The last few months I’ve been working on and off here at the Express and it’s made me realize something: Red Deer is a great place to live and many of us don’t realize it.
Sure, it’s not perfect. The winters are too long (but that’s only as I’ve gotten older and lazier about strapping on the cross country skis).
It would be nice to have a wider selection of restaurants, but that gets better as the city grows. The provincial government never changes, just gets fatter and more arrogant as our health services crumble. Which is why the current ruling party will probably be replaced by the Wildrose Alliance in the grand Alberta tradition of a new right wing party taking over from an old right wing party, like the Conservatives replaced the Socreds in 1971.
In time it too will become fat and arrogant (okay, I’m a cynic when it comes to politics). Paying for parking is a not an incentive to go downtown. But that’s minor stuff.
Growing up in Sudbury, attending university and working in Ottawa, then working in Edmonton before moving to Red Deer in 1996 (when it was 60,000, now grown 50% to 90,000) and traveling widely, gives me a perspective on the joys of living here).
It’s about the right size, any need or desire can usually be fulfilled (and if not it’s a short drive to Edmonton or Calgary). Strangers still say hi. The server at my favourite coffee shop knows my name. The river and riverside parks offer great outings. You can take your kids or grandkids to Discovery Canyon for a day of free fun in the water. The Saturday market is wonderful (and cheap compared to Calgary’s) and there’s talk of a year round one too.
City government is relatively efficient and progressive, and while I don’t especially like paying taxes I feel I get reasonable services in return. Our taxes are low compared to many jurisdictions (talk to a homeowner in most major cities and compare what you pay and what you get).
Despite the odd conflict with wildlife, the off leash dog park is excellent and we’re getting another one on the southside. The library is first rate. The art and theatre scene is talented and healthy, even if not well supported. We’ve had our own symphony for 24 years, rather amazing for our size. Not to mention the street performers festival (very popular and great fun) and the recent superb outdoor music festival, which hardly anybody chooses to attend. The college is thriving. There’s even a completely separate and different daily newspaper and weekly newspaper, owned by the same company.
But what makes any place great is the people.
People like Steve Woolrich donating a piano to Ross Street downtown (Canada’s first street piano). Like Mayor Morris Flewwelling taking the time to attend a gazillion functions and throwing his talent and support behind a huge variety of projects that make the City a better place to live. Like Janice Wing’s work with the Community Foundation or Dean Frey’s leadership at the public library or Dennis Moffatt running the market for 40 years or Bob Kruchten managing the City’s best unknown bookstore at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre for years or Lorne Daniel organizing Rethink Red Deer or Michael Dawe compiling our history.
This list could go on (apologies to all the great people not mentioned), but you get the idea. Red Deer really is a wonderful place to live. More of us should quit complaining and realize it, maybe even pitch in and help.
Alf Cryderman is a long-time freelance writer for the Red Deer Express