazy on New Year's Eve in Fort McMurray

It really wasn't hard to sell it to the Intrepid Junior Bloggers. As soon as I mentioned a press conference, a rock climbing wall, the Aerial Angels, food, and fireworks they were in. And where did we do all these things on December 31st? At MacDonald Island for "The Craze", of course. This has become Fort Mac's best New Year's Eve event every year - and this year it was better than ever, people.

I wasn't sure if the Junior Bloggers would be interested in the press conference but they are actually very curious about what I do and the people I know. They occasionally read this blog and they hear my stories, and they find it pretty interesting (so do I!). So, when I heard about the press conference for the grand opening of the K-Rock Climbing Wall (sponsored by K-Rock 100.5) I asked if they would like to come along and check it out - and they said yes. That's how we found ourselves front and centre, and how they became some of the first people in this city to rock the wall.

The Junior Bloggers watched with interest as Mac Island COO Tim Reid spoke about how the rock climbing wall came into existence. They watched as the ribbon was cut, and they were quite appropriately impressed with the wall itself (and it IS impressive, no doubt). But I knew what they were waiting for. They were waiting for the podium to be removed, the speeches to be over, and to get their little paws on that wall - and they did.

Yes, not only did they climb it, but both made it all the way to the top. The youngest Intrepid Junior Blogger, who is proud that she can scramble up a rocky slope like a tiny little deer, was especially delighted. She has expressed great interest in rock climbing in the mountains (and ice climbing, and sky diving, and all sorts of activities destined to shorten my life span), and the new rock wall will certainly make that an easier goal to pursue. I was especially pleased to meet some people who will be doing instructing at the rock wall, meaning that the Junior Bloggers can learn some techniques and skills as well. The girls scaled the wall, came down (that was a bit scary, the rappel down, probably more so for me than them), pronounced it "epicly awesome" and wanted to go out and do more. Next stop? The bouncy castles/houses/things.

At twelve and thirteen I thought the Intrepid Junior Bloggers were over these things, but they aren't. Okay, if I hadn't been wearing a skirt (and afraid of crushing a toddler) I might have been in there too. There's just something about a bouncy castle that brings out the kid in all of us. After the bouncy castles we checked out another new addition - the Legacy Wall sponsored by Don Scott's McMurray Law Office. I'd been peeking in under the curtains at this for some time, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on (look, people, without rampant curiousity I'd get nowhere with all this!).

This wall fascinates me. The coolest part is that you can submit your own photos of things you've done at Mac Island and they might play them on the wall! How awesome is that? I told the Junior Bloggers and the clamouring to send photos of them began immediately. I can see this is going to be pretty darn popular, and great kudos to Mac Island and McMurray Law Office for making it happen.

While the Junior Bloggers went to find food (which turned out to consist of pop, cotton candy, and chocolate) I went to check out some other things. I checked out the Wipe-Out Fort McMurray set-up in the pool (they asked for no photos of that, and being a co-operative sort I complied - but it was totally awesome!). I checked out the Suncor Enchanted Forest Family Skate and the Much Video Dance Skate. I watched them Rock(ing) The House at the curling rink (where they were helping people to try out curling, which was quite amusing at some points). I checked out the food vendors and the live entertainment in the form of hoop dancers. And I took some photos.

Once I found the girls I took them and their "health food lunch" and wandered into the Snowflake Circus. Once again the live entertainment was stellar, with magician Chris Visser putting on a show that involved a banana (you had to be there, sorry), and, best of all, the Aerial Angels.

Now, we have been fans of the Angels for many years, and the youngest Intrepid Junior Blogger even did the Starfish Circus Camp here a few years ago (a camp operated by people associated with the Angels). We were slightly surprised this time, though, when the usual Angels (Alison, Spike, and Luna) were absent and it was new Angels. Or, rather like the second-generation of Charlie's Angels, it appears there is a new generation of Angels doing shows, and despite our initial dismay (not being sure if they would live up to what we've come to expect of the Angels) they knocked our socks off as usual. They followed the same "script" almost exactly - and did it almost as well (although I think Alison, Spike, and Luna will always hold a very special spot in our hearts). So, hats off to the second generation Angels - you ladies totally rocked it.

When the Snowflake Circus ended I told the Junior Bloggers we needed to head out. I still needed to pick up some champagne before a private New Year's Eve party at a friend's house, and I wasn't sure what time the stores closed. We were debating whether or not to return for the fireworks, and we were discussing exactly that when we ran into Tim Reid again. Tim had introduced himself to the girls earlier, and they had commented on how nice he was. When I told them that he runs Mac Island they were quite impressed at the magnitude of that job (and kind of impressed that he knew me, so thanks Tim for keeping me cool in the eyes of two teens!). When we saw Tim this time he asked if we were staying for the fireworks, and when we said we weren't sure he made an offer. He told us that they usually watch them from the Fox Den, and that if we wanted to we could join them - and one look into the Junior Bloggers' eyes and I knew we were coming back. So, we whipped out, picked out champagne (and guess what? - at that time only the really good and expensive stuff is left so we had GOOD champagne that night!), and headed back.

We even got back in time for the grand finale and the balloon drop. The girls caught a few balloons, popped them, and then it was out into the frosty night, where snow was gently falling. We walked over to the Fox Den, the girls bubbling over with excitement from the day. We went into the Fox Den where we found Tim and his family, and a few other Mac Island employees. I admit it - I felt totally honoured to have been invited to watch the fireworks from this vantage point. We were so close we could see men in flame retardant suits walking around, and so close that when the fireworks went off it felt like they would come down on top of us. We stood outside, snow falling gently on our faces, arms wrapped around each other, snapping shots (me with my iPhone as I'd long ago exhausted my camera battery), and marvelling at the show. And what a show it was. We could see them being lit, see them being launched, and watched them explode above us.

This is the final photo from my camera, just before it died. It sort of expresses my feelings about that day, too. Explosive, in the most beautiful way. Bright and shiny and exciting and brilliant. 

By the time the fire works were over the Junior Bloggers and I were exhausted and happy and ready to go. We thanked Tim for inviting us into the Fox Den, and we headed into our car where we waited out some of the traffic while listening to Down With Webster, a band we went to see together when they played here last summer at Mac Island (and which we will see again in February when they return). We talked about the day, about the rock wall and the Angels and bouncy castles and cotton candy and about all the great people in this community, like the staff at Mac Island and Events Wood Buffalo and K-Rock 100.5 and Fort McMurray Realtors (presenters of The Craze). We talked until we could squeeze into traffic and drive off into the dark night, still hours from midnight, but feeling like the new year had already begun. We talked as we drove away, too, talked about things coming up in 2012 and how excited we were about some of the things we have planned. We had an amazing day, and we ended 2011 in a aerial-sky-touching, rocking-the-wall, bursting-the-fireworks kind of way. It was the grand finale to an amazing year, and a taste of a year yet to come. It was, quite frankly, perfect in every single way. It was the best possible way to say good-bye to an incredible year and welcome a new one. It was everything I've come to expect in this community - and, well, just a little bit more, too. The oldest Intrepid Junior Blogger declared the day as "just pure awesome sauce" - and I agree.

My thanks to EVERYONE who organized, 
volunteered at, or sponsored The Craze. The 
Intrepid Junior Bloggers rocked the wall,
but all of you rocked our New Year's Eve.
We are forever grateful! :)

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