The Edmonton Journal as a feature running until July 10 called Tell us what makes the city tick with 50 Things That Define Edmonton. The Summer of 2010 is when I became the Edmonton Tourist. I chose to live my life like I do when I am on vacation, take risks and explore my surroundings. Part of that included being a tourist in ETown.
I grew up with parents and a grandma who knew the importance of exploring your surroundings. From an educational and child development standpoint, exploring my surroundings increased my vocabulary, taught me about my City’s history and gave me a solid sense of family. I grew up learning that families do stuff together. Over the years we visited the Zoo, Fort Edmonton, Muttart Conservatory, the Royal Museum and Art gallery and went to shows and concerts at the Citadel, The Jubilee, Rexall (coliseum), and Commonwealth Stadium. I’ve curtsied to Royalty, hugged hockey players, conversed with artists, and chatted with fellow citizens. I think this makes me more than qualified to contribute to the 50 things that Define Edmonton.
But you guys know me so well, I won’t make a list of 50 things – just the 11 things that define Edmonton for me.
The Edmonton Tourist’s Top 11 Things that Define Edmonton
- The Edmonton River Valley: I have always love the valley. My family picnics there every Friday night and we utilize the park system on a regular basis. Since I have become a runner, I now want to move closer to the valley. Every season there is something spectacular about it. I love running through it 5 times a week. There are trails I have never explored and some that are my favorite. It is the only place I know of where you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere and yet you are downtown. End to end it is has more square feet than Central Park. Yet it is made up of hundreds of parks honoring great Edmontonians and Canadians. This is hands down, the number one thing that defines Edmonton.
- Volunteers: Every city brags about it’s citizens. True Story. But Edmonton has a community of volunteers that just come out of the woodwork to support events. It is nearly impossible to get a volunteer spot at the Edmonton folk Fest. When major sporting events come to town like the World Track and Field games, the Masters or the World Triathlon, volunteers put their hands up and say “I’d love to help!” Sure there are events where they just can’t get enough volunteers, but I think that has more to do with marketing than people not wanting to help. Edmontonians give back on a regular basis. True Story.
- Festivals: I’ll be honest, not every festival in Edmonton to fantastic. I have been to all of them – except any new ones that will pop up this summer. Some are duds. However, there are some festivals that are out of this world AMAZING and people (like me) plan their summer around them! Well, I plan around The Fringe Festival and the Canadian Derby Marathon. Marathon Weekend use to be Edmonton Festival Marathon, but now it’s name has change. The Fringe is a the largest Fringe Festival in North America and second largest in the world (Edinburgh is first). I can been seen DAILY down at the Fringe. As for the Derby Marathon Weekend? I am running on Saturday (5k) with my ChatterBox and on Sunday (21.1k) with a plethora of people – some friends and some strangers but we are all part of the running community!
- Hockey: I know not everyone is a fan (What???) but those who aren’t true fans are bandwagoners. True Story. When I say Hockey, I don’t just mean the Oilers, there are the Oil Kings, Minors, street hockey, pond hockey – you name it. It is all year, every day. The NHL lock out was hard on me, but there was enough of the other stuff to keep me happy. Edmonton has some pretty cool hockey memorabilia, like the giant Stanley Cup (engraved and everything!), Wayne Gretzky Drive (Cap freeway), Mark Messier Trail and the new arena controversy that keeps saying they are done but are they really? I think not. In fact, the papers are all full of the 25th Anniversary that Waynederful was traded to the L.A. Kings. And we have never been the same since. We have a new coach, but I am just going to keep hoping for a playoff spot and pray we don’t become Toronto (45 years since the last cup).
- Patio Seating: Weird right? Well, in Edmonton we have THE WORST weather. I am sick of rain and cold and before that I was sick of cold and snow, hopefully I will get sick of dry and hot. We don’t get much time to sit outside on patios drinking beverages with friends. So when we do, on a long summer evening, we try to maximize it. My favorite patio is one that has padded chairs because I will be there awhile. Those bistro chairs aren’t as comfy. Yes you will find Patio Heaters because in the fall and early spring it is cold but we just don’t want to admit that winter is around. All hail the PATIO!
- Construction: Before there was a guy named Mayor Mandel, we had a dude who wouldn’t spend money on infrastructure and we are paying the price now. But when it is done, we will finally have roads that can move the population around. Meanwhile, I cannot remember a time when potholes didn’t need filling, bridges are being built and road closures make summer driving hot and long. Which is why I am trying to be a long distance runner, it will be faster to run downtown than drive.
- Gardens: We don’t have Butchart Gardens, but since the season is so short, there are an awful lot of flowers in people’s yards. We can squeeze 4- 4.5 months of gardening in before the frost destroys everything. People go big with their gardens and I am one of them! I have huge patio containers in the back and planted beds in the front. I like flowering trees and running lately is a fragrant paradise! May Day trees and Lilacs fill the river valley. Beautiful!
- Golf: I don’t golf but I know by just living in Edmonton that lots of people do. There appears to be a golf course for every 5 citizens. They are pretty – maybe one day I will be a golfer. However, it just doesn’t make sense to me. There should be a goalie, THEN it would be a sport….whatever.
- Parks: Edmonton Parks are spectacular. The city does a great job keeping them sparkly and clean. The river valley does have great parks but they aren’t the only ones in town!
- Ponds: Actually they are reservoirs. They were created to assist the rain overflow to prevent basement overflow. And the result is fantastic wildlife pockets around the city. Geese, Herons, Ducks, and Bald Eagles can be spotted at some of these places. They are lovely spots of tranquillity splattered all over the city. And in the winter? Shiny or just skating happens. Skating on a frozen pond is a Canadian rite of passage. If you have never done it, embrace your heritage and do it!
- Recycle: Odd I know, but Edmonton is a world leader in Recycling. I notice it when I travel. We recycle everything and other cities barely recycle paper. Shocking. So happy we are doing our part.
There you have it, my personal opinion of what defines Edmonton. What would you choose?