Calgary: What's our colour...drink...animal..car...movie character?

Recently, I was invited to a focus group by Tourism Calgary, so they could pick my brain (along with another 15+ Calgarians) about Calgary’s identity and brand.  Always game to be a guinea pig (that’s how I met my wife…another story), so I quickly said, “YES!”

  Do Calgarians live in a bubble? 

Do Calgarians live in a bubble? 

Same Stories?

I was intrigued by one of the introductory remarks – “this not going to be about picking a new logo or new moniker, but more an open discussion about Calgary’s identity and unique sense of place.” Interesting.

One of the take-away ideas from the facilitator’s introduction was that almost every city around the world is telling the same stories to tourists - how great their festivals are, bragging about their new museums, parks and plazas and boasting about their culinary culture and craft beers. 

A related key message was - what cities are not doing is understanding and/or communicating what makes them different, unique or special.  Note: Something I hope I am trying to do with my blogs from Calgary or other places I visit, I am always looking for something unique.

We then were divided into three groups of about 6 people each for some group exercises.  Here are two that I found both interesting and strange at the same time.

  Calgarians young and old love to play "dress up."

Calgarians young and old love to play "dress up."

  Calgarians are colourful.

Calgarians are colourful.

First Exercise:

Answer this question: What would the world miss if Calgary didn’t exist? 

Yikes…my immediate thought was “nothing.”  In fact I would hazard a guess 80% of the world probably doesn’t even know Calgary exists and if they do, they know very little about us.  An obvious answer is “energy” but in reality that doesn’t come from Calgary.  Then there is the Stampede, but not sure the world would really miss it if it didn’t happen, anymore than the world would miss Carnival, Marda Gras or Oktoberfest.  I don’t think the world would miss our museums, public art, restaurants, shopping or fishing on the Bow River either.

Our group didn’t come up with anything and neither did the other groups. I am not sure how productive this question was. Love to hear from readers if there is something they can think of.

  We love our public art? 

We love our public art? 

  Calgary: Where deals are done on a handshake!

Calgary: Where deals are done on a handshake!

 Calgary is made up of 200+ communities each with its own community centre, park, playground and most have an outdoor community hockey rink. 

Calgary is made up of 200+ communities each with its own community centre, park, playground and most have an outdoor community hockey rink. 

 Calgary has some amazing festivals, but would the world miss any of them if they didn't happen?

Calgary has some amazing festivals, but would the world miss any of them if they didn't happen?

Next Exercise

What _________ (fill in the blank with the following words - colour, drink, animal, car, movie character) would best describe your city? Again, interesting but wondered what possible insights this might reveal.

What’s OUR colour?

Two of the groups chose blue. One group picked Sky Blue to reflect the warm blue skies Calgarians enjoy every month of the year.  One person pointed out that even when is -30 degrees C in the winter, our bright blue sky, makes it seems warmer.  Try telling that to someone from Vancouver or Southern Ontario.  I pointed out that because of our clean blue skies, our downtown skyline and the mountain vistas are much more vivid than in other cities I have visited.  I remember once reading a letter-to-the-editor from an overseas visitor gobsmacked by the quality of light in Calgary, describing it as “celestial.”

The second “blue” group picked Twilight Blue, pointing out that as the sun sets in Calgary, the light becomes quite magical.  Ah yes, I miss those golden sunsets on Bankers Hall that we used to have before the rise of Eighth Avenue Place.

The third group picked red, the colour associated with all our sports teams, the Calgary Tower (20th century icon) and Peace Bridge (21st century icon).  Nobody said it, but I am sure a few thought it - many Canadians also think of Calgary as a haven for “rednecks.”

132B060E-DCC5-4D89-98F3-DB5DB7E8C634.JPG
  Calgary is a city of hope, where dreams take flight!

Calgary is a city of hope, where dreams take flight!

  Calgary's best public art are the surrealistic architectural reflections off of our shiny skyscrapers. 

Calgary's best public art are the surrealistic architectural reflections off of our shiny skyscrapers. 

  Yes we love red.

Yes we love red.

 In fact we love lots of colours!

In fact we love lots of colours!

What’s OUR drink?

Two of the groups picked “beer” which seems a bit cliché as every city in North America has been infected by the craft beer craze.  See above comment on take-away ideas i.e. “all cities tell the same stories.”

Our group picked beer originally, then talked about the Caesar, (invented in Calgary) and finally settled on Vodka. The rationale - you can drink it straight or mix it with anything.  We all immediately grabbed onto the notion that while Calgary is very clean and white, we are Canada’s third most ethnically diverse City, and an interesting mix of Canadians from East Coast, West Coast, Central Canada and the Prairies.

As I like to say, “Calgary is the most Canadian city in Canada as we are a mix of Canadians who hail from all regions of our country.”

  Calgarians love their beer...

Calgarians love their beer...

  Calgary has long history of craft brewing.

Calgary has long history of craft brewing.

  We also love a glass or two of vino, even if we can't grow it here.

We also love a glass or two of vino, even if we can't grow it here.

What’s is OUR animal?

I quickly picked Magpie. Beautiful and exotic upon your first glance, they become very loud and brash the more you see it. As well, magpies are considered to be one of the most intelligent animals in the world; as well they are intensely social with a strong sense of community.  I thought this described Calgary to a T.

Overruled, our group ultimately chose “dog,” for it’s friendliness and loyalty, which we all felt were Calgary qualities.  One person was even specific, suggesting a herding dog (border collie), as we love to work hard.  I have often said that Calgary is the place where Canadians come to “work hard and get ahead.”   Someone also pointed out we have some of the best dog parks in the world.  Point well taken.

The group sitting right behind me actually did pick the Magpie – I think they overheard my pitch and bought it. 

The third group picked Bison. Though, originally picking the horse, one person in the group pointed out that in a storm, horses run away while bisons charge into the storm, which is what Calgarians do when faced with a challenge.  That received applause from the entire room. 

  River Park on a winter day is busy with walkers of all shapes and sizes. 

River Park on a winter day is busy with walkers of all shapes and sizes. 

  Calgarians love to horse-around on Stephen Avenue. 

Calgarians love to horse-around on Stephen Avenue. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 9.02.31 AM.png

What is OUR car?

This is a great question for Calgary as our city has one of the highest levels of car ownership in the world.  One group chose the SUV, an obvious choice given Calgary’s demographics are dominated by families.  A hybrid between a sports car and a sedan, it is a good metaphor for our city that combines fast living with family life.

Our group unanimously chose the Ford 150. It is a well known Calgary is the pickup capital of Canada. One members pointed out he knows a billionaire in Calgary who drives a Ford 150.  It nicely references our rural roots, our connection with the land and our strong work ethic. 

Being the contrarian (surprise, surprise) I suggested the Car2Go smart cars as Calgary has one of the highest Car2Go memberships, pointing our it references Calgary’s growing “sharing culture” as well as our aspiration to be a “smart city.”

As luck would have it, the group behind me did choose Car2Go – I do think I was in the wrong group!

  I went to a Ford dealership in Calgary to get a photo and found an entire row of Ford 150 trucks, must have been 50+ including several blue ones. 

I went to a Ford dealership in Calgary to get a photo and found an entire row of Ford 150 trucks, must have been 50+ including several blue ones. 

  How many Car2Go can you count?  I believe all of them were taking their dog to River Park, one of Calgary's best dog parks. 

How many Car2Go can you count?  I believe all of them were taking their dog to River Park, one of Calgary's best dog parks. 

What’s OUR movie character?

Two groups chose Woody from “Toy Story.”  This was too obvious as Woody dresses up like a cowboy but isn’t really a cowboy; how perfect is that.  But the references go much deeper - Woody is Andy’s favourite toy and the leader of all of his toys, but his status as the favourite is challenged.  Indeed, for much of the late 20th and early 21st century, Calgary had to fight to be recognized as one of Canada’s leading economic engines, a budding urban playground and the favourite city for Canadians to move to. 

The other group chose R2D2, however I can’t recall what their rationale was. Perhaps it reflects our position as a high tech, future-oriented city or our love of cosplay.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 8.45.38 AM.png
  Stampede Park sculpture welcomes everyone to the grounds. 

Stampede Park sculpture welcomes everyone to the grounds. 

  Kinda like R2D2....

Kinda like R2D2....

Viral Video?

Upon reflection, I wonder if Tourism Calgary was soliciting ideas for a fun viral tourist video about Calgary. 

  Tacky cowboy icon on the Red Mile is too much fun.

Tacky cowboy icon on the Red Mile is too much fun.

I can see it now. It will have a couple of redneck cowboys in a blue Ford 150 with their border collie in the back, while two cowgirls hop into a Car2Go and suburban family all in Star Wars attire (one as R2D2) jump into their red SUV while a murder of magpies play in the trees.

The redneck cowboys head to the Red Mile’s Trolley Five (via Memorial Drive so they can pass by the red Peace Bridge (with hundreds of walkers and cyclists and then up Centre Street for a shot of the red-topped Calgary Tower) for a vodka martini with a Beltline lager chaser and a bison burger on a lively patio while their loyal dog (a blue heeler) waits on the sidewalk being admired by a parade of pedestrians (beside him, a blue bowl labelled “fresh Bow River water.”)

  Dancing at Calgary's International Folk Festival is mandatory. 

Dancing at Calgary's International Folk Festival is mandatory. 

