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Middle Age Bulge

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From The Hometown Opening to The Real Deal

SLOUCHED OVER, PLAYING THE ROLE OF Grandpa George, I joined a group of characters on stage left to witness Mayor Blake cut the ribbon on the new airport terminal, the setting for the enormously successful Keyano Theatre Company production of Hometown…The Musical! The emotions that coursed through my veins were real, though the event was contrived, a figment of Fort McMurray’s future. The choir singing “All Things Are Possible”, the Generation Dance Studio kids injecting their endless supply of energy, and characters like Bear, Coach and the Poet hanging out at the bar, the whole experience was really moving.

That was February of 2013. While we were performing to sold out house after sold out house, the new terminal was rising out of the ground and crews were making great progress on all the inside work that needed to happen. They might have been at about 60 per cent complete at the time. Now, as the spring of 2014 establishes itself, we are counting down the days to the actual opening and a complete transformation of our experience with flying in Fort McMurray.

The stories woven through Hometown were largely fictitious, though they attempted to embody the Fort McMurray experience. There were familiar situations that any of us would recognize: a mother and father sending their daughter off to university, a nanny from overseas arriving in town for the first time, romances coming to an end, and romances getting started. There is a lot of humanity that happens within the confines of an airport terminal. For the last number of years, we have crammed ourselves into a building that was built to handle about 250,000 passengers a year. Bursting through the million ceiling in 2013, it was a wonder we were able to manage. The new YMM facility has been built for 1.5 million passengers and designed in such a way that they will be able to expand it as the need arises. It will have myriad restaurants and amenities, public art, and even 2,300 powered parking stalls to make our lives infinitely easier during our long winters. The change is going to be dramatic, like going from a two-bedroom 1940’s-era house in Waterways to a brand new 5-bedroom palatial palace in Parson’s Creek. All of a sudden, we’re going to have lots of room to breathe. I’m most excited for the massive shift in first impressions that the new terminal is going to give to both visitors and people moving here. Arriving in the old terminal that has been in operation since the 1980’s, you couldn’t help but think that you’d landed at the world’s largest work camp. Finally, our new expansive, beautifully designed space will align with all the things we love about this community. What you will see, the impression that you will get as you step out of the gate and into the arrivals area, is that this is a remarkable place, a region of vast beauty, great opportunity and limitless potential. I remember walking into our imagined terminal during Hometown, arm-in-arm with Deanna Boostram who was playing my daughter, and seeing the space for the first time. It was all in my head, but it was mighty impressive. I fully expect that walking into the actual terminal for the first time is going to take my breath away.

Russell Thomas writes a regular blog at and can be followed on Twitter @rvthomas67.


Russell is a 19 year resident of Wood Buffalo, a community builder, facilitator, social media practitioner, actor, director and artist. He began his Middle Age Bulge blog as a way of capturing his journey to wellness. It has morphed into a daily journal about all aspects of life in the north. Russell works with The United Way of Fort McMurray and co-owns Birdsong Connections with his wife Heather.