An Ode To YEG

To say that the first half of 2020 has been challenging would be a massive understatement. From cancelled events to postponed sports seasons to summer plans gone awry, COVID-19 has affected every single one of us. But, Edmonton is a place of hope and optimism.
 So, we asked a number of prominent Edmontonians to tell us their favourite things about living in this city. Some told us what they miss most, some told us about the things that still bring joy to their hearts. We will persevere through the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonton; we will see you on the other side.

Our photographers Cooper & O’Hara constructed a large green COVID box and set up a makeshift studio in the back of a warehouse bay. With the bay doors open people pulled up one by one in their cars and let us photograph them while keeping their social distance.

All photos by Cooper & O'Hara

NNEKA OTOGBOLU

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND EQUITY STRATEGY, EDMONTON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Nneka Otogbolu moved to Edmonton from Nanaimo, B.C., in March of this year. And, immediately, she noticed one major change — she didn’t have to drive her three kids to school anymore.

“Moving from a community of about 100,000 people to a city of over a million people, that can be a shock, but right away Edmonton felt like home to me,” she says. “It’s family friendly, and you can see that in the way the city is planned. Every community has a school, and my kids can now walk to school from home.”

Otogbolu moved to Canada from Nigeria in 2016, but Edmonton offers her a taste of home. “This is a diverse city,” she says. “It is great to come here and find that there are African shops so I can make meals like I did back at home. I can enjoy the same things I enjoyed back in Nigeria.”

ALEX PRIOR

CHIEF CONDUCTOR OF EDMONTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Alex Prior was born in London, England, has studied music in Russia and has conducted in many parts of the world, including Copenhagen and Seattle.

But, he’s not only cemented himself as part of Edmonton’s arts scene, he’s truly made the city his home. He loves the ambience of Bistro Praha and sitting on the patio at Pip. He’s missing those things at the moment, and he admits the cancellation of many of Edmonton’s arts festivals due to the COVID-19 pandemic has him “grieving.”

“The combination of the Fringe Fest, Folk Fest and ending with the ESO’s Symphony under the Sky means that Edmonton has one of the best summers anywhere in the world. I tell my friends from New York, from California, from Europe, from around the whole world — head to Edmonton for part of your summer, you will not regret it. Not only are these festivals, and many other ones too, truly world-class and incredible, but the weather is beautiful, the days are long, and the light has this beautiful silvery edge to it that is so characteristic of Alberta, and contrasts so beautifully with the warm yellows of the fields of wheat and the multicoloured tapestry of wildflowers around the lakes of our nearby glorious Rockies.

“And, additionally, all of these elements mean that people feel even more active and alive than ever. The streets are bustling, folks are having a grand time — it’s just the best of places. And so I’m grieving for what is a lost summer in many ways, as I know so many are with me. It’s absolutely the right thing to do and I want to salute the myriad of organizations, including my own, who have done the right thing in putting people’s welfare and supporting our brave frontline workers first, even before it was required.

“I am sure that opportunities will come from this loss — they always do — and indeed it’s the only way that’s sensible to think about it. However, just imagine how awesome it will be when it comes back! And I want the world to hear — Edmonton, any time of year, is an awesome place to visit, especially for its arts scene.”

JASON GREGOR

RADIO HOST OF THE JASON GREGOR SHOW ON TSN 1260, LEAD COLUMNIST AT OILERSNATION

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

It is April. When we speak to Jason Gregor (Top 40 Under 40 alumnus, class of 2011) over the phone, he has just got off the air and is about to drive to his family’s farm by New Sarepta. He’s going to help with the calving, and the -20 Celsius temperatures mean he’s got to do it in the warm barn, as it’s too cold for the cattle to give birth outside.

On his show earlier that day, more than $5,000 was raised for the Edmonton Food Bank, even though he knows that, in the heart of the COVID-19 crisis, many of his listeners are facing their own financial hard- ships. By the end of that week, a total of $23,000 was raised for the food bank, on his show.