Meanwhile, the blue jeaned-attired cowgirls head to Inglewood (passing by the bison at Fort Calgary), to do some shopping and checking out the new exhibition at the Esker Foundation before meeting up with friends for dancing at the Saturday blues jam at the Blues Can hosted by Tim Williams (winner of the International Blues Competition in 2014).  

The Star Wars family heads to the nearest LRT Park & Ride in their red SUV (with a shot of some public art along the way), then hop on Little Ralph’s Train (on which, to their surprise, a couple of young aspiring singer songwriters are jamming some tunes) to the Stampede Red LRT Station where they become part of tens of thousands of people enjoying the annual Calgary Expo (aka cosplay) with huge posters for Big Rock, Village and Wild Rose breweries in the background.

It ends with a shot of the magic blue twilight sky and setting sun on the Bow River full of rafters and paddlers with Downtown skyline glowing in the background and the byline: 

Imagine Being In Calgary!

  The Bow and Elbow Rivers become urban playgrounds in the summer. 

The Bow and Elbow Rivers become urban playgrounds in the summer. 

  Calgary's magical blue at twilight.

Calgary's magical blue at twilight.

 Welcome everyone to Calgary!

Welcome everyone to Calgary!

Last Word

I can't help but wonder if this exercise will be any more successful than those that generated the "Heart of the New West" or "Be Part of the Energy." I didn’t get to pitch my idea that Calgary’s moniker should be the:

“City of Parks & Pathways.”

Rationale: We have 5,200+ parks, including two of the largest urban parks in the world (Nose Hill and Fish Creek), two great festival parks (Prince’s Island and Stampede Park), a park-like zoo, great family parks, great dog parks (e.g. St. Patrick’s and Bowness), the world’s longest elevated indoor walkway (+15), 700+km of pathways city wide and new the 133km Greenway that encircles the city.  Need I say more?  OK - Banff National Park (many tourists already think of Calgary as the gateway to Banff), Kananaskis and Dinosaur Provincial Parks are a few just hours away. 

Who wouldn’t want to visit the City of Park & Pathways? Who wouldn’t want to move to the City of Parks & Pathways for a job?  Works for both tourism and economic development, don’t you think?

Do I have a seconder?

  Calgarians love their parks....

Calgarians love their parks....

Reader's Feedback

Vanessa Gagon, Tourism Calgary's Brand Manager writes:

I love how you weave photos of all the awesomeness in our city into your post! 

The response to this project has been really great, people are excited! Over the last few weeks we've conducted a residents survey (800 Calgarians - with approximately 200 from NW, NE, Central and South Calgary), 4 workshops (81 participants) and focus groups with community leaders (29 participants), that's 910 people who have been involved! Oh and we did a staff workshop so 930 people! Folks have been so gracious with their time and are eager to help in any way they can, confirms we live in the best city in Canada! :) 

If you like this blog, you will like:

Calgary: Everyday Tourist's Off-The-Beaten-Path Picks

Understanding Calgary's DNA

Calgary's Downtown Is Unique

 

 

Vancouver: Mural Festival Fun & Fantasy

I love it when Everyday Tourist readers send me information and photos of places they think would interest me while travelling in other cities.  Recently Harry Hiller, an urban sociologist professor at the University of Calgary, send me some photos he took while exploring a mural festival that took place in the back alley along four blocks of Vancouver's inner city community of Mt. Pleasant.  

Hiller loved the fact the murals are permanent so you can enjoy them even when there is no festival.  

He was impressed by the thousands of people over the course of the day walking the back alley with food trucks, music, and even skate board performances.  

He loved the creative use of back alleys which are often perceived as ugly and unsafe places.

He liked how parking stalls, garbage bins and containers all became canvases for artworks. 

 

No Angst!

One thing I noticed is that all of the murals are bold and colourful -  more decorative than provocative. There didn't seem to be any political or social angst that is often associated with street art - just good clean fun.

Nobody is going to confuse these works with the great muralists of Mexico City - Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro. However, they do have lots in common with the Psychedelic and Op Art movements of the '60s.  

Link: All You Need To Know About The Mexican Muralist 

VMF

In fact, what Hiller experienced was the second year of the Vancouver Mural Festival, which involved numerous sites in the city's east side communities.  A total of 50 new murals were created from August 7 to 12th, attracting an estimated audience of 100,000 people. It was billed as Vancouver's biggest free art event.   

In fact, they looked a lot like the back alley artworks I saw in Montreal's in December which were left over from their annual mural festival. This year's festival happened in June and more than a dozen new murals were left behind for everyone to enjoy.  I was told that in Montreal, murals have become so popular many festivals include creating a mural as part of the legacy of the event.  As a result, Montreal's inner city has become one giant outdoor art gallery.  A fun and free tourist attraction with mass appeal. Just what Hiller was talking about. 

Hmmm...I am thinking this could be a great new weekend event for the Calgary Downtown Association and the Alberta College of Art to collaborate on.   For that matter mural festivals would be a great annual event for many of Canada's downtowns - Hamilton, Winnipeg, London or Edmonton - adding a sense of play and colour would make them more attractive places to hang out for people of all ages and backgrounds. 

As I wrote, I received a tweet that Calgary's Beltline Community is indeed going to host something called BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project) this fall. This reminded me that Calgary's 17th Avenue had a mural program in the '80s and '90s, however due to maintenance cost they are all gone.  

  Wouldn't it be great if Calgary could get a mural like this one as part of BUMP?

Wouldn't it be great if Calgary could get a mural like this one as part of BUMP?

Last Word

I also couldn't help but wonder if there isn't a link between the fact Vancouver, like Montreal and Berlin have fostered a strong street culture (murals, street art, graffiti, outdoor festivals, food trucks) and the fact they have also become three of the most attractive cities in the the world for young entrepreneurs and creatives who are roaming the planet looking for interesting places to live, work and play.   

More and more, I am thinking cities like Calgary should be fostering a free, improv street art culture, rather than a formal, expensive, controversial public art program as a means of making their city centre more attractive to the next generation of innovators who will create the economic engines of the early 21st century.  

Perhaps a policy of "No Blank Walls!" should be park of Calgary's urban design policy. 

Harry's Postcards From VMF 2017

Canada 150 Reflections

This year we spent Canada Day with friends in Canmore, Alberta (26 km from Banff or 95 km from Calgary) an old coal mining town that has become a lovely international recreational resort town since the 1988 Olympics.  

While many cities and towns endeavoured to create a special Canada's 150 anniversary celebration (for example Calgary's fireworks was 10 minutes longer than Ottawa's), Canmore has a long tradition of celebrating Canada Day. This year's celebration included a block-long artisan market, parade, live music in their Centennial park and fireworks in Millennial Park.   

One of the first things that impressed me while flaneuring downtown Canmore before the parade were the unique and intriguing storefront window reflections. 

The (Candy) Canada Day Parade

We were treated by our friends to ring-side patio seats at Mountain Mercato for the colourful Canmore Canada Day Parade, which allowed us to enjoy lunch and beverages while watching the parade.   The 45-minute parade was perfect with lots of kids dancing and riding decorated bikes, a few bands and event a float by the local thrift store (pick-up truck with lots of stuffies). It doesn't get more authentic than that. 

One of the features of the parade was lots of candy being handed out to the kids - often by older kids.  There was a lovely sense of play near the end as almost every float had young adults with super soakers playfully shooting at the audience on a warm summer day.  

The parade was fun for everyone.....

Fashion Fun 

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 4.24.15 PM.png

Last Word

In Calgary, Canada Day is like a pre-season game for the "Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth" the Calgary Stampede, which starts with one of the largest parades in North America and ends every night with fireworks.  Every year, the 10-day Stampede starts the Friday after Canada Day.

In fact, the Calgary District and Agricultural Society (precursor to the Stampede which still includes a major agricultural exhibition) held the first exhibition in 1886, making it almost as old as Canada.  

Marda Loop Madness?

If you haven’t been to Marda Loop for awhile, you will hardly recognize it.  Like downtown Calgary in the late ‘70s, construction is seemingly happening on every corner. 

While some might not like all the gentrification that comes with all the new construction, Calgary historian Harry Sanders, a long time resident of Marda Loop is “delighted with the expansion of the business district. I like the densification in principle, but I'm always sorry to see old houses disappear. Mine is from 1950, and it's getting to be a rare oddity! Living in a hilly neighbourhood with retaining walls made from fieldstone and recycled bits of concrete make for a delightful neighbourhood with many surprises, including some beautiful and eclectic gardens.”

Marda Loop 101

The origin of Marda Loop’s name is two-fold.  It references the 490-seat Marda Theatre at the corner of 33rd Ave and 21st Street SW (later, the Odeon) that opened in 1953, closed in 1988 and demolished in 1990. It also pays tribute to the streetcar line that ran along 33rd Ave SW and “looped” back at 24th St (now Crowchild Trail.)

The completion of the hugely successful 161-acre Garrison Woods development by Canada Lands in 2004 was a turning point for Marda Loop.  This master planned community pioneered new urban planning principles for more diversity and density for inner city communities with 1,600 homes (including extensive row housing, small condos and luxury homes on small lots), as well as new retail including a modern Safeway store was hugely successful. 

Since then, new infill homes have become commonplace in the neighbouring Altadore and South Calgary communities while the retail along 33rd and 34th Avenues SW has been evolving with the community’s changing demographics.

