I had a conversation with a friend yesterday. I was talking about how I wanted to blog about an upcoming event, but how I was hesitant to do so because it happens to be taking place where I work, and I am so cautious about the overlap between this blog and my place of employment. They looked at me and said "You write a community blog, right? About life in this community? And you are avoiding writing about the most important place in this community because you work there? You do know that doesn't make sense, right?". No one had really put it so succinctly before, and so I realized that by not writing about these things I am doing a disservice to this blog , and to my readers - and so today I write about an event I have attended many times, but this year I am seeing instead from the inside.
I have gone as a guest in previous years, taking with me the Intrepid Junior Blogger. We have always had the most incredible time, because it is an incredible event on many levels. To say it is "fun" is an understatement, and it might well be the busiest day of the year at MacDonald Island Park, when thousands of people visit the facility for a day of festivities and fun - and all for free. The event? The annual New Year's Eve party of the year, The CRAZE.
In previous years I have marvelled at the event simply because of the sheer number of people (over 10,000 last year) and at the amazing variety of things happening. It seemed like there was something for everyone, from the live entertainment to the food to crafts and activities. It always seemed like an enormous undertaking, a huge task for the people who deliver the event every year and who do so with the kind support of generous partners and sponsors. I suppose I always understood the amount of time, work and effort that went into the event, but what I hadn't always understood is why they did it, because it is an investment of all those things. And the reality is they do it because this is just what being the heart of the community means. It means throwing an enormous party for thousands of people, children of all ages and parents and young adults and seniors and everyone else who wants to come and celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next.
There is a full slate of events planned, which you can find here. What you can't find at that link, though, is the feeling you get when you walk through halls packed with families enjoying the day. You can't see the joy and enthusiasm of the people participating in the events. And you can't feel what you feel when you see the fireworks exploding overhead, lighting up the northern sky in incredible colours.
New Year's Eve is a special time. It is a moment when we reflect on the past year, and think about the year to come. I know for some it is a night of carousing and drinking, but it never has been for me. It has always been the opportunity to spend time with the IJB and think about how every single year has brought new changes, new challenges, and new possibilities. Perhaps this has been more true than ever in the past two years, when I watched fireworks explode overhead and thought about how far I have come in my life here, and how far I have yet to travel.
Tomorrow is the first time I will see an event I have loved from another point of view. I will see it with new eyes, I think, but not with eyes jaded but rather with eyes opened to the wonders of the community in which I am so fortunate to reside. I will wander the halls and wonder at the children and parents. I will see one of the things that has always touched me the most - a community, celebrating together as friends, and as family. I will watch as we bring one year to a close, and prepare to welcome a new one. And this year I have not only the pleasure but the honour of doing it with my coworkers and being part of the team bringing this event to the community. This year I won't just be a guest but I will be part of the event, and I am so absurdly excited about the prospect.
I know I will see many of you tomorrow as we celebrate New Year's Eve together. I hope you stop and say hello so I can wish you a Happy New Year - because every new year is like a new baby, full of potential, hopes, and dreams. Tomorrow we will welcome 2014, and I will do it in the place that has always been like a second home to me, a place now closer to my heart than ever. And I will do so surrounded by my community, my coworkers, and my friends - and with an grateful heart I will say good-bye to 2013, and hello to a new year, full of all the things that make my life in Fort McMurray so rich and full.