“It’s something I love about Edmonton. The philanthropy. There’s a lot of quiet money in Edmonton. But, when push comes to shove, people step up and help. People might be losing their jobs, but they still find a way to donate 20 bucks or 50 bucks or even more.”

And what impresses him is the number of his listeners who make donations but don’t want their names read on air. He says that someone called in to make a large donation to the Food Bank, someone who is now on his feet after having used the charity in the past, and that person insisted that his contribution be done under a fake name.

It’s the fact that so many Edmontonians want to give — without seeking publicity — that says a lot about the fabric of our city, says Gregor.

AIMÉE HILL

OWNER, ALL ACCESS ENTERTAINMENT; DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING, MACEWAN UNIVERSITY; COLUMNIST, CBC RADIO ACTIVE’S IN CROWD

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

“I love that no matter the week and no matter the weather, there is always something to do in this city. You can see a play, take in an exhibit, listen to some live music. Read a poem — heck, write a poem — build an ice sculpture, be a part of a folklore re-enactment. Not a weekend goes by in a calendar year that one can’t find a legitimate response to the statement, ‘I’m bored.’

“And, while I’ve been lucky enough to have many of those ‘I was there when…’ experiences, not every- thing is a hit. I’ve sat through my fair share of stinky artistic endeavours. But I love that we keep trying. We travel the world and bring back ideas.

“We push ourselves to be better, aim higher, dream bigger. Whether as a participant or observer, it’s the art that always leaves me feeling sad, happy, angry, confused, silly, disappointed, challenged and bewildered — and reminds me that Edmonton is a great place to live and not just exist.”

CRASH AND MARS

102.3 NOW! RADIO MORNING SHOW HOSTS

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Crash: “We lived in the suburbs for years, but we loved going out downtown. So, one afternoon we were downtown on a patio, and I ran to put more money in the meter, and there was an open house sign at one of the condos. We were like, uh, can we do this? And we just made an appointment, kind of a spur-of- the-moment decision, and we fell in love with it right away. A few months later, we were in our new downtown home!”

Mars: “We don’t regret it at all. As someone who grew up here, it’s great to see downtown come into its own and kind of grow up a bit. We’re lucky to live down here and watch this community grow and transform, even just in the past five years alone. Edmontonians of all walks of life are here, getting out together, going to restaurants, riding scooters. We got to see the development of Alex Decoteau Park. And I swear, the people working out at Constable Ezio Faraone Park are really good looking!”

RITCHIE VELTHUIS

SCULPTOR OF THE SCTV MONUMENT, BUILD MANAGER OF THE EDMONTON ICE CASTLES

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

“As a life long visual artist working in Edmonton, my favourite thing about the city is our strong sense of community. I have had the opportunity to work with many different groups and events throughout my career. Edmontonians are passionate and always seem to step up to the plate to contribute to a cause, an event, a neighbourhood project or festival. Our community spirit makes me proud to call myself an Edmontonian.”

APRIL DEAN

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SNAP

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

April Dean (Top 40 Under 40 alumna, class of 2016) has been executive director at SNAP Gallery for eight years, but she first became involved with the organization long before that — when she volunteered there as an undergrad.

“To be able to come back in a service role as the executive director… it really opened my eyes to the importance of a place for artists to connect with their community, that can help young artists to thrive.”

SNAP is one of the oldest art hubs in the city — the gallery has been around for a few decades, and hasn’t stopped drawing artists in since it opened its doors in 1989.

“Many of the artists that founded the organization still take a really active part in the community, which I think is really rare for an organization that’s 40 years old,” says Dean. “For me, that’s really fostered sort of a sense of mentorship, and also this feeling of responsibility of wanting to give back to my community.”

MALCOLM BRUCE

CEO, EDMONTON GLOBAL

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

As the head of an organization that promotes the city to an international audience, Malcolm Bruce has seen a slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now, the emphasis is on looking inward, and supporting local initiatives,” says Bruce. And that’s true whether you live in Edmonton, Toronto, New York or Tokyo. So building international relationships hasn’t been on the forefront of many businesspeople’s minds through the spring of 2020.

