Calgary: A Week Celebrating Our History

Historic Calgary Week is on the horizon, and 2015 is the twenty-fifth anniversary of event. So, what a great year to participate in the vast array of scheduled programs!

As a nonfiction author, I need knowledge or “content” for my writing. Western Canadian history is an important to my work, but also, that history has also been an inspiration to me. Yes, nonfiction writers are certainly content providers. However, ideally, the content we choose will not only be interesting to our readers, it will fascinate us as writers and support our future goals.

See the Famous Five statues downtown or attend the Walk and Talk regarding these amazing women at Heritage Park on July 28.

See the Famous Five statues downtown or attend the Walk & Talk for these amazing women at Heritage Park, July 28.

For me, filling my head with our history is a way of providing options and opportunities for me in the future. Sometimes writers work within the context of their own time and place; sometimes they need a sense of the past or other geographical locations. Yet, for writers who set at least some of their works in western Canada during the early days, attending events during Historic Calgary Week is a great way to discover or rediscover the way things were.

From July 23 to August 3, writers, history buffs, visitors and locals will be treated to a glimpse of  the “insider” stories from days gone by. Topics are so varied, I can’t begin to list them all. However, whether you are interested in effects of the ice age or prefer tea and a talk at the Palliser Hotel, the options are extensive. Tour our cemeteries and gardens. Check out Bricks, Business and Bowness or Salute to the Stones of Signal Hill. With all that alliteration, clearly, writers are being welcomed. In fact, if you are interested in our lesser-known stories of murder and misdemeanours, spend your Friday evening enjoying that tour. It, too, might just inspire the writer within. However, for this and some other events, you will need to pre-register.

For more information, go to http://www.chinookcountry.org and check out The Week At A Glance for an overall schedule. More information can be found in the online or printed “pamphlet” of detailed descriptions. Events are scheduled throughout the city, and a few are hosted in surrounding communities.

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ANNOUNCING: CALGARY STAMPEDE

At the Stampede, sporting events become highlights.

At the Stampede, sporting events are the popular highlights, so popular they become representative sculptures. Photo by Faye Holt

Calgary’s “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” opened on July 3 and runs to July 12, so if you live elsewhere, there is still plenty of time to reach our fair city. If you are a Calgarian, likely at some time during the annual event, you will head down to the grounds and take in some of the events and activities.

The efforts of many go into making it a success. Its long history includes rodeo events, but there have been many, other unsung heroes or “stars.” That includes the announcers who explain events and entertain the thousands who attend the arena events. In Awed, Amused and Alarmed: Fairs, Rodeos and Regattas in Western Canada, I explored a little of their history, and here is what I had to say:

The efforts of many workers are needed to host the Stampede.

Prior to events, the efforts of countless workers are needed to host the Stampede. Photo by Faye Holt

Local auctioneers were great choices for announcer. The auctioneer knew the people, knew livestock, and was never speechless. In Calgary, Josh Henthorn had announced at the first Calgary Stampede in 1912. By 1919, he was a dance instructor in the city, and as a sideline, Henthorn announced at the city’s Victory Stampede….

Warren Cooper was another who found fame announcing for rodeos in southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and BC. Born in Calgary in 1902, Warren was one of nine children. He was slow to find his niche in life, but then, he had a slow and easy-going personality. He became known as “Coop,” to rodeo and auction mart patrons and got along with everyone. He was never in a hurry to get or finish a job, but, in reality, he was always busy. Yet the relaxed image was perfect for his job.

Nanton had become the family home, but his job took him around the country. He had taken an auctioneering course in Idaho and travelled cattle country doing sales. The experience refined his skill at getting the most out of a crowd–the most money and the most good will.

Not surprisingly, those traits lead him to the announcer’s booth at rodeos…..

Always, he had the knack for telling a rodeo yarn. For western Canadian events, he found the perfect balance between folksy and friendly, information and boosterism. He was smart enough to announce details and rules for events, acknowledge the home communities of competitors, pump up expectations, play down failures, and do it all without stepping into the role that was designated to the rodeo judge.

It was a fine line to walk, but announcers helped understand and value events, and organizers knew it. In Calgary and across the country, great announcers such as Ed Whalen became so closely linked with events, local audiences were deeply saddened by their retirements or passing away. But the shows went on, and new voices filled the silence. Today’s announcers face stiff competition from those who preceded them, but with talent and luck, they, too, will make their mark. And all of us who work with audiences can learn from them, whether we are presenting our writing or programs to young and old.

Getting Back on Track

Writers’ Conferences and Connections

Well, I’m back—at least for now.

That is I am back at blogging and back from The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) conference in Winnipeg. In fact, one good reason to go to writing conferences is hearing featured speakers, panelists and fellow writers talk about their experiences and the industry. Another plus is all the information. It can help motivate us to start projects or in my case restart projects and other options related to writing.

At times, I have enjoyed exploring my ideas regarding my favourite topics through my blog. At other times, I just have too many commitments for writing—any kind of writing. Sometimes, those commitments have left me physically or emotionally tired. At other times, the energy drain has meant the ideas simply aren’t passing through my brain.

However, writing conferences do help energize me. So, what did I learn in Winnipeg that was valuable? Unfortunately, writing incomes are trending significantly downward since 1998. There is a gender gap in incomes. Most writers are female, between the ages of 50 and 69 and well educated.

Another inspiration included Golden Boy atop of the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Another inspiration included Golden Boy atop of the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Those are the facts according to TWUC report entitled “Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity.” So what helped energize me? Well, I admit I am always interested in the business aspects of the meetings, but one panel “Affirming the Artistic Life: Managing Setbacks and Successes in Writing” and the Children’s Writers Meeting were both thoughtful and realistic. Of course, meeting with old friends and industry professionals is always great, too. If you are interested in this writers’ group, the web page is www.TWUC.ca

Anyway, I am back, which is a testament to the value of such conferences. Undoubtedly, there will be other conferences during the year. When I am able to attend, I’ll tell you some of what transpired. When attendance is impossible for me, I might simply give you what information I have so that you can attend.

September Art Walk

Last November, I had the pleasure of meeting Faye Reineberg Holt at a craft show in Calgary where we were both selling our wares – she her books and me the art that had been donated to canadian artists for the poor.

canadian artists for the poor is a non-profit organization that began in 2008 in order to break the cycle of poverty. We host various fundraising events, such as the Calgary Art Walks on Stephen Avenue each summer and give to charities working with those living in extreme poverty. For example, we have given to an orphanage in Kenya.

We have four Art Walks each summer, and the last one of the season will be taking place on Thursday, September 4th from 10 – 5. If you haven’t walked down the pedestrian mall Stephen Avenue lately, you should make plans to come. It’s a wonderful part of our city with many patio restaurants along the way.

The Art Walk has many local painters and photographers who come to show and sell their work. Many styles of art at a variety of price points are available. Some artists create onsite. It’s an inspiring way to spend the day. Of course, there is no fee to come, but feel free to stroll along and offer a word of encouragement to the local artists and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

It’s a win-win-win event. Local artists gain exposure and sell their work. The charities we give to are supported (the entry fees the artists pay go to charity) and the buyers take home an amazing piece of art.  Special thanks goes to the downtown association who makes these Art Walks possible.

For more information, please visit our website at www.artistsforthepoor.ca

Julie Chandler
Executive Director