On several occasions over the time I have been writing this blog I touched on an event that was, at those points in time, a vision, a dream, a hope and then, finally, a plan. Today, on August 7, 2015, it is a reality.Tonight SMS Equipment Stadium at Shell Place will be filled with a spectacle of colour and sound unlike anything we have welcomed in this region before. It is the culmination of years of hard work and the investment of thousands and thousands of hours. It is the opening ceremonies of the Western Canada Summer Games 2015 Wood Buffalo.
This blog was young and fresh when this idea was first presented to the community. I attended the pep rallies designed to impress the bid committee when they were selecting a host city, and I was there when our success as that host city was announced. It is almost unbelievable to me that tonight we see the official opening of the games, and in two short weeks it will be over, leaving behind only memories and a legacy of that time we had this idea to do something amazing...and then we did it.Things have changed since the bid to host the games was first proposed. Our community is going through a difficult time, and anyone who tries to deny this is either not being honest with themselves or is seeing through a very different lens than I do. I am not all doom and gloom, but realism must be exercised when I see people I have known for a very long time leaving this community as their employment prospects dim. It hurts my heart to see them go, and I can only hope that when things improve they will return, but I also know the heart of Fort McMurray will keep on beating, because that is just what we do in this town that has seen the peaks and valleys of a resource-based economy before.
It is in times like this, though, that events like the Western Canada Summer Games take on even more significance. Conceived at a time when the economy was brighter, the games remind us that there is more to life than the price of oil. We have the opportunity to come together as a community once again and embrace an event that will bring thousands of visitors to our region to celebrate, to compete and to cheer.2015 has already been an incredible year in this community. I know there are detractors and naysayers, but to see what has happened in this year as anything less than remarkable truly underplays the magnitude of growth and change we have seen in this region. In the best of times the economy would be more robust, perhaps, but even so we have seen a year that has brought the people of this region amazing opportunities. When I began this blog I only expected to be a witness to them, but thanks to this blog I had the chance to instead become part of some of them.
I won’t deny it. I am so very proud of what we have accomplished in this community in 2015. I am so proud of those who invested their time and energy into the Western Canada Summer Games, not just this year but in all the years leading up to today. I am so proud of all those community residents who will attend the opening ceremonies this evening, the events over the coming days and the closing ceremonies on August 16. I am so proud of all the volunteers in this community and all those who have contributed in any way to delivering the games to this community.Perhaps the summer of 2015 is not the best of times in Fort McMurray, at least as far as the economy is concerned. But in terms of the community I am not sure if we have ever shone brighter, exhibited more energy, exuded more spirit and shown more pride in who we are and what we do than we have done this year. It is not in who we are during the times of plenty that we show our true character, but in the times of challenge – and during a challenging time Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region continues to stand tall and straight, confident in both our present and in our future.
And so Fort McMurray I get to now write the words I have been waiting for years to write: Game On! Now get out there and participate in this once in a lifetime, once in a community kind of event – and don’t let the summer of 2015 pass you by. This summer, the summer of 2015, is only going to happen once - and it is a must-not-miss event.