But, Bruce is confident that Edmonton Metropolitan Region will roar back once the all-clear is given.

“I think once we get to a new normal, whatever that will look like, there will be lots of opportunity.”

He says that the region has a track record of three things: Resilience, character and community.

“During times of strife, this is a community that has always come together,” he says. “Whether it was coming out of the Dirty Thirties, the Second World War, or many booms and busts, this region has always proved to be resilient. It comes back.”

He says that no matter what the world will look like post- COVID-19, Edmontonians will have a sense of togetherness to greet what is to come.

KEN BAUTISTA

PARTNER, MAKESPACE GROUP; CO-FOUNDER, STARTUP EDMONTON

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

What makes some start-ups succeed where others fail? According to the co-founder of Startup Edmonton and now a partner at Makespace Group, Ken Bautista, it’s the supportive community and the power of open collaboration. For those “looking to get an idea off the ground,” Edmonton is the city to be in, says Bautista, a Top 40 Under 40 alumnus, class of 2009. Here, it’s easier to foster connections, find support and collaborations, and ask for help — and receive it.

“Everybody is always trying to build something [here], and there’s a lot of that community and openness that not many cities have necessarily,” says Bautista.

The collaborative entrepreneurial scene in Edmonton is what allows start-ups to successfully develop here in a way that might not be possible elsewhere.

“Entrepreneurship can be a really lonely, isolating thing,” says Bautista. “In this city, I think people are looking for more connectivity to help each other build things.”

His own work is a testament to that. When Bautista and fellow Top 40 Cam Linke co-founded Startup Edmonton in 2009, their idea was to provide entrepreneurs with the support and encouragement they needed.

“We started it to try to connect with other entrepreneurs and turns out there was a whole bunch of them out there waiting to connect, and help build,” says Bautista. “It started off with small gatherings and then kind of snowballed from there.”

JESSE LIPSCOMBE

ACTOR, SINGER AND SPEAKER, CO-FOUNDER OF #MAKEITAWKWARD CAMPAIGN

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Lipscombe loves the collaboration and possibilities that exist in Edmonton, how we can make ideas come to fruition and work with so many different sectors of our city.

“Even during a lockdown, I wrote this TV show (Locked in Love) and was able to reach out to people and we shot it with 20 actors from all over North America while following AHS (Alberta Health Services) guidelines,” he says. “Now there’s another company jumping in that’s opening a drive-in, and we’re going to be the first show that’s shown there.”

And this collaboration happened in response to his least favourite part of our city, and many cities, with #MakeItAwkward about racism in Edmonton. “When the video (which captured audio of racists yelling epithets at Lipscombe) came up, the city — in droves — supported our response (Lipscombe’s campaign encouraging people to confront racist behaviour when they see it). I’m talking the actual citizens were behind it, the media, the police were behind it, the schools, the politicians were behind it — I had a sit-down with the mayor three days after it happened.”

The same thing happened with the Be the Change rally, where Black, Indigenous and people of colour — reacting with the world to the murder of George Floyd — shared their experiences of racism in Edmonton. “[That collaboration] happened in even a quicker period of time, from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening,” he says. “In each case, something horrible happened, but it wasn’t a city where they tried to pretend it’s not a real thing. It wasn’t covered just like, ‘Oh that’s a cool event.’ Each time it happened, the city’s response was, ‘How can we be better?’”

SARAH HAMILTON

EDMONTON CITY COUNCILLOR, WARD 5

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

“So there was this German exchange student who went to high school with my brother. Some of my friends knew him, but we had never actually met in, like, 15 years. Come August 2018, I was at my friend’s house for a party and I said my resolution for 2019 was that I was going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, because I wanted to do it my whole life. And this other friend said, ‘Who are you going to do it with?’ That’s when Nick, the German exchange student, walked by.

“I said, ‘Nick, you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with me?’ And he said OK — his father had done it in the ’70s, and he always wanted to complete that goal as well.