Then in 2010, Marda Loop got its first real mixed-use urban building when Cidex Homes and Ronmor teamed up to build the six-storey Treo at Marda Loop at the corner of 33rd Ave and 20th St. SW. It consisted of ground floor retail, one floor of offices and four floors of condos above that.  The street retail was anchored by a Shoppers Drug Mart and a Phil & Sebastian flagship café.

Recently Completed

Garrison Corner is a three-storey retail/office building at the NW corner of 34th Ave and 22nd St SW withDAVIDsTEA, Village Ice Cream and COBS Bread as street anchors with level a daycare and offices above.  

At the NE corner of 33rd Ave and 20th St SW, the Odeon, has only recently been completed with Blush Lane as its anchor street tenant and offices above. 

Today, Marda Loop has 130 shops, boutiques, restaurants and professional services –  with more to come.

Under Construction

A block east of the Odeon Avenue, 33 by Sarina Homes is under construction at the corner of 33rd Ave and 19th St SW.  It will add 36 flats and lofts geared to young professionals, as well as new street level retail.

Just a block south of Avenue 33 will be Infinity at Marda Loop, a 38-unit condo project by the SNR Group. In addition to the condos, it will include multi-tenant ground floor retail anchored by Good Earth Café.Last but not least, Rockwood Custom Homes broke ground in May for its 19 uber-luxury Residences of King Edward project at the King Edward School site along 17th St. SW between 29th and 30th Aves SW.  This Dan Jenkins’ designed project, with its high-end finishes and larger units (1,400 to 3,400 sq.ft.), will definitely appeal to empty nester.Speaking of the historic sandstone King Edward School, it is nearing its completion as cSpace, a creative hub with studios and workspaces for artists and other creative types as well as a 150-seat theatre.

Last Word

While some will see all the construction in Marda Loop and say, “stop the madness,” it always amazes me how long it actually takes to revitalize a community. 

You can walk along 33rd Avenue (i.e. Main Street Marda Loop) today and still find pre-1950s cottages homes, ‘60s single storey suburban retail with surface parking at the front and small walk-up apartment blocks. 

One block over, on 34th Avenue just east of 20th Avenue, is a lovely stretch of small, brightly painted cottage homes that have been converted to retail.

When I explored Marda Loop recently, I immediately thought of the late Jane Jacobs, renowned North American community activist who said, “community revitalization should be evolutionary, not revolutionary.” 

I think she would be pleased with how Marda Loop is evolving.

 

If you want to check out what is happening for yourself, a good time might be this year’s Marda Gras Street Festival on Sunday August 13 from 10 am to 5 pm.  This year marks its 33rd year making it Calgary’s oldest street festival. And, unlike the infinitely more famous New Orleans Mardi Gras, this is a fun family-oriented street festival. 

Calgary's SUPERTRAIN: Super Fun For Everyone!

I think I found train heaven….

  One of the highlights of the show was the model based on downtown Calgary made of lego.  I especially loved the use of colour.  The narratives and sense of humour in the models was outstanding.  Be sure to checkout the strange vignette section later in this blog.

One of the highlights of the show was the model based on downtown Calgary made of lego.  I especially loved the use of colour.  The narratives and sense of humour in the models was outstanding.  Be sure to checkout the strange vignette section later in this blog.

Others!

One of the great things about living in a city are the numerous opportunities to learn more about what makes others tick. And the hobbies and interests of others intrigue me – be they cosplay, gardening, quilting, orchids, bingos, skateboarding or in this case, those who bring their trains trains out of their basements to share with others.

For years, I have seen the banners on the overhead bridges promoting an annual Calgary Train Show but never attended – until this year.

An added bonus was it was being held at the Genesis Centre in the far northeast one of Calgary’s growing number of mega community centres (with multiple arenas, gyms, meeting rooms, as well as a YMCA and Calgary Public Library), which I have never been to.

  The Bow Tower with the Happy Head in place of ghost-like Wonderland sculpture was a fun surprise!

The Bow Tower with the Happy Head in place of ghost-like Wonderland sculpture was a fun surprise!

Train Heaven

We (I have a three year old friend who loves trains and thought it would be fun to go with him and his Dad) arrived shortly after it opened on Sunday morning at 10 am to find the parking lot already almost full. 

There was a mini three-car CPR train next to the parking lot for kids to play on and for photos - definitely, a good first impression. As did the many food trucks lining the grand sidewalk to the Centre.

Admission was quick and easy - kids under 15 are free; adults $15. 

A few steps and you are looking down into a vast multiple arena expanse that has been magically transformed into train heaven – whether you love to play with trains, learn about Canada train history, find out more about unique train trip opportunities, create your own basement train heaven, or even just people watch.

The 100+ exhibitors were very friendly and knowledgeable, willing to share information about their model train experiences.  There were lots of new and vintage train sets to purchase along with hands-on opportunities to learn how to construct buildings, trees and other elements to create your own fun vignettes.  Did you know,  you can download templates for miniature life-like buildings for only a few dollars?  There were lots of great tips being shared.

Here are some SUPERTRAIN postcards?

  This was only half of the displays and exhibitions. 

This was only half of the displays and exhibitions. 

  Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next train. 

Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next train. 

  This is a work in progress, started 10 years ago by Ross and Scott Tyler who are now 17 and 15 years old respectively. 

This is a work in progress, started 10 years ago by Ross and Scott Tyler who are now 17 and 15 years old respectively. 

  It was fun to learn about all of the railway adventures and museums in Western Canada.

It was fun to learn about all of the railway adventures and museums in Western Canada.

  Just a few of the railway artifacts available. 

Just a few of the railway artifacts available. 

  This gentleman was demonstrating how the telegraph worked. 

This gentleman was demonstrating how the telegraph worked. 

  Big kids in a candy store? 

Big kids in a candy store? 

  Model building demonstration. 

Model building demonstration. 

  All of the buildings in this model were built using templates downloaded from the internet. 

All of the buildings in this model were built using templates downloaded from the internet. 

Strange Vignettes

For those with a keen eye, the best surprise of the event for me was the subtle - and not so subtle - sense of humour of the vignettes the model railroad builders have created.  

Who says grumpy old guys (yes, it seems to be mostly an old men’s club, just like quilting is a women’s club) don’t have a sense of humour?

  For those who don't know, K D Lang is a famous Alberta singer songwriter and an advocate for not eating meat. 

For those who don't know, K D Lang is a famous Alberta singer songwriter and an advocate for not eating meat. 

  What at first looks like an everyday busy street scene has nude sunbathers on the rooftop, as well as two guys mooning the neighbours.  

What at first looks like an everyday busy street scene has nude sunbathers on the rooftop, as well as two guys mooning the neighbours.  

  This search is happening at a US/Mexican boarder crossing, while next to them immigrates are crawling under the fence (see next photo).  

This search is happening at a US/Mexican boarder crossing, while next to them immigrates are crawling under the fence (see next photo).  

  Another street scene -  look closely and you will see police shouting at people at the Transit Hotel and what looks like ladies of the night on the front porch of the hotel. 

Another street scene -  look closely and you will see police shouting at people at the Transit Hotel and what looks like ladies of the night on the front porch of the hotel. 

  Many of the vignettes seem to deal with crashes.  Boys will be boys?

Many of the vignettes seem to deal with crashes.  Boys will be boys?

  Look carefully and you will see the cafe is on fire and someone is being taken to the ambulance. There is more rooftop activity and of course the "Jesus Saves" sign. 

Look carefully and you will see the cafe is on fire and someone is being taken to the ambulance. There is more rooftop activity and of course the "Jesus Saves" sign. 

  You could easily miss this rescue mission as this was part of a huge display.  Note the rock climbers on the left as well as the rescue taking place.  

You could easily miss this rescue mission as this was part of a huge display.  Note the rock climbers on the left as well as the rescue taking place.  

  The attention to detail and the narrative in the displays was amazing. 

The attention to detail and the narrative in the displays was amazing. 

 Loved the slam dunk in this vignette. 

Loved the slam dunk in this vignette. 

  This maze had the smallest people I have ever seen in a model.  I couldn't help but wonder if the designers of this model making a statement about modern life? 

This maze had the smallest people I have ever seen in a model.  I couldn't help but wonder if the designers of this model making a statement about modern life? 

SUPERTRAIN History (from website)

SUPERTRAIN is presented by the Calgary Model Railway Society (CMRS). CMRS has almost 400 members from Calgary and area who share an interest in the hobby of Model Railroading, and a desire to showcase the hobby to the public.

Organized model railroading in Calgary goes back to 1934, when the first club, Calgary Model Trainmen, was started. CMT continues today, and over the years has spawned dozens of other groups and clubs. Throughout the years the various clubs held their own shows and exhibits. In 1994, several of these clubs decided to work together to put on a major Model Railroad Show for the public.

The first model train show to use the name SUPERTRAIN was held in March 1995 at Mewata Armouries, featuring 28 displays and exhibits. By 1999, SUPERTRAIN had outgrown Mewata, and a new venue in the Big Four Building at the Stampede Grounds became home for the show. By this time, SUPERTRAIN had become an annual event on Family Day Weekend, and as many as 14,000 people attended over the two day show.

Today SUPERTRAIN has become Canada's biggest and best annual train show. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Calgary Model Railway Society.

