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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Edmonton Escapade, EEDC Luncheon, and Embarrassment

I've been posting about my little trip to Edmonton over the last two days, and I've mentioned the reason I went down was to attend the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation annual luncheon. Every year the EEDC hosts this luncheon to celebrate achievement in local businesses, and to serve as a networking opportunity for Edmonton folks. I was delighted when the EEDC contacted me to invite me not only to the luncheon but to enjoy some of Edmonton at their expense. I was quite honoured to be invited, in fact, as I have this tendency to think that what I do is really of little significant impact. After all, if the internet disappeared tomorrow this entire blog would go with it, and what would it mean to anyone then? (can you tell what bloggers have nightmares about?)

After my exciting arrival in Edmonton and dinner with Peter Silverstone I woke up bright and early on Tuesday morning. I am typically an early riser and this day was no different, seeing me climb out of my very comfortable bed at the Union Bank Inn shortly after 5 am. The fuzzy purple bathrobe provided by the inn, a cup of coffee from the Keurig coffee maker (I think I might want one of those now), and the fireplace in my room helped to lessen my dismay at my inability to sleep in, and I set to work on some writing for the political campaign I have been working for as a volunteer.

I opened the blinds in my room and sat by the window, writing away as I watched the city come to life in the early morning. I wrote and noted as people began to arrive at their offices, and as the sleepy street began to awaken. I spent most of my twenties living and working in downtown Toronto and I admit missing certain moments of the day from that urban experience - the quiet times just before the day really gets going again, and the quiet moments at night when almost everyone has headed home and streets previously packed with people in suits are now home only to a few pigeons and me. So, to sit in my hotel room in downtown Edmonton with this view of the downtown was truly lovely, reminding me of a time in my life when I was part of that very urban world.

Madison's Grill, Union Bank Inn

My window view at Madison's Grill

Slowly I finished my work, showered, dressed, and then headed downstairs to Madison's Grill, where a complimentary a la carte breakfast awaited me. I was met by a lovely lady who directed me to a window table (to my delight, of course) and I was handed a menu. She brought me a carafe of coffee (I probably had that "look" in my eyes, despite two cups already consumed in my room), and I quickly settled on Eggs Benedict, dove into my coffee, and the local newspaper (incidentally, thank you, Edmonton Journal, for continuing to be what I consider one of the finest newspapers in the country, and one I always look forward to reading).

My morning paper, the Edmonton Journal

When the Eggs Benedict arrived it was quite perfect, the English Muffin crisp and toasty, the eggs slightly soft and runny (microbes be damned, I like my eggs runny, thank you).

Nom nom nom.

I finished up my breakfast and then headed upstairs to check my emails, gather my things, and head over to the Shaw Conference Centre where the luncheon was being held. I was pleased to discover it was a short walk, too, and when I arrived I marvelled as always at what a nice spot the conference centre has, nestled right on the riverbank and overlooking the valley. I stopped to grab a few pictures with my iPhone, and then headed into the centre. I headed down to Hall D and tried to look like I fit in.

View from Shaw Conference Centre, outdoors

Shaw Conference Centre, indoors fountain

I must admit I felt a bit awkward as I didn't know anyone, really. It felt a bit like when I first began writing this blog and knew a very limited number of people in this city, despite having lived here for several years. You see when you are a stay-at-home mom your social circle tends to be a bit small, the parents of your child's friends or those you meet at their school. When I began to write this blog my social circle exploded in an incredible way, so rapidly that I began having trouble remembering names and re-introducing myself to people I had already met, something that has never happened to me before (it's either early-onset senility or meeting too many people too quickly, and I refuse to accept the first option as a possibility, people). So, I found a seat in Hall D and watched people begin to pour in, and I got on Twitter.

I had found the event hashtag (how events are identified on Twitter so a search for that hashtag will pull up everything related to it) and so I began tweeting away merrily, a little bored and a little out of place. I tweeted about spotting and recognizing a certain provincial minister in the crowd, and about feeling a little out of my depth. Finally as the room began to get very full it was time to go find my luncheon table and I entered the dining area.