“We had to train for endurance, and the best way to train for endurance is walking through the river valley. So every Saturday during that winter, we would put on our boots and go for two-, three-hour walks, meandering through the river valley, with nothing to do but talk to each other, admire the river valley, the architecture of the city and talk about our favourite things about Edmonton. Through the river valley, we got to know each other, we actually got to like each other and we fell in love. And, as a bonus, last summer, we actually ended up climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, too!”

DANIELLE WOO

GENERAL MANAGER, WEST EDMONTON MALL

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

This year, Danielle Woo celebrated her 10th anniversary working in the corporate office at West Edmonton Mall. And, while many of WEM’s stores and attractions had to temporarily shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, the regular hustle and bustle of one of the world’s largest retail centres enthralls her in her adult years just as it did when she was a child.

“Shortly after its grand opening I clearly remember the first time my parents took me to visit the ‘greatest indoor show on ‘Earth,’” she recalls. “It was unlike anything that existed at the time anywhere in the world, and as a six-year-old it was a sight to behold. My family spent countless days at the Mall during my youth. My siblings and
I could be easily entertained at the skating rink, the amusement park, or a day at the World Waterpark, especially in the depths of the Alberta winters.”

She eventually moved to Vancouver, but made WEM a big part of her itineraries whenever she came back home to visit.

Now, she enjoys the mall on a daily basis. And while it is her workplace, she says the magic that once thrilled her when she was a little girl now works on her niece and nephew.

KYRA BROWN

INDIGENOUS RELATIONS ADVISOR, EDMONTON ARTS COUNCIL

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Kyra Brown has traveled to many places. But what’s always stood out to her about her hometown is how the city’s leadership believes in “nurturing relationships that are meaningful.”

“We try to learn from what’s been done, what worked and what hasn’t, and then figure out how we can co-create better ways of engagement,” says Brown, a mixed-blood Nehiyaw (Cree) and Portuguese Iskwew (woman).

“Amiskwacîwâskahikan — Beaver House — Edmonton has a richness in cultural and traditional diversity that is reflected in the arts, our food, our people and communities. I enjoy that Edmonton is opening up to reflect our Indigenous communities in the collaborative creation of a meaningful and beautiful Indigenous Art Park, named (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞.”

In the 1980s, Brown also discovered a personal connection to the city’s iconic hockey team.

“During the mid-’80s my family was going through major tragedies with both my mother and father passing away,” she recalls. “It was interesting and uplifting to feel the surge of our Edmontonians’ energy resonating with every Oilers’ victory. Those times over the years actually helped me step out of some dark emotional stressful times.”

Following the COVID-19 shutdowns, the Edmonton Arts Council team has responded with new organizational and independent artist granting opportunities.

“This is really a tough time for many folks and I see people delivering care packages and reaching out to each other in more meaningful ways,” says Brown. “I feel a heightened willingness to reach out… I belong to a strong, resilient city community, and I’m glad to be here.”

CHERIE KLASSEN

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OLD STRATHCONA BUSINESS ASSOCIATION

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

After leaving Edmonton to attend the university in Calgary years ago, Cherie Klassen never imagined she would be coming back. But her move back turned out to be life changing. In 2017, she took on the role of executive director of Old Strathcona Business Association — one that aligned with her passion for supporting the small business community.

“I’m a big community champion… it’s at the very root of who I am as a person,” says Klassen. “And I think our community connectedness is so tight in this city.”

Following the shutdowns due to COVID-19, Klassen has seen an outpouring of people reaching out to the Old Strathcona Business Association, asking what they can do to help support and promote small businesses. She has witnessed an incredible amount of perseverance, and people adapting on a dime.

“I have been just blown away by seeing these small business owners and entrepreneurs quickly adapting in a day or two, and changing their entire business models to be able to adapt and still meet their customers’ needs with open arms,” says Klassen. “People come together to support each other, regardless of their walks of life.”