Visit them at www.calgarymodelrailway.ca

Last Word 

SUPERTRAIN is just one of many fun festivals and events that happen almost continuously in larger cities.  In just the past week, alone film buffs got to enjoy CUFF (Calgary Underground Film Festival), pet lovers had Calgary Pet Expo and train fanatics had the SUPERTRAIN.

Later this week, 100,000 costume lovers will invade Stampede Park for Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (April 27 to 30), as well as the colourful and playful Parade of Wonders happens on Friday, April 28th from Eau Claire to Olympic Plaza. And the Calgary Horticultural Society's Garden Show happens at Spruce Meadows this weekend. 

Gotta love the quirkiness of urban living!

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Richard Florida: I was wrong!

When Richard Florida, the 21st century urban guru, speaks lots of people listen. Ears really perked up when Florida admitted, “I got wrong that the creative class could magically restore our cities, become a new middle class like my father’s and were going to live happily forever after.  I could not have anticipated among all this urban growth and revival there was a dark side to the urban creative revolution, a very deep dark side.”  (Houston Chronicle, Oct 24, 2016).

Staging area for POW! Parade of Wonders at Eau Claire.

Jane Jacobs Revisited

Back in 2000, Florida published his first book “The Rise of the Creative Class” and immediately became a media star with his mantra, “if your city is attractive to the creative class, they will come.”

He quickly converted many urban planners and politicians to his dogma, which, in many ways, was just a reworking of Jane Jacobs’ key messages about the importance of bohemia and small-scale development in her 1961 book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

  Tim Williams and friends at the Blues Can in Inglewood, one of Canada's best communities. 

Tim Williams and friends at the Blues Can in Inglewood, one of Canada's best communities. 

Creative Class 101

Florida hypothesized a key paradigm shift in the employee/employer relationship was happening - no longer would workers move to where the jobs are, but rather employers will move to where employees want to live. He preached that if a city wanted new businesses to locate in their city, all they had to do was create a city where the creative class wanted to play, live and then work.

The creative class was a broad term that included software, computer game and app developers, 3D computer artists as well as painters and sculptors.  It also included architects, interior designers, graphic artists, actors, musicians, writers, chiefs, film and video makers. 

His research included creating indexes to measure a city’s attractiveness to the creative class – Talent, Technology, Bohemian, Mosaic, Gay (today, that would be the LGBT Index), and Tolerance Indices.

Container Bar in Calgary's Kensington district.

If you build it, they will come...

Florida’s research documented the creative class wanted things like a vibrant festivals, music and café culture. They also love places - to skateboard, play disc golf, fly a kite, bike ride, roller blade or just hang out.

Today, Florida, a University of Toronto professor admits appealing to the creative class won’t work for every city.  In fact, it will only work for a few.  And to add insult to injury where it has succeeded (Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Washington), it has resulted in skyrocketing house prices to the point where only the highly paid can live. 

Indeed, appealing to the creative class actually became a catalyst for gentrification not diversification and vitalization.

Ship & Anchor patio in March. 

Creative Class Loves Calgary?

At the turn of this century, Calgary’s City Centre had many of the ingredients Florida identified as those appealing to the creative class. We had great urban parks and pathways – Prince’s Island, Shaw Millennium Park and an extensive river pathway system.  Calgary’s construction of the world’s largest skateboard park in 2000 is exactly what Florida would have recommended to attract the creative class.

We also had a small but vibrant live music scene and a local café culture.  Our festival scene was taking off with the likes of SLED Island and our International

Film Festival and Underground Film Festivals.  We also had fun theatre festivals like the High Performance Rodeo, Animated Objects (puppet) and One Act Play festivals. In addition, Calgary’s cuisine scene was sizzling with the opening of Laurier Lounge, The Living Room and numerous sushi restaurants.  

The growth of Calgary’s cosplay festival (Calgary Expo) over the past 10 years into Canada’s second largest and our Pride Parade from a few thousand people to over 60,000 is evidence Calgary has been successful in attracting the creative class to our city.

However, Calgary’s creative class is unique as it is dominated by a strong GABEsters culture i.e. geologists, accountants, brokers, bankers and engineers.  Indeed, for the past 50 years, Calgary has attracted the cream of the crop of new GABEsters from universities across Canada and beyond to work in the oil patch.

Call them whatever you want young professionals began to revitalize the Beltline, Kensington, Bridgeland and Inglewood 20 years ago.  And it is still continuing today even with the downtown in the economy.  Places like Bridgeland’s

Luke’s Mart, Cannibale Barbershop & Cocktails and Bridgett Bar in the Beltline make Calgary’s City Centre very attractive to young hipsters. 

A big bonus for all of these communities is they are within easy walking and cycling distance to downtown, which even with all the vacancies has more occupied office space than Austin, Portland or Vancouver. 

Fortunately, Calgary seems to have the best of both worlds. We have been able to attract the creative class, while avoiding the skyrocketing City Centre home prices plaguing places like Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle and San Francisco.  

Bridgeland has been evolving for the past 10+ years into a very attractive place for the creative class to live and play with work just a short walk or bike ride away in downtown.

New Urban Crisis

In 2017, Florida will be published his new book “The New Urban Crisis” which will address affordable housing shortages in gentrified districts, need to link suburbs to inner city with mass transit and need to raise wages of service workers so the can afford to live near the City Centre where their jobs are.

Again, Calgary appears to be ahead of Florida with numerous affordable inner city housing programs (Attainable Homes) and several new mass transit programs linking the suburbs to the City Centre – Green Line, SW and Forest Lawn BRT.

Future map of Calgary's rapid transit routes.

Last Word

Despite all our faults, Calgary has perhaps the most diverse, attractive and affordable collection of urban and suburban communities in North America.

Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's New Condo section on Saturday, March 24, 2017 titled "Richard Florida could take a page from Calgary's urban songbook."

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Calgary: North America's Newest Cafe City

Cowtown: The GABEster Capital of North America

 

Montreal: Canada's Best Urban Playground?

Forget Toronto. Forget Vancouver. If you are looking for a fun urban adventure, plan a Montreal getaway.  And, not just because Montreal will be celebrating its 375th anniversary with numerous special festivities in 2017, but because Montreal’s everyday “joie de vivre” makes it a great urban playground anytime.

 In the underground of the Les Cours Mont-Royal building is the world's largest collection of Barbie Dolls - over 1,000.  How playful is that? Click  here  for more info

In the underground of the Les Cours Mont-Royal building is the world's largest collection of Barbie Dolls - over 1,000.  How playful is that? Click here for more info

Colourful

Montreal has done a spectacular job utilizing colour to add a sense of play and warmth to their winter pedestrian experience.  The large red dot lights projected on the sidewalks in several locations and a half block-long window with its rows of neon dots that change colour as you walk distract from the cold outside.  

But the piece de la resistance is the block-long west wall of the Palais des Congres (Montreal Convention Centre) composed of 58 glass panels of yellow, pink, green and blue that really brightens up a cloudy day. And on days when the sun shines, the inside is a magical kaleidoscope of colours.  

With Calgary’s abundant sunshine and amazing collection of glass towers and +15 glass bridges, we should be a world leader in the use of coloured glass as a means of creating a unique sense of place. Instead of all the black, beige and grey facades imagine if more buildings were like Battisella’s Beltline condo, Colours.

  The glass facade of Montreal's Convention Centre at night. 

The glass facade of Montreal's Convention Centre at night. 

  No this is not the Montreal's Red Light District, it is just a way to add some fun to those who are out for an evening stroll, even in the winter.

No this is not the Montreal's Red Light District, it is just a way to add some fun to those who are out for an evening stroll, even in the winter.

  Even Montreal's Metro Stations are colourful and playful.

Even Montreal's Metro Stations are colourful and playful.

Scavenger Hunt

I thought Calgary was doing pretty well with its proliferation of funky street art, but it pales in comparison to Montreal.  Wandering Montreal’s rues and avenues, I was forever pulling out my camera - over 100 street art photos in all (and I didn’t take photos of every one).  It was a fun scavenger hunt experience.

And while street art is fun with its cartoon-like characters, Montreal’s urban landscape is full of clever murals. It turns out local and international muralist transforms St Laurent Boulevard into an outdoor gallery every June during its annual Mural Festival. (I have added it to my bucket list).

Imagine how much more pedestrian-friendly our City Centre would if more of Calgary’s blank walls had murals like Doug Driediger’s “Giving Wings to the Dream” on the east wall of the old CUPS building on 7th Ave SW.  

  This cartoon-like street art is just one of a many pieces that convert a back alley into an art gallery. 

This cartoon-like street art is just one of a many pieces that convert a back alley into an art gallery. 

  Another playful piece of street art. 

Another playful piece of street art. 

 On The Wall

Montreal En Lumiere festival (February 23 to March 11, 2017) is one of largest annual winter festivals in the world - attendance exceeds one million every year.  

The festival’s amazing light installations create a circus-like atmosphere at the Place des Festivals (Calgary’s equivalent being Olympic Plaza).  What I particularly love about this festival is how it continues, on a smaller scale, throughout the year.  Year-round, blank walls throughout the City Centre come to life at night with changing colourful images projected on them. Imagine what it must be like when 1000 projectors and 185 loudspeakers animate their winter nights.  (Another one for my bucket list).

