What are you into? Concerts? This weekend saw Our Lady Peace burn up the stage on a cool fall evening, and Sloan play during an unseasonably hot afternoon (so hot that I couldn’t stand the heat and had to escape to air conditioning). Or maybe Celtic Thunder was more your style, an Irish singing group that performed on Saturday night. Or maybe country, in which case Dwight Yoakam was in town on Sunday night.
Maybe you are into athletics? Well, then you could take part in the first City Centre McMurray Half Marathon or Terry Fox Run, both of which followed routes through the soon-to-be-revitalized downtown core.Maybe you are more into something personal, like your upcoming wedding? Well, then there was the Eternal Bliss Wedding Show, a showcase of all things wedding.
Maybe you are an early riser, and keen to connect with community? Well, then there was the Firefighter’s Pancake Breakfast, an annual event normally held earlier in the year but postponed this year due to the floods in the spring.And maybe you just wanted to learn more about what there is to do in this community, from arts to culture to volunteer to sport to leisure to recreation? Well, then there was Community Registration Day, where 83 groups came together in a trade-show style showcase to tell the public about what they do, and how the community can get involved.
And you know what? As soon as you read this you will probably think of something not on this list, because quite frankly there is so much going on these days that not only can I not remember it all I often don’t even know what it all is. I try to keep up but there is such an incredible thing happening here that keeping pace can be a challenge. And what is happening here is, in one word, community.Maybe in years past the refrain “there’s nothing to do in Fort McMurray” might have been accurate. Maybe it had some validity. But in the last few years I have seen the options for entertainment and leisure not just grow but skyrocket. I have seen the future, and the future is indeed a vibrant, energetic community that is involved, engaged and active. Except that this is no longer the future – because we are living “the future” right now. The future has arrived, and if anything confirmed it for me it was this past weekend when I had to pick and choose events, and in the end miss some I wanted to attend simply because there wasn’t enough time in the day.
Recently a celebrity who shall remain nameless (he doesn’t need or deserve any more publicity by name in my blog, and I’ve taken to referring to him as ”he-who-must-not-be-named” in reference to a well known villain in a certain book series) called Fort McMurray “a wasteland”. I recognize he likely meant the oil sands (and even then more specifically the tailings ponds and mining areas, as the reclaimed areas like Wapisiw Lookout and Crane Lake hardly qualify as a wasteland), but because he used the name “Fort McMurray” as opposed to “the oil sands industrial sites” he made the miscalculation of appearing to include the general region in this description – and frankly you can argue what you will about the oil sands sites but he could not be more wrong about this community. All one had to do was attend one of the concerts or sporting events, the wedding show or the registration day, to see a community that is so far from being a “wasteland” that it is, in fact, the polar opposite. Far from being a wasteland this place is instead a heartland, where people invest their time and energy in an amazing variety of pursuits.I also want to recognize all those who create the events in this community – the organizers of marathons and Terry Fox runs, those who bring concerts to fields and arenas, the ones who support sport and athletic initiatives, and the private businesses who create events like wedding shows. Having been on the inside of some of these I know the amount of time, work, and effort that goes into them, and the reality is the people creating, organizing, sponsoring, and bringing these events to the public are members of our community, too. There are so many who do this both as a career and as a volunteerism, and those efforts deserve tremendous recognition because without them perhaps the refrain “there is nothing to do in Fort McMurray” would be true.
Once upon a time I would say to those who would complain that there is nothing to do in Fort McMurray that they simply weren’t looking hard enough. I’ve changed that now. My official response to that complaint is that they aren’t actually looking at all, and are at risk of being just as blind as the he-who-shall-not-be-named celebrity who showed an inability to actually see past preconceived notions and ideas. And just to make my point clear I will follow up my response with a healthy whack from my daytimer, likely rendering the complainant unconscious from the sheer weight of that book – because you see there isn’t “nothing to do in Fort McMurray”, there is everything to do in Fort McMurray, and this past weekend? We just proved it. This past weekend was the final death knell of "there's nothing to do in Fort McMurray" - and together as community we just wrote the obituary. And I don't think anyone will ever mourn the loss, either.