DARRIN HAGEN

ACTOR AND PLAYWRIGHT

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

“As a teenager, travelling into the city on a Greyhound bus, the shot of the Edmonton skyline from Saskatchewan Drive was only visible for a few seconds before heading down the winding road that plunges into the river valley. The view literally made my stomach flip with excitement. I just knew that somewhere, buried deep in that impressive forest of towers and concrete and glass, was the me I would become.

“Eventually I moved out of downtown, landing on Saskatchewan Drive, where the skyline dominated my vision and my imagination from a new angle. I became the observer, not the participant. I started taking pictures like a maniac — it was my model.

“The skyline never stopped working its magic on me, whether rising mysteriously out of the ice fog, or sternly reflecting the hot- test August sun.

“And then, after years of unchanging stillness, it suddenly springs to life: New cranes everywhere, indicating where the next towers would rise. Through the boom years I had a bird’s-eye Saskatchewan Drive view of the construction as it clawed away at the clouds. I was already accustomed to seeing it as a living organism, feeding on a stream of traffic for its morning kick, then bleeding rivers of cars in a nonstop rush hour. Fog floated in front of it, mammoth thunderheads appeared behind it, icy steam rose above it, small planes navigated around it, prairie dust and 7-Eleven bags blasted through it. Depending on when I looked out the window, I could see a sunset red from forest fire smoke sinking behind Oliver, weather conversions, gigantic winds approaching from the west, a dozen hot-air balloons taking off from the baseball diamond, northern lights, fireworks… and the host, the backdrop, the main event, the star, was always Edmonton’s skyline.”

DANIELLE LUNDY (and Gracie)

DIRECTOR SALES AND MARKETING, FAIRMONT HOTEL MACDONALD

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Danielle Lundy moved to Edmonton from Ontario two years ago — and was taken by the warm welcome she and her family received from neighbours, co- workers and pretty well everyone she met.

“What struck me first about this city was how warm and generous the people are,” says Lundy. “We had countless offers to help with our condo hunt, restaurant recommendations, sightseeing tours, business partnerships, friendships and so much more.”

As a director of sales and marketing at Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, Lundy spends a large part of her week in downtown — but, in her spare time, she never misses a chance to spend time in nature. Her weekends are usually split between long walks in the parks with her family or their small dog, checking out the festivals and shopping at the farmers markets.

In Edmonton, Lundy discovered an incredible balance of downtown city amenities and urban park areas — something that’s hard to find.

“I love the ample green space located throughout the city,” says Lundy. “There are so many options within a 10-minute drive from downtown, so we feel like we never stop exploring new green space in the city.”

DARYL CLORAN

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, CITADEL THEATRE

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Daryl Cloran moved here with his family in September 2016 — and hasn’t regretted it one bit. He was impressed by Edmonton’s renowned Ice Castles — a unique experience that his family didn’t hesitate to check out when they got here.

“We’ve been so welcome,” says Cloran. “This felt like a real place where we could belong.”

Like its longtime residents, he has come to appreciate the river valley and the city’s sports scene — and his two young sons started playing hockey the same winter they moved here. The game has also allowed him to explore the city in a way that he wouldn’t otherwise.

“I got to know Edmonton really well, because I had to drive to all the little rinks everywhere around the city,” says Cloran. “So I’ve explored every corner of Edmonton thanks to youth hockey.”

Cloran moved to Edmonton to take up a role of the artistic director at Citadel Theatre, one of the first establishments to take a heavy hit from COVID-19. All shows were rapidly cancelled or postponed. Numerous artists lost their work. But what followed was the incredible collaboration and generosity in the midst of loss.

“The thing that’s really blown me away is how the artists have come together,” says Cloran. “It’s been pretty amazing to see how artists are supporting each other and how much work is suddenly going online… and the amount of artists finding ways to still have theatre exist in various forms online.”

And Citadel Theatre was no exception. To support its artists, Citadel launched its Stuck-In-The-House series in March. Each day the theatre uploaded a new video by a different artist and was able to pay that person through the Edmonton Community Foundation. Cloran sees these collaborations as a testament to the kind of people that live in Edmonton — the “people that make things happen.”