Old Montreal’s “Cite Memories” features 20 movies projected on the sides of historical buildings that tell Montreal’s history.  Download a free app and you can to listen as you watch or walk around.  Wouldn’t that be great for Stephen Ave, Inglewood and Kensington?

Calgary has tried to do a Winter Festival many times and failed. Perhaps it is a case of “go big or go home!” Rather than sending Calgary Transit officials on a junket to explore electronic fares systems (which they could do in Montreal), why not send our best festival producers to Montreal to investigate how to create a successful Winter Festival. (Montreal actually has two major winter festivals - Igloofest is a dance electronic music fest from Jan 12 to Feb 19, 2017).

  Just one of dozens of projections on blank walls in Montreal's City Centre.  This piece was like a silent movie.  

Just one of dozens of projections on blank walls in Montreal's City Centre.  This piece was like a silent movie. 

Millennial Madness

With Montreal’s City Center being home to 170,000 post-secondary students it has the distinction of having North America’s largest student population (including 18,000 International students).  They may be there for an education, but they also generate a “party-on” atmosphere. Case in point – I was in a 30-minute line up during a snowstorm to get into a “pop-up” cocktail lounge serving up $12 Christmas-themed cocktails to a room full of millennials. 

Might a good use of Calgary’s empty downtown office space be an international university campus? Perhaps Mayor Nenshi can persuade his alma mater Harvard Business School to open in Calgary. 

   Loop   is a cross between a music box, a zoetrope and a railway handcar – the familiar pump-powered vehicles from Bugs Bunny cartoons. The retro-futuristic machine plays animated fairy-tale loops set in motion when visitors work the lever together. When the cylinder starts spinning, it lights up, making the series of still images appear to move. 

Loop is a cross between a music box, a zoetrope and a railway handcar – the familiar pump-powered vehicles from Bugs Bunny cartoons. The retro-futuristic machine plays animated fairy-tale loops set in motion when visitors work the lever together. When the cylinder starts spinning, it lights up, making the series of still images appear to move. 

  People of all ages this unique urban playground.

People of all ages this unique urban playground.

  One of several Winter Markets that we encountered as we flaneured Montreal's City Centre. 

One of several Winter Markets that we encountered as we flaneured Montreal's City Centre. 

Unique Streets

While every city has its signature shopping streets, Montreal has dozens – St. Catherine, St. Laurent, St. Denis, Mont-Royal, Laurier, St. Viateur and St. Hubert to name a few.  While St. Catherine, like Vancouver’s Robson or Toronto’s Queen Streets, is full of national and international franchises, Montreal’s other streets house primarily local shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs and galleries (no Starbucks on every corner).  

The number of fashion boutiques with locally designed clothing is impressive, as are the number of commercial art and artisan galleries. And Montreal has the most restaurants on a per capita basis of any major city in North America. In Plateau, Mile End, Little Italy, Little Burgundy and Griffintown, the shopping streets are chock-a-block full of interesting local shops.  Montreal is an amazing incubator of fashion designers, artists, artisans, event producers, chefs, bakers, baristas etc. 

While Calgary is spending millions of dollars creating pretty streetscapes to attract more people to Kensington, Inglewood and 17th Avenue, Montreal’s sidewalks are at best “adequate” - no designer benches, expensive lamp posts with banners, or “special” crosswalks to be found.  People don’t come to areas to look at banners or sit on pretty benches, they come to shop, dine, drink and meet friends.  A little grittiness doesn’t hurt anyone – in fact a street’s unique patina is part of its charm. 

What also makes Montreal’s vibrant streets unique is the lack of gentrification, i.e. replacing older buildings with newer buildings that in turn displaces lower income people and attracts more affluent residents. There are not a lot of new cookie-cutter condos with retail at street level except in downtown and Griffintown. Montreal makes do with the existing inventory of low-rise buildings from the mid 20th century, thereby keeping rents more affordable for “mom and pop” businesses.  

With so much to sip and savour, Montreal’s streets epitomize what Jane Jacobs, the influential 1960s urban activist meant when she said street vitality is directly linked to the number of doors that open onto the street - more doors the better. 

  Rue St-Hubert is a five-block long street with over 400 mom and pop businesses - from thrift stores to wedding shops.  A canopy over the sidewalk, protect pedestrians from the elements and creates a unique sense of place.

Rue St-Hubert is a five-block long street with over 400 mom and pop businesses - from thrift stores to wedding shops.  A canopy over the sidewalk, protect pedestrians from the elements and creates a unique sense of place.

  Seems like everywhere you go in Montreal there are shops along the streets. These shops create an attractive pedestrian environment. 

Seems like everywhere you go in Montreal there are shops along the streets. These shops create an attractive pedestrian environment. 

  St. Catherine's Street in the downtown core is still lined with stores that attract shoppers at all times of the day, seven days a week, not the lobby of office buildings or high-end restaurants.

St. Catherine's Street in the downtown core is still lined with stores that attract shoppers at all times of the day, seven days a week, not the lobby of office buildings or high-end restaurants.

 Family Fun

Gobsmacked best describes my reaction to Montreal’s Desjardins Complex built in 1976. It consists of three office towers and a Hyatt Regency Hotel atop an indoor shopping centre.  From the outside it isn’t anything special, but inside the six-storey high, multi-purpose event space comes complete with a permanent dancing fountain (with lights and music) is very impressive.  

At Christmas, it is transformed into a Christmas wonderland with stage for festive performances, old fashioned carousel, mini-train for kids’ rides, face painting and yes, even a Santa Castle where kids get to meet Santa.  The place is packed with families each December.

Calgary missed a huge opportunity to create a dynamic indoor programming space as part of Bankers Hall, The Bow, Eighth Avenue Place or the redeveloped Core and Devonian Gardens.

  This is the entrance to the elevators that get you to Montreal's observation deck on the 45th floor of the Place de Ville Marie. Once you are there you can experience    #MTLGO  , an interactive multimedia exhibition, designed by Montréal-based company gsmprject°. It explores many popular city themes—from hockey to gastronomy to performing arts to neighbourhoods—through 55 videos of citizens and Montréal personalities as well as 500 photos culled from the city’s social media and archives.  You could easily spend a hour or more with this entertaining and educational exhibition. 

This is the entrance to the elevators that get you to Montreal's observation deck on the 45th floor of the Place de Ville Marie. Once you are there you can experience  #MTLGO, an interactive multimedia exhibition, designed by Montréal-based company gsmprject°. It explores many popular city themes—from hockey to gastronomy to performing arts to neighbourhoods—through 55 videos of citizens and Montréal personalities as well as 500 photos culled from the city’s social media and archives.  You could easily spend a hour or more with this entertaining and educational exhibition. 

  We nicknames Montreal's Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Fun Art given not only the fun artwork on display, but also the fun way it was exhibited. 

We nicknames Montreal's Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Fun Art given not only the fun artwork on display, but also the fun way it was exhibited. 

  Montreal is home to Cirque du Soleil, which is fun for everyone. 

Montreal is home to Cirque du Soleil, which is fun for everyone. 

 Last Word

While not a fan of imitating what other cities do, Calgary developers, urban designers, planners, festival/event managers and politicians could well be inspired by Montreal’s unique and creative city building strategies. 

For the rest of us, Montreal is full of fun urban surprises.  Our best surprise was Crew Collective & Café – you have to see it to believe it! 

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City Travel: Canada vs. USA

Editor’s Note: This the second of a two-part blog looking at how Canadian cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg compare to places like New Orleans and Chicago as alternative urban travel destinations given the turmoil in the USA. The first blog compared Calgary to Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver and Seattle, as hipster cities.

Link: Calgary vs. Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver & Seattle

Recently, MetroNews published an article looking at what Canadian cities tourists might consider visiting this year rather than American cities, given the current turmoil in the USA.

While MetroNews picked off the obvious ones I thought it would be fun to share suggestions that might not be so obvious.

Link: "Don’t want to travel to the U.S. Visit these Canadian cities instead"

Edmonton

For those thinking New Orleans would be a fun place to visit, you might want to consider Edmonton - Canada’s Festival City.  New Orleans is known for its laid-back culture and year-round festival atmosphere, much like Edmonton where in the summer, they host back-to-back-to-back festivals… Jazz Festival, Folk Festival, Blues Festival, Street Performers Festival, The Works Art & Design Festival and the grand daddy of all  - the Fringe Festival, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Edmonton also boasts some spectacular contemporary architecture – Rogers Place arena, Art Gallery of Alberta and their City Hall.  Their river valley is spectacular too.

And then there is something called the West Edmonton Mall.

Link: Edmonton Tourism

  Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

  124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants.  

124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants. 

  Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

 Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

  Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

  City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

  Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's   east-side Quarters District.  It is an architectural jewel. 

Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's east-side Quarters District. It is an architectural jewel. 

 Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

  Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Winnipeg

While MetroNews chose Toronto as an alternative to Chicago, what about Winnipeg? In fact, in the early 20th century, Chicago was worried Winnipeg would usurp it as the major transportation hub of the midwest.  Winnipeg’s Exchange District has one of the best collection of early 20th century architecture in North America. 

Visitors will love the Forks with its Human Rights Museum, Children’s Museum, Children’s Theatre, creative playground and one of the best minor league ballparks in North America. There is also the must-see Art Gallery of Winnipeg (largest collection of Inuit Art in Canada) and Assiniboine Park’s Polar Bear exhibit. 

