7 reasons to visit Calgary after floods

Calgary's community spirit lights up these kids faces. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Calgary’s community spirit and deep sense of civic pride provides plenty of hope for a robust recovery from the severe flooding caused by the overflowing Elbow and Bow Rivers. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca file photo)

From Beyond the Wake

Water, the menace,
knows no prejudice,
It slaloms, it stampedes,
A cavalry of catastrophe,
Brimming over with haste

Buck up in its face,
Flood back human grace,
A stoic swell,
A dam of pride
unbreakable by fate,
rising mountainous

from beyond the wake

Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor

When your friends are in trouble and you’re far away there’s only so much support you are able to give. With Calgary, Canmore and so many other Alberta communities in grief, we wanted to do what we can at Vacay.ca to help. We are trying to ignite a Kickstarter campaign that will complement the Red Cross efforts to aid flood victims in need of financial assistance. But Kickstarter is only based in the United States and requires compliance with American tax law, so we are searching for colleagues south of the border to assist in getting it started. (Email us if you or someone you know can help.) Hey, if Gawker can raise $200,000 for a video of a fat mayor (allegedly) smoking from a crack pipe, there has to be enough human decency to raise the equivalent amount to help good people in need.

In the meantime, as we observe the historic flood and the damage it has done to this marvellous city and its neighbours, I wanted to list the great many things to celebrate about Calgary and southern Alberta. It’s a reminder of why you should visit, once the water has receded and the restoration has begun.

1. The People

When you first hear the term “Western Hospitality,” it’s easy to think it’s a marketing ploy. If you’re a journalist, you will even be keen to disprove the term or at least scrutinize its claim. Travel to Calgary a few times and you realize Western Hospitality is real and it’s real because the people of the city take the idea of welcoming visitors to heart. No city of 1 million people can match Calgary’s level of friendliness and gracious spirit.

2. The Calgary Stampede

Few massive events live up to their hype the way the Stampede does. It is everything you would expect from a giant, two-week-long celebration — and then some, as the free pancake breakfasts, early-morning cocktail parties and late-night music concerts combine to bombard you with incentives to come back. The Stampede is the highest-grossing festival in Canada, bringing in more than $170 million in economic activity each year. Its importance to the community is immense and why everything possible will be done to salvage it this year. [See 2012 Calgary Stampede coverage on Vacay.ca]

3. The Explosion of Culture

Food. Music. Multicultural festivals. Art. Design.

Calgary had little — or none — of it two decades ago. Now, this fast-growing, oil-rich city has blossomed with all kinds of contemporary flavours, not the least of which is a stellar culinary scene. On the horizon is the promise of even greater cultural importance as the new $135-million National Music Centre facility prepares to open in 2015.

4. The History

Too often, Canadians forget about the rich history — human or otherwise — we have in this country. In Alberta, that history is brilliantly preserved, whether it’s in the Badlands, with the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park, where 40 dinosaur species have been found, or in the numerous First Nations communities, where visitors can learn about what human life in North America was like 8,000 years ago.

5. The Landscape

The flooding of the Bow and Elbow rivers won’t alter the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, or the resplendence of the auriferous prairies, or the magnificence of the big, blue sky that skims above Alberta, a province whose landscape stands up to any other territory in the world.

6. The Mayor


Mayor Naheed Nenshi has shown resolve in the face of adversity during the floods in Calgary. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca file photo)

Canada has no better politician at the moment than Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Capable and conscientious, he is passing this brutal leadership test and there is plenty of reason to believe something extremely positive and fresh will emerge in months ahead thanks to his guidance.

7. The Community Support

This week, evacuation centres said they have more volunteers than they can use, such is the spirit of generosity in this city.

The Calgary Stampede is run largely by volunteer committees. There are 47 such groups and 2,300 total volunteers who annually gather to put on the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. If there is something that needs to be organized, Calgarians will find a way to do it. We found that out ourselves this spring as Calgary food lovers, food industry workers and chefs combined to bolster their restaurants. More public votes were received from Calgarians than any other city when we put together the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide for 2013. Calgary placed an amazing eight restaurants on the list.

Civic pride is the biggest reason why we know Calgary will come out of this challenging week stronger and more resilient.

The city’s community spirit is why we want to add our support and encourage everyone to visit Calgary. The economic benefit from your trip will make a difference, but so will your mere presence. For all the care Calgary has shown its guests over the years, perhaps now is the perfect time for those of us watching the disaster from afar to demonstrate that Western Hospitality extends beyond the borders of the city and its province.

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Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.

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