ALYSSA PATERSON

GENERAL MANAGER, EDMONTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA & WINSPEAR CENTRE (TOP 40 UNDER 40, CLASS OF 2019)

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

“I moved to Edmonton in 2011, after living in five other cities in the previous seven years. I’d been hired to work with the City, and arrived knowing no one in Edmonton aside from a few family members. Having moved so often during my adult life, I was used to working hard to meet people and make friends, and expected this to be the case in Edmonton as well.

“I summoned the courage to go to Brittany’s Lounge for a musical theatre open mic night. I went alone, knowing no one and fully planning to sit and listen quietly in a corner. As soon as I arrived, I was em- braced — both literally and figuratively — by a group of like-minded people, who made me sit with them. They placed binders of sheet music in my hands and, before I knew it, I was singing Sondheim in front of a group of people who are now my close friends and colleagues in the arts. Their welcoming spirit brought me back to my first love, musical theatre, after many years away from it, and opened my eyes to the friendliness and generosity of spirit that Edmontonians exude. The sense of community and welcoming spirit that exists here is something that I haven’t experienced in any other city, and it’s a huge factor in why I’ve chosen to make Edmonton my home.”

QUINN PHILLIPS

SPORTS ANCHOR AND REPORTER, GLOBAL NEWS

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

“A few years ago, my friend Wanda and I were walking down 109th Street when we saw high school friends on a patio. We hadn’t seen them in years and it was just instinct to run and join them. It turned into a few beers — then a few more (plus nachos) — and a much needed catch-up turned into an all-night celebration.

“I love Edmonton’s sense of community. It can often feel like a small town. You go with one group and then, inevitably, see other people you know, and if there are people at the table you don’t know, you feel like you’re friends by the end of the night.

“You can also guarantee seeing friends on a patio any day at any time. You go with one group and then inevitably see 10 other people you know and get another much needed catch-up.”

MANFRED ZEUCH

VICE-PRESIDENT, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS & INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Manfred Zeuch moved to Edmonton from Brazil 13 years ago, but was taken by the city well before that. He first heard about its mix of urban landscape and greenery when he was still teaching in Brazil. His colleague, who was a former flight attendant and visited the city several times, described Edmonton as “a mix of New York and Switzerland.” And Zeuch agrees the statement has some merit.

“It’s clean and organized and, at the same time, it’s kind of urban, nice looking like New York,” says Zeuch. “Edmonton is one of the two sunniest cities in Canada and that aspect has attracted us [here]. And also, the city has a mind-blowing ratio of green spaces that it’s known for.”

Zeuch came here for a new position in academia, and later joined Concordia University in 2012. “I’m very proud of being a part of the Edmonton education web — it’s a very strong one,” says Zeuch.

“We love the temperate climate of the prairies here,” says Zeuch. “We like the city for this calm, green, natural and sunny place, but also for its vibrancy in innovation and culture and, of course, education.”

Though his first glimpse of Edmonton couldn’t be bleaker, he was pleasantly surprised to discover the landscape that awaited him once the snow has cleared.

“When we were coming in and landing, we just saw a white blanket, and we said to each other, ‘Where is Edmonton?’” Zeuch recalls. “And lo and behold, in May and June, we see that uncovering from the white, was the amazing green.”

Zeuch notes how the city has greatly developed over the last decade, since he moved here. “The transformation that we’ve been seeing in the downtown and in the cityscape is amazing,” says Zeuch. “Me and my wife appreciate that the city not only wants to be smart, but also green and sustainable. So the development of a bike culture, transit system and sustainable housing and buildings, that’s very important for us.”

ALAN NURSALL

PRESIDENT AND CEO, TELUS WORLD OF SCIENCE

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

Having spent his childhood right on the edge of the river valley, Alan Nursall fondly recalls his days of skiing down the back alley, to the top of Whitemud hill, and using the rope tow to go again.

“We had our own little slice of the river valley… it was our neighbourhood hangout,” says Nursall. “I grew up with the river valley basically being the backyard, and it was pretty special.”