And while Winnipeg doesn’t have a lake with a beautiful beach downtown, Grand Beach is just an hour away and it is a “sight for sore eyes“ (in a good way) in the summer.

Link: Visit Winnipeg

 Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

 Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

  Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

 The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

 Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

 In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

  Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

  It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

Montreal

After a recent trip to Montreal, I think it would make a great alternative not only to Chicago, but also to Boston, Philadelphia or San Francisco.  Montreal has its mojo back and this year is celebrating its 350 anniversary, making it one of the oldest cities in North America.  Old Montreal is like walking back a hundred years in time, as are its two major public markets - Atwater and Jean Talon.

Like Edmonton, it too is a huge festival city. The Montreal Jazz Festival should be on everyone’s bucket list. The Black & Blue Festival is one of the world’s largest gay festivals (Montreal’s Gay Village along St. Catherine St. East has a great evening vibe).  They even have Mural Festival to celebrate their extensive collection of street art.

Don’t rule out Montreal for a winter visit either. That’s when they light up the night with Montreal En Lumiere and Nuit Blanche festivals. Indeed the lights are much brighter in downtown Montreal.

Montreal is a joy to wander any time of the year and see what you discover; fun surprises lurk around every corner.  Real urban explorers will want to test their skills at navigating the 30+ km underground tunnel system that connects hundreds of downtown buildings.

I can’t say enough good things about Montreal as a tourist destination.

Link: Tourism Montreal 

  Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

  Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre).  

Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre). 

  Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

  Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

  Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

  Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

  Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Victoria

Victoria could be a very good alternative to anyone thinking about heading to San Diego.  Its charming harbor, beaches, vibrant food and café culture, quaint antique district and world-class museum have won many people over. 

Shoppers too will love wandering the shops in downtown, Chinatown and Oak Bay. Two downtown hidden gems are the downtown Value Village (we always find great art there) and Capital Iron next door.  The Super Chance consignment shop in James Bay Village is a must visit, for treasure hunters preferring more of a curated collection of “finds.” We have almost always found something wonderful there.

The Ross Bay Cemetery is a fascinating experience where you can visit the gravesite of artist Emily Carr (Canada’s Georgia O’Keefe).  Across the street is the Dallas Road beach, a great place for beachcombers and to watch kite surfers. 

If a more traditional sand beach is more to your liking, head to Willow Beach with its view of Mount Baker.  Just a few blocks away on Estevan Avenue is quaint Willows Village where you will find the funky Crumsby’s Café (family fun) and the tiny Willow Galley (fish & chips shack).

Link: Tourism Victoria

  Victoria collage.

Victoria collage.

  Victoria's beach life.

Victoria's beach life.

 Victoria's waterfront.

Victoria's waterfront.

  Ross Bay Cemetery.

Ross Bay Cemetery.

Toronto / Vancouver

Both Toronto and Vancouver could be excellent alternatives to New York City, Los Angeles and Miami.  Home to world-class shopping, museums, restaurants, cafes, festivals and architecture, both have a lively urban joie de vivre.   

Link: Tourism Toronto

Link: Vancouver Tourism

 Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

 Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

 Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

 Vancouver's beach life.

Vancouver's beach life.

  Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

  An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

  Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Last Word

So as you begin to finalize your travel plans for 2017 - Canada’s 150th birthday year – there is not better time to “Think Canada.”

If you like this blog, you will like:

Museum of Fine Arts Montreal: A Hands On Tour

Battle of Alberta: Urban Design 

The Forks vs East Village

Thrifting in Victoria

 

 

2026 Winter Olympics Bid: Insights From Holmes & Parker

I received two very informative emails in response to the blog Calgary 2026 Olympics: To Bid or Not To Bid?” from two, very respected and knowledge able Calgarians.

Parker’s Insights…

The first was from Richard Parker, former Head of the City of Calgary’s Planning Department from 1988 to 2003. He wrote:

“I enjoyed your article on the Olympic Bid but I think you missed two very important points.

We won the 1988 Games in September 1981. The boom was still going strong although signs of trouble were beginning to appear. As I used to say we won the bid in a construction boom but built it in a bust, hence coming in under budget on a number of construction projects. (Everyday Tourist’s Note: Let’s hope our current bust doesn’t last until 2026.)

Also, the 1988 Olympics were the last time the local Organizing Committee got the TV revenues. I may not have the figures correct but the order of magnitude is right - we budgeted to get around $200 million and got that from outside the USA and got over $350 million for the US rights.

Our timing was perfect; we put out the bid just after Los Angeles, often referred to as the first true TV Olympics.”

Parker also cc’d his email to me to Bob Holmes who was on the Board, the Executive Committee, and the Finance Committee of the Calgary Olympic Organizing Committee (OCO’88).  

Holmes’ Insights….

Holmes confirmed the US TV rights were sold for $309M in 1983, far and away the largest ever for a winter games. And shared additional insights:

“The US Men’s Olympic Hockey team won gold in Lake Placid in 1980. It was referred to as the “Miracle on Ice.” This heightened the interest in the US TV rights for the Calgary games, as did the fact Calgary was in a “good time zone” for US TV.

The next Winter Olympics after Lake Placid were in Sarajevo, located in a much less desirable time zone for live broadcast back to North America, thus making the 1988 Calgary Olympics the first real opportunity for US television networks to capitalize on the “Miracle on Ice.”

In fact, the bidding for the US TV rights to the Calgary games was deliberately – and strategically - conducted in 1983 before Sarajevo. The timing of the bidding, the memory of Lake Placid, Calgary’s time zone, as well as the US hockey games being strategically placed on the schedule for the US audience, all led to very high bids by all three US networks for Calgary’s 1988 Winter Olympics.

Los Angeles in 1984 set a new standard for corporate sponsorships, and the revenue derived from this source, as well as TV rights. Their sponsorship program was at an international as well as national level, attracting worldwide corporations like Coca Cola and Visa to pay millions for the rights. Calgary benefitted greatly from this. By contrast, Lake Placid in 1980 had the official potato chip sponsor, and dozens of other small categories, generating small revenues.

After the financial success of Los Angeles and Calgary, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed the cost sharing formula between the Host City/Organizing Committee’s share and IOC. The IOC also took over both the TV rights and worldwide sponsorship program and gave a share of these revenues to the host city/organizing committee.

More recently, there has been a shortage of bidding cities - many have considered but backed out because of cost and uncertainty of revenues. Sochi is mentioned as an example of this although I think the costs in Sochi were driven as much by the Russian government as the IOC. The IOC is apparently concerned about the lack of interest and has recently said it was going to streamline the bidding process and also take steps to reduce the costs of staging the games.

It is absolutely critical that before any bid takes place, Calgary understands as much as possible how the IOC intends to streamline the bidding process and staging of the games as well as what will be the total revenue projections and how they will be shared.   

As well, before any bidding decision is made, Calgary must determine the cost/benefits of the infrastructure legacy opportunities. How much would Calgary benefit from having a new, state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena, a new convention centre (media centre for Olympics) and renovated or replaced McMahon Stadium for opening ceremonies paid for by all three levels of government and corporate sponsorships that we would never be able to access without the Olympics? As well, maybe an LRT link to the Airport and/or to Canmore and Banff could be added bonuses.

Nor should we underestimate the value of the publicity and civic pride benefits that comes with an international event like the Olympics. 

Last Word

“Indeed, the world has changed since 1988, but it is too soon to dismiss the idea of the hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. I commend the City for taking the time to do their due diligence before deciding ‘Yes or No’ to what could be a great opportunity to kick-start the next phase in Calgary’s evolution as a city,” says Holmes. 

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Calgary 2026 Olympics: To bid or not to bid?

An edited version of this blog was published by CBC News Calgary as part of their "Calgary at a Crossroads" feature, January 23, 2017.  

“How many Calgarians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: Ten. One to screw in the light bulb and nine to talk about how great the ’88 Winter Olympics were.”  This was a popular joke in Alberta in the early ‘90s. 

This is not a joke!

Speaking of jokes, it seemed like a joke in June 2016 when the rumour started that Calgary was thinking about bidding for the 2026 Winter Olympics given the City and Province is in the middle of one of its biggest recessions in their history.  That “joke” seems to be getting more and more traction especially with City Council giving five million dollar to a hand-picked committee of sport and Olympic boosters to determine if indeed Calgary should bid again.

It’s the ‘80s all over again!

It is ironic that the current economic climate is very similar to that of the early ‘80s when the ‘88s bid was made.  The City’s collective swagger had disappeared in the early ‘80s after the boom of the ‘70s, not unlike today.

Calgary’s energy industry was in the dumpster in the ‘80s (due to the National Energy Policy introduced by then Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau). Today, it is in the dumpster because of a glut of world oil and the introduction of a Carbon Tax (introduced by now Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau) due to current research that carbon fuels (in particular, the oil sands) are dirty energy.

Downtown’s vacant office space reached 18% in the mid ‘80s; today it is 22% and rising.  Another interesting comparison - the Performing Arts Centre (now Arts Commons) opened in 1985, in 2016 the new National Music Museum opened and the new Central Library will open in 2018. 

Back in 1981 the south leg of the LRT opened followed by the 1985 opening of the northeast leg with the northwest line linking downtown with the University of Calgary  - in time for the 1988 Olympics. Fast forward to today - in 2012 the West Leg of LRT opened and today we are looking at how to finance the Green Line (i.e. the North and Southeast leg combined).

