The most populous prairie province is cattle country, wheat country and above all, oil country. It’s the province that’s up with the birds, fiercely industrious and shakes your hand so that it stays shaken. (You’ll still hear “howdy” as a greeting in Calgary and parts south—and not just during the Stampede.) And Edmonton was recently dubbed the “most Sociable City in North America.” They move with purpose, Albertans, through gorgeous blue-sky summers and… character-building winters.
Politically, Alberta rides with a different gait than the rest of English Canada. A redoubt of conservatism (Prime Minister Stephen Harper—a Conservative—is from Calgary), it has lower gas prices and lower taxes, and a western independence movement that periodically swells, mostly over control of the province’s energy reserves. Albertans try to balance work with family and community. There’s a statutory “Family Day” on the third Monday of February, to honour the values of the pioneers that built the place, and rates of volunteerism and charitable donations are among the highest in Canada. Other values? Live theatre and clean bodychecks (in hockey, of course).
Alberta in a nutshell:
Biggest tourist draws: Rocky Mountains, five of Canada’s fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Calgary Stampede, West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, Edmonton Folk Music Festival
Quirkiest: “Star Trek” convention/themed town of Vulcan, AB
Institutions: Glenbow Museum, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, University of Alberta, The Banff Centre, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
Historic rivalries: liberals vs. conservatives, Oilers vs. Flames, Capital EX (formerly known as Klondike Days) vs. the Stampede
Local classics: Alberta beef, perogies, Stampede flapjacks, prairie oysters (see the “Testicle Festival” at Buzzard’s Restaurant & Bar in Calgary), Amber’s Pale Ale, and of course The Caesar (it was invented here)
Iconic writers: W.O. Mitchell, Rudy Wiebe
Iconic musicians: Joni Mitchell, Ian Tyson, k.d. lang, Jann Arden, Nickelback
Sports: hockey, football, curling, soccer
Mascot: Albertosaurus (or the statue of Wayne Gretzky at Rexall Place)
***Alberta House Day at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is Feb. 17.
Edmonton International Fringe Festival
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Waterton Lakes National Park
Read about Canada’s 13 provinces and territories