EEDC luncheon, podium

View from dining room in Hall D, Shaw Conference Centre

The first thing I noticed were about half a dozen giant screens scattered around the room. They all seemed to be showing a Twitter feed. They all seemed to be showing the hashtag feed for the event, #eedc2012. And then I looked closer at the screens and realized to my horror that every single tweet on the screen had one name in front of it - "McMurray Musings". People who know me know that I like to talk - and text, and tweet, and Facebook, and just generally share my thoughts with the entire world. I am very free with my thoughts usually, and my Facebook timeline is really a stream-of-consciousness feed directly into my head - but at least only my friends have to suffer through that little personal war zone. However, in Edmonton my entire tweetfest was now up all around the room for every mover and shaker in the city to read. I believe I not only turned bright red but died a little inside as my Twitter addiction was now right there front and centre in the very public view of an entire city of no one I knew but hoped to meet.  I put on my game face as people began to arrive at my table and started to breathe again when I noticed new tweets going up but not under my name (I went a bit covert on Twitter at that point, ensuring only every fifth tweet or so contained the event hashtag to prevent further self-embarrassment).

The company at my table was stellar, people from government and business, and the lovely lady from the EEDC who had arranged my entire itinerary (her name is Crystal, and she deserves a personal shout-out in my opinion as she did a terrific job in arranging an itinerary suited to me). I was also seated with an individual who is perhaps Edmonton's top blogger, MasterMaq, although I didn't get a chance to speak to him as he was across from me (and frankly I was mildly intimidated by a blogger with a far larger audience and reach than my own - what could he possibly find of interest in a little northern blogger like me?). The best part though was the people at my table who, upon learning I am from Fort Mac, began to ask me questions. They asked about the city and the community and oil sands development and as I talked I realized how much I had learned over this last year. I could talk for hours about the City Centre Action Plan and the airport expansion and the plans for MacDonald Island and non-profit groups and municipal politics and on and on. I suspect eventually they rather wished I would shut up, this woman who couldn't stop talking about her city, but they kept asking questions and I kept answering them. And people, I was so very, very happy to do so, to share our story with them.

Then it was time for some speeches, and I was pleased that oil sands development, our city, and groups like the Oil Sands Developers Group received mentions in them. You see I think it's fairly apparent that we are integral to the economy of this province - and of Edmonton. Every time they mentioned us I felt like I had gotten a personal shout-out and had to stop myself from a little fist-pumping and shouts of "whoot" (which I figured wouldn't lessen my embarrassment should I indulge myself in them). I sat there very dignified, beaming like mad, and tweeting every time Fort Mac got mentioned.

The awards themselves were of the standard nature - awards given for innovation (Quantium Technologies), recognition (Donovan Creative Communications), and, my personal favourite, community leadership, which was awarded to a group called Homeward Trust, an organization  that works with the homeless in Edmonton. I actually got tears in my eyes watching the video on Homeward Trust, as it reminded me of my own beloved Centre of Hope in Fort Mac, a place that has become so close to my heart and mind over the last year. The entire award ceremony was wonderful to witness as I love seeing communities celebrating their own achievements, recognizing those who are innovating or achieving or effecting change. I have attended several of these events in Fort Mac, and it was an absolute pleasure to do so in a city with which we share so many ties, including economic and social.

The food was terrific, as it usually is at the Shaw Conference Centre, an interesting menu with an Oriental flair (the ginger cherry blossom creme brulee was particularly enchanting, I thought, and I eat at a lot of these types of events so I am becoming a bit jaded in the desserts department), and the company at my table a pleasure to speak with. However, when the luncheon ended I realized I had to duck out quickly as I had an appointment with an Edmonton fashion and lifestyle blogger for a shopping tour - but I had noticed at the table next to mine someone I knew from Fort Mac. I dashed over and found our own RMWB Manager of Economic Development, and we chatted for a few minutes about the luncheon. I was thrilled to find someone else from Fort Mac in attendance, although since he didn't mention it I'm rather hoping he didn't witness my little Twitter embarrassment.

I thanked my gracious host Crystal from the EEDC, grabbed my coat from the coat check, and headed out the door, trotting back to the Union Bank Inn. And as I walked I thought yet again about how similar Edmonton and Fort Mac are, and about how we have such common goals - improving our situation, and our image. How we both want to make our cities the best possible place to live - and how we take opportunities like this luncheon to celebrate achievement by local individuals. I thought about how the people I had met at the luncheon were no different than the ones I meet in Fort Mac, and about how I think I would quickly meet new people should Edmonton be my home instead of Fort Mac. I thought again about all the things that make us similar and different, and all the conversations I had at lunch about exactly those things. And then I started thinking about something else - shoes. I began thinking about going shopping with Edmonton powerhouse Kendall Barber, and I dashed up to my room to change yet again and embark on the next phase of my Edmonton Escapade.

Coming up tomorrow -
I go on a shopping tour with
Kendall Barber,
Edmonton fashion and lifestyle blogger :)

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