The early ‘80s also saw the completion of Deerfoot Trail to the southern edge of the city; today’s equivalent is the completion of the Ring Road.

In the 1980 municipal election, few expected Ralph Klein to become mayor; in the 2010 election, few expected Naheed Nenshi to win.  Klein served three terms winning subsequent elections in landslides.  Nenshi has announced he will seek a third term in 2017 and everyone expects he will win easily.  Both were/are populist politicians and masters of the media.

In the ‘80s, Calgary was suffering Edmonton envy as they had an NHL team and we didn’t.  Today, Calgary’s envy is because they have a shiny new NHL arena and we don’t.

Is this the right time?

One could argue “Yes” as all of the ’88 legacy facilities are in desperate need of updating. The Olympic Plaza’s bricks are crumbling; the Saddledome doesn’t work for NHL hockey or major concerts, the Oval and Canada Olympic Park’s facilities don’t meet current Olympic standards. 

The Mayor has indicated CalgaryNext (new arena, stadium and fieldhouse proposal) would not be tied to any Olympic bid as the International Olympic Committee looks more favourably on cities that refurbish existing facilities. But you can bet that if we get the Olympics, we will get a new arena and upgraded stadium.    

Since the ’88 Olympics, Calgary has become the adopted home of many winter athletes who live and train here year-round.  Today, eight national winter sports organizations call Calgary home. In the early ‘80s, there were none.  Continuing to have Calgary as Canada’s premiere winter sports city is important to Calgary’s identity and tourism.

As hosting the Winter Olympics also includes a major cultural celebration, it would allow Tourism Calgary to showcase our new arts, architecture and attractions.  

Since 1988, Salt Lake City (2002) and Vancouver (2010) have hosted successful Winter Olympics, which have elevated their status as world-class skiing, event and tourism cities.

Is this the wrong time?

The times have changed since 1988. It is estimated the bill for security alone for the 2026 Winter Olympics could exceed 1.5 billion dollars (the Vancouver Olympics spent one billion). One could easily argue this money would be better spent on schools, hospitals and recreation centres used by all Calgarians.  It is costing the City $5 million just to determine if we want to bid or not, which could have built 25 affordable homes for needy families and individuals. 

Others question why Calgary and Canada would want to be involved with the Olympic movement given the corruption of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members and the prevalence of athlete doping.  IOC members have a history of secret bank accounts, taking bribes and/or opulent gifts in return for their vote. They also travel in 5 star hotels and restaurants, while the athletes, (including Canada’s) live near poverty levels.

Every potential 2022 Olympic host city with a democratically elected government pulled out of the bidding, many citing cost concerns. The only two cities left in the bidding were Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan.  Beijing won. What does that say?

The Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 were widely considered a success, mainly because it helped the nation show the world how much it had emerged as a modern economic power. "Beijing did it as an advertisement. They got tremendous value because they didn't care about the cost. It was like buying a ton of television ads," said Mark Rosentraub, a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan. (CNN Money, July 30, 2012)

No other mega–project consistently overruns its budget like the Olympics. Research also points out there are always significant government costs that should be, but aren’t attributed to the Games (in Calgary, that could include new arena, stadium improvements and LRT to airport). In addition, the economic benefits of the Games that are postulated by government agencies are rarely realized.

(Riley, Charles. “6 Olympic Budget Blowouts.” CNN Money. 2014. Updated January 20, 2014. Accessed: November 19, 2014.)

Calgary needs to get its swagger back

I was surprised when I asked dozens of friends and colleagues over the holidays “Do you think Calgary should bid for the 2026 Olympics?” Nobody said,  “Yes!” 

In fact, one parent of a potential athlete at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018 said he didn’t think it is a good idea because of the corruption of the IOC and the fact Olympic funding for programming and facilities benefits less than 1% of Canadian athletes. 

One of the things that made the Calgary Winter Olympics unique and successful was the use of thousands of volunteers (the teal green Olympic coats were worn proudly for years after the Olympics). It was their gold medal. The volunteers not only allowed the Games to make a profit, but it brought the city together. There was a common goal to make these games a financial success after the Montreal Olympic fiasco. 

When the 1988 Calgary Olympics were over there was a tremendous sense of civic pride, a renewed confidence and a feeling Calgary could become be transformed from a provincial Canadian prairie city to a more cosmopolitan city. Calgary got its swagger back in ’88.

Will it take until ’26 to get it back this time!

An Expert’s Opinion

Harry Hiller, urban sociologist at the University of Calgary whose research is focused on the impact of the Olympics and World Fairs on cities told me “Mega events are always controversial.  These projects can fragment a city in the planning stages; while at the same time bring the city together during the event. They are valuable in grabbing the world’s attention and sending a message to the world that the city is ambitious.” At the same time, agrees that they are notoriously difficult to budget accurately and most often run over budget. 

Hiller notes, “Federal and provincial governments respond to city projects. If there are no projects, there is no reason to them to give Calgary extra money, it will go to some other city.” He points to how the Green Line project has enabled the Calgary to get special funding from senior levels of government.  

In Hiller’s experience “the Olympics give a city new purpose, new energy, it mobilizes people and bring them together.  Nothing touches people globally like the Olympics. People watch the Games who aren’t interested in sports at any other time.  The opening and closing ceremonies have some of the highest TV ratings ever.” 

His final comment to me -  “It is never black or white.”

Backstory: It is interesting to note that Hiller was not approached by the City to be on the Olympic Bid Evaluation Committee despite being probably the most qualified person to do so.

IMHO

If the politicians have an extra billion dollars to spend on security for the Olympics, a better idea might be to spend it on developing the infrastructure to create a major volunteer-based winter event in Calgary that will attract international attention annually not just for two weeks in 2026. 

Maybe something that rivals the Calgary Stampede (or perhaps something that builds on the Stampede) putting Calgary and Canada on the international map every winter - or even biennially - not just once every 40 years.  Something we control, not something we have to bid for!

Any brilliant ideas?   

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Berlin: New Year's Eve Insanity

I am still in shocked 24 hours after the insane New Year’s Eve celebration in Berlin.

My girlfriend warned me about a week in advance. But to be honest, I thought it sounded a bit ridiculous, though I did notice that strangely every store starting to sell mass amounts of fireworks to the public the week before New Years.

In Canada, it is illegal to launch fireworks within a city without a license. So, I imagined perhaps a few people setting off some minor fireworks, but nothing too crazy. Well, I was wrong. Really, Really, Really Wrong.

Firework Bandits

At 10am on New Year’s Eve day we headed to the nearby grocery store (as German grocery stores close for multiple days for any reason possible) and in the span of the 10-minute walk, we heard 20+ explosions.

These we not little firecrackers. 

They sounded like missiles going off in a war torn area of the world (at least that’s how I imagine it, never having actually been to a war torn area). Massive explosions in the distance echoing, in broad daylight - it really startled me! I didn’t expect to hear explosions going off constantly.

Then I had my first run-in with some firework bandits. A few homeless people were throwing illegal-looking Polish fireworks (distinctively large and extremely dangerous compared to the ones sold in stores) that made very loud explosions.  

The problem wasn’t necessarily the fireworks themselves, but the fact they were throwing them very close to the 20 or so people at the bus stop (which honestly scared the shit out of me while walking past).

I shook it off thinking surely this must be a bit of an anomaly.

A little later, we went for another walk and a random guy, standing in a doorway, lit a firework as we passed and threw it at RIGHT at our feet. With a sparkling fuse appearing below my feet, I decided to run and grabbed my girlfriend before a deafening blast ripped behind us. 

What in the F*** is going on here? 

The strangest part was no one really seemed to care, as if this was all of a sudden ‘normal’ and allowed. It was like the movie PURGE where all violence becomes legal for one day.    The atmosphere on the streets was a mixture of fear, excitement and expectation.

After our walk, I went to the gym so we parted ways. After the gym, I got on an empty bus. Hmmm, I thought, this is weird. This bus is never empty...UNLESS IT’S THE PURGE!!! 

I couldn’t help but feel like this was so similar to that film, except this time it was fireworks. As this strangely empty bus winded through the familiar turns, I could see local convenience stores turned into full blown firework armories - stocking the mischievous with an arsenal of explosive fireworks as well as the liquor to give them confidence to set them off.

It was insane!

People didn’t seem to want to wait for midnight - from about 5pm onwards it was a constant barrage of fireworks shot off balconies and in local parks. I thought it was pretty awesome, but then I realized we were planning to go to my girlfriend’s family’s place, which meant venturing outside again. However, thanks to some “questionable” takeout we both started to not feel so well and decided to stay in.

Start the insanity

What happened is probably one of Berlin’s best-kept secrets - partly because it was one of the most insane things I have ever witnessed, partly because no one told me about it and partly because of our 10th floor vantage point.

The entire city erupted into fireworks and I mean ENTIRE.  No, no, no. Not like a Canada Day fireworks – a 20-minute grand spectacle after which everyone waits in traffic for two hours trying to get home.

I am talking about THOUSANDS of fireworks going off at the same time in every direction, from everywhere you look. So intense, the city was covered in smoke for hours. AND THIS WAS JUST THE LEAD UP. 

Finally, at midnight the city just became unhinged. Watching fireworks at the same elevation that they are exploding at is equal parts awesome and terrifying, as the people below you shoot a roman candle that erupts right out front of your window – in your face!

