Destination: Staycation

by Theresa Wells

N0811P69007CI was going to go to New York this summer. I have never been, but this was going to be my year to wander the Big Apple, to re-enact scenes from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to traipse down Fifth Avenue…and it all sounded truly grand until I realized that this is a lousy year to leave town, because there is so much happening right here.
I could list all the events – by virtue of my job I am in the middle of some of them – but the reality is that there is something for everyone taking place here this summer, from football fans to soccer enthusiasts, from rock concerts to country music festivals. There are events we have been talking about for years, like the Western Canada Summer Games, and annual events, like Canada Day. And the more I thought about it all the more I began to wonder why I was taking my tourism cash and heading south.
Right now our community is hurting a bit. The economy has kicked us to the curb in some ways, and there are businesses that are seeing a hit to their bottom line. Perhaps this year, more than ever, we need to consider keeping it local – and not just with our “Costco cash” but with our tourism money, perhaps choosing a staycation instead of a destination vacation.
It isn’t just about the dough, though. There is a need for bodies to make these events successful, volunteers who can give freely of their time and skills. There is a need for residents to show their support, lining that Canada Day Parade route. There is the chance for us to shine when national media comes to town and begins to truly showcase our community as they attend our events and broadcast what they see to the rest of the country.
If ever there was a season filled with opportunity and potential in this community, this is it. In a few short months WE are going to be destination of choice for thousands of people as they come to enjoy our events. They will come north and visit our fine community, hopefully becoming ambassadors for all that is good about Wood Buffalo and sharing it with their communities.
It took me some time to let get of the New York plan, though. I struggled because, well, New York! The more I thought, though, the more I realized that New York would always be there, but some of the events we are going to see in our region this year may well never take place again. Going to New York would be a vacation – but staying in Fort McMurray would be like becoming part of history.
It wasn’t lost on me that our Canadian dollar has taken a beating versus the American, and it wasn’t lost on me that seasoned New York visitors suggested July was not the best time to head there – but those were not the reasons that in the end I shelved my New York travel guides and instead sat down with a calendar, mapping out a summer spent right here. I thought about all those long days in the winter when I longed for the summer sunshine. I thought about how brief the summers are here, the long sunny days and warm breezy nights, the northern lights dancing above. I thought about how every summer I have “gone away” when one of the true benefits of living in the north are those long summer days, when it seems the nights are so short because darkness only descends for a fraction of time. I realized I had squandered some of that summer by going to other places, and in the end the decision was easy: it was time for a Fort McMurray Staycation.
So I am not going to New York this summer. I am instead going to be staying right here, enjoying every moment of a remarkable summer destined to live in my memory for a very long time. I intend to enjoy that long summer nights on my backyard patio, and I intend to (finally) put together the BBQ I bought two years ago but have never had time to assemble. I intend to not only enjoy all the special events but get to know my community again, explore our parks and take some drives out to places like Maqua Lake. This is not my New York Plan summer, as that has been deferred. This is, instead, the summer of Fort McMurray.

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