Though he moved away from Edmonton for 33 years, when the opportunity arose to take a job at TWOSE in his hometown, Nursall accepted it without hesitation.

“It was fun to come back and see how it’s changed,” says Nursall. “I’m thrilled to be here.”

Having moved back in 2014, he was astonished to find an abundance of wildlife — especially rabbits — that the city didn’t have in the 1970s. He was also reminded of the amazing Edmonton summers, the kind that “we should never take for granted.”

“Edmonton summers are spectacular,” says Nursall. “They’re dry and sunny and they’re warm.” For Nursall, returning to Edmonton opened up the new horizons — quite literally.

“The skies [here] are really blue,” says Nursall. “You get a nice Arctic or polar airmass moving over northern Alberta and the skies are just amazing.”

MARY MOREAU

CHIEF JUSTICE, ALBERTA COURT OF QUEEN’S BENCH

Photo by Cooper & O’Hara

The chief justice of the province’s superior court lists a few Edmonton landmarks that continue to inspire her. Even though she was raised in Edmonton, she still sees the city with fresh eyes.

“I was born and raised near Edmonton’s river valley and have never moved far away from it. The valley is a real gem, even shinier with the Walterdale Bridge spanning the river and framing spectacular sight lines to downtown Edmonton.”

On the east end of this tour, you’ll head towards the Muttart, which is currently closed for renovations, and to Gallagher Hill. The Muttart is missed, as the gardens inside allow for people to have a stroll in the park, even in the dead of winter.

“The pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory remind me of those -30 Celsius days in the middle of winter when I let my kids loose inside to oxygenate,” she says.

She also enjoys viewing the “Dove of Peace,” located nearby. Created by Eddie Williams, the dove was installed to provide shelter for the temporary altar that was built at CFB Namao for Pope John Paul II’s 1984 visit. After he led mass for hundreds of thousands, a permanent home for the dove was established at Gallagher Park.

Now, we’ll head to the western side of Moreau’s tour.

“Skating in Victoria Park, jogging on the valley trails and soaking up incredible valley views from patios overlooking it have been a big part of my life in Edmonton, every season of the year,” she says.

ALPHONSO DAVIES

FULLBACK, BAYERN MUNICH

It’s hard for Edmontonians to wrap their heads around Alphonso Davies’ meteoric rise. A decade ago, he was a kid on the playgrounds of the city. Now, he’s a regular starter for one of the world’s most popular sports teams.

It’s not a question that Davies is the most famous Edmontonian alive right now. He could already be the most famous Edmontonian… ever. On top of the fact that millions upon millions of people watch him on television — per week — he just signed a lucrative extension that will keep him with Bayern till 2025. Bayern just won its eighth consecutive Bundesliga title, and Davies has become known in Germany as “The Roadrunner” because of his sprint speeds in excess of 35 km/h. He was named the league’s Rookie of the Season.

He’s also a massive TikTok star. He’s got over 970,000 TikTok followers and his videos collectively have earned over 17 million likes.

When Canada, the United States and Mexico made their successful bid for the World Cup, Davies was asked to speak to the world on behalf of his home country. As the bid was presented, Davies spoke in front of camera crews who came from around the planet.

“When I was five years old, a country called Canada welcomed us in, and the boys on the football team made me feel at home… I’m a proud Canadian citizen. And my dream is to someday compete in the World Cup, maybe even in my hometown of Edmonton.”

Even though he’s a global celebrity, and he’s currently in Germany, Davies told Avenue that he will never forget what Edmonton means to him.

“I love Edmonton, it’s my home. It’s where my family lives and it’s where I grew up. I started my soccer career in Edmonton and the city is filled with great memories for myself. I always look forward to coming home.”

BRODY CLARKE

FORWARD, EDMONTON STINGERS

The former University of Alberta Golden Bear was named the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s first ever U Sports Player of the Year, awarded to the player coming out of the Canadian collegiate system who had the greatest impact in the league.

Clarke played at the U of A, but he’s from Toronto. And he was surprised by what a supportive sports city Edmonton is.

