McMurray Musings - It’s Games Time in Wood Buffalo
Once again we are throwing open our doors and welcoming visitors to our region; and as we celebrate the 2018 Alberta Winter Games it seems an ideal time to reflect on the benefit events such as this have not only for the participants, but for our community and region as a whole.
Every time the region hosts an event, from the Northern Kickoff CFL games to the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, it is an opportunity to showcase the remarkable amenities, people and community in this part of northern Alberta. Even more importantly, it is a chance to create new ambassadors from across the country, who likely arrive with some preconceived ideas of Fort McMurray and who undoubtedly depart with an entirely new perspective based on their experiences while here.
Perhaps this is why events like the 2018 Alberta Winter Games are so important; we open our collective doors to people who would be unlikely to visit for any other reason. In 2016, I had the opportunity to be a small part in presenting Baseball Canada Cup in Fort McMurray, and while it was a tremendous event for local residents to enjoy what I found truly satisfying was the response from visitors from across Canada who discovered what a remarkable place our region truly is.
Part of it is that we know how to host an event; a long history of significant events has allowed us to gain the skills and knowledge we need to execute these events with precision. And part of it is the spirit of our residents, who enthusiastically volunteer to help to deliver these events. But truly the largest part is simply that this is a region with a remarkable “get ‘er done” attitude, a determination to accomplish a task and do it well, and a place that has tremendous pride in who we are and what we do.
The 2018 Alberta Winter Games not only allow us the chance to showcase who we are and what we can do, but they even provide us the chance to show that winter – a season with which we have much experience – can be more than a dreary, dark and cold time of year in the north. From our incredible indoor amenities to our snow-covered ski hill, cross country ski trails and more, these games give us the opportunity to show the vibrancy and energy of this region even in the coldest of seasons; and coupled with our tenacious spirit and warm welcome of visitors, what better way to showcase our community?
One of my favourite memories in Fort McMurray is from the first Northern Kickoff game in 2015. I met a man who had driven here with his three small children, with the sole purpose of taking in a CFL game between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And where did this man come from, you ask? Alaska. He drove all the way from Alaska with three children under the age of ten just for the experience, and when they returned home they did so as new ambassadors for Fort McMurray, Alberta.
That perhaps is the very best outcome of these games; while athletes will go home with medals and tales of success or defeat, they will also carry with them stories of Fort McMurray, Wood Buffalo and this place where amazing things happen and incredible people live, work and play. And so it is so very easy to say it’s games time, Wood Buffalo – now is our time to shine!