What can I say about the city that has been home for 13 of my 23 years of life. The city which, due to recent developments, I shall be moving away from in less than two months. To start a career in which there is virtually no chance that I will return for anything more than a visit.
Calgary is a city in the south of Alberta, of slightly less than 1 million people. If you include people living in communities very close to Calgary, such as Okotoks and Airdre, it bumps the figure up above a million. It is the largest city in the province, and the hub of Alberta's economy. As of the 2001 census it was the 5th most populous city in Canada, and is still growing. This is due to the robust economy, fueled by the oil and gas development throughout the province. While most of this actually happens up in the north of the province, nearly every one of the companies doing this are headquartered in Calgary. In fact, Calgary is home to more corporations than any Canadian city other than Toronto.
This all having been said, to many, Calgary still has a small town feel to it. While we do have all the amenities of any major metropolitan area, due to the insanely low population density, the vast majority of the population lives in suburb like neighborhoods. Compared to some of the other places that I've lived, the people are just nicer. This is also a comment I have heard from people visiting / moved here from various other provinces.
All in all, it's an awesome place to live, and a great place to come to if you're looking for work, as is quite common. Keep in mind, of course, that I'm likely quite biased.
Calgary is located at 51.7 Degrees North, 114.13 Degrees West, at 1140 meters in altitude. Nestled in the Bow River valley, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River, it is almost straight east of Banff National Park. The city is located where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains are just starting to taper off. As such, in many parts it is rather hilly, especially in the west and the north of the city. To the east of the city, where the terrain levels off to the prairies, it is much more flat. And, it is rather flat in the area around the Bow, as river valleys tend to be.
The natural plant life in the region is about what you'd expect. Mostly grasses, with some light, and I do mean light, wooded areas. For the most part, the only wildlife you'll see are squirrels and birds, with the occasional rabbit or deer. Personally, I think this is the only advantage that our rival to the north, the provincial capitol Edmonton, has over Calgary. Edmonton is a much prettier city, with lovely dense wooded areas along the river.
That having been said, we've got better weather. One of the main things you will notice about Calgary is that it is a very dry city. We usually have very low humidity, and we don't get much in the way of rain. We get only 43 cm of precipitation on average, with 15 cm of that coming in the form of snow.
In summer, it'll sometimes climb to around 35 degrees Celsius, but thankfully not often. Usually it'll be in the low 20's, to the high teens. During the winter, it'll drop down to average around -10 C, quite often dropping down lower. However, once in a while in the winter, Calgary will experience a phenomenon known as the Chinook. Warm humid air from the Pacific Ocean will blow across the Rocky Mountains. Generally, while over these mountains, it will lose its humidity, dumping snow on them. The still warmish air will then come blowing down from the Rockies, and as a result, the temperature in the city will spike suddenly for a few days at a time. Stuff will start to melt, and it feels so warm, especially relative to cold weather we get whenever it isn't chinooking.
But yeah. The rest of the winter, it's rather cold. Generally, avoid going outside cold.
Living in the area, were the Blackfoot Confederacy (Consisting of the Peigan, Kainaiwa (Blood) and Siksika Nations), and the Tsuu T'ina (Sarcee) Nation. Like virtually all of the plains first nations, these groups lived off of the massive herds of Bison that roamed the Great Plains.
These groups had lived in the area for centuries. And then, of course, the white man came and messed it up.
A great deal of the roads in Calgary are named either after specific tribes that lived in or around the area, or prominent members of the aboriginal community around the time of Calgary's founding. Some examples include Deerfoot Trail (the main highway that eventually leads north to Edmonton), Stoney Trail, Crowchild Trail, and Sarcee Trail. In addition, the Tsuu T'ina reserve is still located bordering the city limits, on the southwest side of the city.
Although the initial European contact in the area were missionaries from both the Roman Catholic and Anglican faiths, for the most part these efforts were largely unsuccessful. In 1870, the Dominion of Canada purchased from the Hudson's Bay Company the area known as Rupert's Land, which basically covered the majority of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and parts of Ontario and Nunavut. This opened the way for European settlers to move west. Around Calgary, due to its rather arid climate, these settlers were generally cattle ranchers, who started arriving in the area around 1874.
In 1875, the North West Mounted Police established a fort on the banks of the Bow River. The main goals of the NWMP, precursor to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, were to stop the whiskey trade, establish friendly relations with the first nations, and generally keep law and order. The next year, Colonel James F. Macleod of Macleod Trail fame suggested naming the fort Fort Calgary, after a bay in Scotland. I can only presume he was from that area, or his family originally was.
The settlement grew slowly, until 1883, when the Canadian Pacific Railway were laid through the area, connecting Calgary to all of eastern Canada, and two years later, to British Columbia and the Pacific Ocean as well. At the time, Calgary had three businesses. An outlet of the Bay, CPR, and the first local newspaper, the Calgary Herald.
From that point on, growth in the area was steady, due in part to the belief that if confederation was going to work, Canada would require a strong presence our west, in order to prevent the Americans from snatching up that land.