“I say that Edmonton is a small city inside of a big city,” he says. “Being from Toronto, coming here, I don’t think I really expected to see the amount of community support here, especially when it comes to the sporting community.”

While the Stingers might not have the household name cachet like the Oilers, Clarke says he’s amazed by how much he’s recognized when he’s out and about.

“It really is something, being an athlete, when people recognize you and the frowns turn into smiles.”

And, when he is on campus, he loves the camaraderie between the different athletes who are Bears and Pandas. No matter the sport, the amount of mutual respect is clear in the training areas, as athletes will share waves and nods — and are supportive of each other, no matter the games they play.

“I know how hard it was for me to get to where I am in my sport,” says Clarke. “And I know how hard they are working to get to the top of their sports.”

MICHELLE SCHULTZ

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LATITUDE 53

“I’ve been finding comfort in the resiliency and strength of many of our local businesses, and the outpouring of support for them. While online ordering and delivery services are no replacement for regular operations, watching as local businesses adapt and the community supports them has been heartwarming.

“There are plenty of little things that I find myself thinking about — going to Kind to sample the rotating flavours, flipping through books at Glass Bookshop, spending sunny afternoons working from a table at Lock Stock, visiting Boocha and Blindman at the market, sampling wine at Devine, sitting at the bar for tartare at Woodwork — but what I am really missing is the interactions with the people at these places, and running into familiar faces.

“I look forward to the day when I can enter all these spaces again, and run into the many incredible people that exist in this city. In the meantime, I will find comfort in doing what I can to support local businesses who have shown immense resiliency and continue to work for and within the community, to ensure that these are places we can one day return to. “

CHUBA HUBBARD

RUNNING BACK, OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY; First Team All-American and finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the top running back in American college footballl

“The one thing that makes Edmonton special is the diversity — all types of people living in Edmonton.”

MEG MORRISON

HOST AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, PRO-AM GOLF SHOW

“I wish I knew earlier in my adulthood about the diverse Edmonton food and drink scene. One night while out with some friends, we were chatting about the best drinks in Edmonton, and I learned about the Smoke & Oak Fashioned at [the now closed] North 53. My husband and I finally had our chance to go and couldn’t believe that drink could consist of more than just a rum and coke — making the perfect cocktail is a science! Since then we’ve made it our mission to go around town looking for more takes on the Old Fashioned.  Woodwork, RGE RD, Have Mercy all have great versions as well, and we love discovering the many ‘hole in the wall’ restaurants we never knew existed.  Edmonton is infused with local restaurateurs who put their heart and soul into their business, and mixologists who are passionate about sharing their creations. Edmonton is a great place to indulge, and as soon as all this is over I can’t wait to go seeking further!”

PILAR MARTINEZ

CEO, EDMONTON PUBLIC LIBRARY

“These past few months have shown Edmonton’s helpful, community-oriented spirit of resiliency. What has undeniably inspired me are the many Edmontonians in healthcare, food and medicine who have risen to the challenge to face this public health crisis. Their courage has reaffirmed the resilience and optimism of the human spirit.  Near and dear to my heart is the compassion and commitment of EPL staff. We have collaborated to provide iPads and laptops, furniture and books for our socially vulnerable friends using the EXPO Centre site.  We have shared PPE with social agencies and other organizations, and rolls of toilet paper to Compassion House, all executed very quickly and graciously.  Virtual programming and digital content have been embraced by Edmontonians of all ages.

“Sadly, in late March with all of our service points closed, we made the tremendously difficult decision to temporarily lay off 76 per cent of our employees.

“During a time when EPL staff were facing extraordinary uncertainty, expressions of gratitude and thanks for the organization’s support have poured in — to EPL and beyond. My neighbours have shared cupcakes and cookies, and at 7 p.m. nightly, ceremonially gather on front porches to thank our front-line health workers with the banging of pots and pans.  And local business owners, like Bon Ton Bakery, go the extra mile to make it safe for customers to experience their amazing baking, tucking in extra treats in a drive-by package. This is the city I call home and the city I love.”

 

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