I have no idea how the whole city didn’t get lit on fire. During the spectacle, there were ZERO cars on the road (and we live on a major road). I am convinced this is because of the danger of driving during the hour of insanity. Sorry, I did see one car drive and he was easily going 180 km/hr. in an attempt to avoid getting shot at by multiple roman candles.

This crazy zombie firework apocalypse was awesome.

(Canmore artist, Dan Hudson's 2012 video captures the insanity perfectly. Link Hudson's website which includes work from Berlin)

Last Word

If you ever have a chance to be in Berlin on New Years Eve, do not go clubbing. Go see the fireworks - and bring a posse with body armor and a few roman candles to protect yourself.

Oh, and despite the insanity, nobody got hurt that I am aware of, no buildings were burned down and there were no complaints in the media. It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. 

Guest Blog by Gaelan Taylor, a Calgary millennial living in Berlin and immersing himself into that city’s electronic music scene.

Everyday Tourist’s Note

One has to wonder if this war-like celebration of New Year’s in Berlin is an extension of Germany’s past, which includes centuries of war.  Watching Dan Hudson’s 2012 New Year’s Eve video, it would be hard not to think Berlin was under attack.  This is a classic example of the important role of travel in fostering a better appreciation of the world we share - be that beauty, festivals, history, art, architecture, food, poverty or violence.

As a Canadian baby boomer, I have no understanding or appreciation for the culture of war or terrorism and how it can becomes part of the psyche of people, communities, cities and nations. 

And for that naiveté, I’m very grateful.

Gaelan’s Retort

I disagree on your culture of war thinking. It is something you can feel when you are in Berlin - this could quite possibly be the most peaceful society in Europe and even in the west. I say this because of how INSANE people get at the smallest mention of military. Even in the municipal elections, a right wing neo-conservative group got just a few votes and you could have almost sworn the German people were acting like Hitler 2.0 was coming. Extreme sensitivity.

From my perspective, there is different sense of liberty in Berlin compared to Canada. Yes, fireworks are free to use in the city for one day. However, not a ton of bad stuff happens at New Years, nothing more than other cities.

Berliners freak out a whole lot less about “what could go wrong” and lo’ and behold, almost every time it is much less a problem than people anticipate. The result is something really beautiful, something impossible for me to put in words.

FYI….On January 2nd Everyday Tourist booked a month in Berlin.  

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Everyday Tourist: Postcards From 2016

I am not sure why but I have always loved postcards.  I have spent the past few weeks looking at all the photos I have taken in 2016 to see which ones might make good postcards.  

I thought I'd try to choose one for each month, but that didn't work out as some months were better than others.  Then I thought maybe 16, given it was 2016 - so sixteen it is.  

These are not necessarily the best photos or the year, nor are they your typical postcards. I hope you find them insightful and intriguing. In many cases I have added a link to a blog that relates to the postcard if you would like more information or see more photos.

Happy Holidays and all the best in 2017!

If you have a chance to go to Buffalo, NY - GO!  We loved the early 20th century architecture, especially the mansions and Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin house.  But the highlight for me was the abandoned Grain Silos that you can tour.  I loved the way the City has used the facade to create a wonderful light show and inside they have allowed artists to create installations.  These paper gears that float at the top of one of the silos were created by Daniel Seiders, a landscape architect, for the City of the Night public art project in 2013. Link: Postcards From Buffalo The Bold

  It is always best to take the road less travelled. We found about 20 of these children's rocking horses on a farmer's fence post along Highway #845 as we headed north from Picture Butte back to Calgary from a fun weekend in Lethbridge.  We really must take more road trips in 2017.    

It is always best to take the road less travelled. We found about 20 of these children's rocking horses on a farmer's fence post along Highway #845 as we headed north from Picture Butte back to Calgary from a fun weekend in Lethbridge.  We really must take more road trips in 2017.   

Austin was too much fun.  We went back to the HOPE Outdoor Gallery several times as was such a playful place where everybody seemed to have great time.  I even bought some cans of spray paint to add my signature to the Gallery. It brought back memories of Gleichen, Alberta in the early '80s when I organized the Street Art For Gleichen project.  Link: Austin's Weird and Wonderful Outdoor Gallery. 

Austin threw me a great birthday party last year.  Each year, on the first Sunday of March Austin's Zilker Park is the site of a huge kite festival.  In 2016, it just happen to take place on my birthday. Link: Austin Kite Festival: Cheap, Colourful, Chaotic & Crazy! 

Everybody loves a parade! While Caglary is probably best known for the Calgary Stampede Parade, the Parade of Wonders (POW) that takes place as part of Calgary Expo (cosplay) allows spectators to get up close and personal with the parade participants.  Link: Everyday Tourist Visits Calgary Expo

 In May, I discovered Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl along James Street North. It is possibly North America's best kept art and festival secret.  It combines the best elements of an art walk with a night market. In September every year is the Super Crawl when the street is closed for the weekend for a huge street/music festival.  It should be on every Canadian's list of festivals to see.  Link: Hamilton's Art Crawl is indeed super!

In May, I discovered Hamilton's monthly Art Crawl along James Street North. It is possibly North America's best kept art and festival secret.  It combines the best elements of an art walk with a night market. In September every year is the Super Crawl when the street is closed for the weekend for a huge street/music festival.  It should be on every Canadian's list of festivals to see. Link: Hamilton's Art Crawl is indeed super!

It was a great spring for the garden in 2016. I had a lot of fun taking photos of the flowers. There is something primordial about this one that intrigues me. Link: Garden Flaneuring: Try it you might like it. 

2016 was the year of the playground for me.  I developed a whole new appreciation for the importance of playgrounds in community building.  We installed a new playground at the Grand Trunk Park across the street from our house and it is true "if you build it they will come." In the 20+ years we have lived in our house we have never seen so many kids at the playground. Link: The End Of The Grand Trunkers' Playground Envy!

  While at the Calgary Stampede this year I noticed that this public artwork "By The Banks Of The Bow" functioned like a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. This got me to thinking wouldn't it be great if all public artworks engaged the public like this one does.   I wish I was rich and could commission a piece like this for Grand Trunk Park.  Link: Stampede Park: Calgary's best children's playground?

While at the Calgary Stampede this year I noticed that this public artwork "By The Banks Of The Bow" functioned like a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. This got me to thinking wouldn't it be great if all public artworks engaged the public like this one does. I wish I was rich and could commission a piece like this for Grand Trunk Park. Link: Stampede Park: Calgary's best children's playground?

The Calgary International Folk Festival on Prince's Island in the middle of the Bow River on the edge of Calgary's skyscraper downtown is a special place.  This year I was able to sit just a few feet away from Canadian music legend Ian Tyson for what seemed like backyard concert. Link: Postcards from 2016 Calgary International Folk Festival

I love the interplay of architecture and sky in this image of the Art Gallery of Alberta, in Edmonton.  It was a tough decision on which 2016 architectural photo to include. Link: Calgary: Capturing The Art in ARchiTecture!

A trip to Kelowna BC was enlightening. Not only did we get to see the Kelowna Art Gallery's retrospective of John Hall's work, but we also got an appreciation for the wonderful transformation of their downtown and waterfront. I chose this painting as it reminded me of Mexico City (one of my best trips ever) and the Lucha Libre wrestlers. Link: John Hall: The Everyday Experience Bond

  I have always loved this two-storey high Untitled artwork by Cliff Eyland in the lobby of Winnipeg's downtown Millennium Library. It is composed of 1,000 miniature paintings, most of them 3"x5" the size of library catalogue card.  From a distance, it looks like   huge   pixilated TV screen, but up close they are fun landscape, figurative and abstract painting.  Guess I am not the only one who loves it, the new Halifax Library commissioned him to do one that has 5,000 miniature paintings in the lobby and another 1,000 on the 5th floor.  Perhaps Calgary will get one for their new library!  It would be fun to get   Eyland   to work with local children to make the paintings and see what happens.

I have always loved this two-storey high Untitled artwork by Cliff Eyland in the lobby of Winnipeg's downtown Millennium Library. It is composed of 1,000 miniature paintings, most of them 3"x5" the size of library catalogue card.  From a distance, it looks like huge pixilated TV screen, but up close they are fun landscape, figurative and abstract painting.  Guess I am not the only one who loves it, the new Halifax Library commissioned him to do one that has 5,000 miniature paintings in the lobby and another 1,000 on the 5th floor.  Perhaps Calgary will get one for their new library!  It would be fun to get Eyland to work with local children to make the paintings and see what happens.

Montreal was amazing - especially with their use of light both inside and outside.  This postcard captures the synergy of the coloured glass facade of the Palais des congres by Jean-Francis Cantin with The Constellation of Great Montrealers (the blue figure wall with name plates of individuals who have contributed to making Montreal a great city).  It was magical.

This is the Crew Collective & Cafe on a Sunday afternoon. What a great reuse of the 1928 former headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada. It is not just a cafe, but a co-working space, meeting and event space. The ceiling is spectacular and note how they have incorporated the teller windows into the new space.  Brillant!

2016 was the year of the Knox Walk, we enjoyed hours of fun exploring our immediate neighbourhood, always finding something new. I think it captures the essence of being both a flaneur and an everyday tourist. Link: Flaneuring Fun in Montreal!