Calgary was incorporated as a town in 1884, and as a city in 1894. In 1886, there was a fire which swept through the business sector, destroying almost all of the wooden buildings. As a result, the city council passed a bylaw stating that all large structures built downtown must be made from sandstone. This includes the old city hall, built in 1911, and a great number of other historic buildings still standing downtown. As a result, for a while Calgary had the nickname of the "Sandstone City".
During the early years of Calgary's growth, the focus of the economy was very much upon cattle ranching, and various industries, such as slaughterhouses, that relate to it.
This lead to the first Calgary Stampede and Exposition in 1912. Initially it started out as an agricultural / ranching showcase. Although the next one wasn't held until 1919, to celebrate the end of World War I, eventually it became an annual event. A rodeo was added, and currently it is the largest rodeo in the world, with a total of $1,000,000 in cash prizes awarded.
As the city's economic focus shifted from matters of agriculture, the event became less and less focused upon that, and became more of a big party. Now a days, it is pretty much a 10 day party. Most businesses will shut down for at least a morning, to hold a Stampede Breakfast, free pancakes and sausages having become a stampede tradition. In addition, dress codes are relaxed, to the point where the businessman not wearing jeans, cowboy boots and hat, and a western shirt are rather rare.
Oil Boom. That never really stopped.
The population had a sudden growth spurt during from 1900 - 1910, growing almost 1000% to about 40,000 people. The likely cause for this massive growth was Alberta becoming a full province in 1905. After that, the population grew rather steadily, until the end of World War II, when it experienced more growth. During the 1940's, the population grew about 45%, and during the 1950's, it grew more than 90%.
While the end of the war surely had something to do with this effect, the main reason was the discovery of oil reserves at Leduc. Calgary soon became the city of choice from which to coordinate and manage pretty much all of the oil and natural gas recovery efforts throughout the province. People flooded to the city, which is a trend that in many ways continues to this day. The vast majority of people living in Calgary moved here from somewhere else, and even of those who were born here, it is quite rare for them to be more than 1st generation Calgarians.
The oil and gas industry requires a number of highly educated individuals. Along with this influx of university educated people came a demand for theater, fine arts, and music that didn't exist to nearly as much of an extent as it did when the basis of the economy was agriculture based.
So, Calgary developed their own fine arts scene. Honestly, Calgary does have a bit of a reputation of being a "hick" town. The fact that every year we hold this massive celebration of our "cowboy" heritage really doesn't help things. But while we do for the most part vote strictly conservative, having lived in a real hick town, I can safely say that this reputation is hardly deserved.
Another side effect of the oil boom, which I briefly touched upon earlier, is the massive urban sprawl problem that Calgary has. With a lot of wide open spaces, and an insane rate of growth over many decades, Calgary has grown to quite a large city. The majority of the city is nice one family houses with a decent sized lawn. Everyone is nice and spread out, and then when it's time to go to work, a couple hundred thousand people try to drive downtown at the same time every day. Trust me folks, it's not that pretty. Calgary does have a rather decent light rail transit system, known as the C-Train, but the buses connecting to the C-Train suck. So, if you want to take the train, you might have to drive anyways, so you might as well drive all the way to work.
That having been said, the air is nice and clean, and the people are friendly. I personally would just go out of my way to live in a place within bike and or walking distance of either work or of the C-train, and avoid that whole traffic thing. The city has also, partially in response to drops in oil prices in the mid 1980's, attempted to branch out into other sectors, such as manufacturing and tourism. As a part of the effort, the city successfully hosted the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. This event, more than anything else, brought worldwide attention to our town. Being one of the few Olympic Games that actually made money, the city has been able to maintain the sporting facilities built for the games, and build upon the attention from the games, and our proximity to the Rocky Mountains, and turned it into a healthy tourist industry.
Come visit us!
If you plan on visiting Calgary, I suggest coming either during the stampede, or during the winter, so you can head off for the mountains to get some skiing in. While here, you may want to check out the shopping in Kensington, just across the river, north of downtown, or 17th Ave S, south of downtown. You might be able to, assuming the strike ever ends, catch a Calgary Flames Game. If you're historically inclined, check out Heritage Park. And no one is allowed to leave the city without trying one of Peters' Drive-In's milkshakes. They're awesome. Have lunch / dinner up in the Calgary Tower. The view is well worth the premium you'll pay for the meal. As for what's going on around the city, pick up a copy of FFWD, our weekly arts and entertainment newspaper. You should be able to find a copy at any C-Train station, any music store, and likely at your hotel.
Other stuff. And by that, I mean the METANODE portion of the writeup. Stuff in or around Calgary.
Touristy stuff to do in the city:
Other Nodes About Calgary
As per usual, please /msg me if I happened to miss anything, or if you think that anything here is wrong. In particular, I know that I missed a whole lot of people from Calgary who may have writeups, but I'm quite willing to amend this writeup.
James A. Love
, "CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA," IDMP.
March 28, 1997. <idmp.entpe.fr/stations/cdn01/cdn01.html> (November 19, 2004)
The Applied History Research Group - University of Calgary, "Calgary and Southern Alberta," 1997. <www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/calgary/kootisaw.html> (November 20, 2004)
Tourism Calgary, "Calgary and the Canadian Rockies Travel Guide," Tourism Calgary.
<www.visitor.calgary.ab.ca> (November 21, 2004)