Six Things You Didn’t Know About Alberta

Culture diverse as it can be.
This is the land of opportunity.
Welcoming friends, night and day.
That’s the way I pray Alberta stays.

Alberta (Official Provincial Song)

Today is Part III of our lovely series of Canadian provincial information posts.  You can learn six things about Southern Ontario or the GTA by clicking on the links.

My good friend Kern is an Albertan through and through.  He doesn’t wear a cowboy hat, or work in the oil industry, but he’s spent more days at Drumheller than any young person should, and eats enough free Stampede breakfasts to feed a small country.  Kern grew up in Calgary and has returned there after 7 years in Ontario and BC.  He’s an earth scientist by trade, and a lover or fighter planes, dinosaurs, and yurts in his spare time.  Watch out ladies he’s also single and quite the catch. Without further ado, Six Things You Didn’t Know About Alberta!

Howdy! My name is Kern and I’m a buddy of Pete’s, as well as a proud Albertan. Pete’s asked me to write a guestblog regarding 6 things you didn’t know about Alberta. I’m glad he did, as during my periods of residence in other provinces, I have found a surprising lack of knowledge about Alberta even from fellow Canadians. So, I’m going to use this opportunity as an excuse to clear a few things up about both Alberta and Albertans in general, in addition to revealing other interesting tidbits about this wonderful province. So, here goes:

Not all of us are cowboys!
Believe it or not, not all of us subscribe to the cowboy culture that our province tries to promote so rabidly. Yes, I’ve gone to the Calgary Stampede a number of times but I’ve only limited my visits to the fairway rather than the cowboy-themed events that the stampede is known for. Nor do all Albertans wear skin-tight jeans and cowboy hats, or at least not in the big cities (I can’t speak for Okotoks or Cochrane…). People who dress like that are liable to be ridiculed, same as anywhere else in Canada. And, speaking of big cities…

Yes, we really do have BIG cities!!
This is plainly obvious to any Albertan, who are aware of the size of our two largest cities:  Calgary (population 1.16 million) and Edmonton (population 1.08 million), which together comprise the bulk of Alberta’s population. However, I found in the east that many aren’t aware of this fact. Some have even assumed that Calgary itself is home to less than half a million, and that the province of Alberta is largely rural. This is partially understandable as neither Calgary nor Edmonton (or both of them combined) come close to such eastern colossi as Toronto or Montreal, but they are still quite sizeable cities which are as dynamic and busy as any major metropolis.

All the colours of the rainbow…
While in the recent past Alberta has been much “whiter” than other provinces, today the province is host to quite a diverse population. Roughly 1 in 5 Albertans belong to a visible minority group, and a similar percentage of Albertans have a mother tongue other than English. This can be seen by a visit to any of Calgary’s large shopping malls, where a multitude of ethnicities and languages is plainly visible and/or heard. So yes, my fellow visible minorities, you have nothing to fear from Albertans. Come for a visit, and we promise that we’ll refrain from lynching you and/or exposing you to public ridicule of your exotic appearance and mannerisms.

Warm winters and annoying headaches
Yup, temperatures can increase into the double digits even in the midst of winter. This is due to an interesting phenomenon called a Chinook, whereby masses of warm air periodically blow in from the mountains and increase temperatures to springtime levels. As an example of what a Chinook can do, the temperature can be -15 degrees on one day but then increase to +10 within 24 hours. The result is a winter punctuated by periods of warmth that can last for weeks if Chinooks are frequent enough. This isn’t always pleasant, as many people suffer migraines due to the sudden pressure changes, and the large volume of melted snow result in rivers of sludge and water invading busy roads.

Home to the World’s/Canada’s largest….
Alberta is the proud home of the world’s largest pysanka, or Ukrainian easter egg. This is located in a small town named Vegreville, near Edmonton, and was built in 1974 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It’s also a symbol of the significant Ukrainian population that currently resides in Alberta. As well, Alberta is home to Baitunnur, the largest mosque in Canada. This Calgary building was completed in 2008, and it services the worshipping needs of the Ahmaddiya Muslim community in the city. So, yeah…long story short, apparently we like things BIG!

We’ve got heritage!
Finally, Alberta is home to Canada’s largest concentration of World Heritage Sites (5 out of 15 in all of Canada). These include the Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and Wood Buffalo National Park. All in all, a nice collection of sites which make Alberta a fairly interesting place to visit.

So grab a cowboy hat and your tightest pair of jeans, and come on down! My personal bias aside, Alberta really is a pretty cool place to visit with lots to see and do. Whether you’re interested in cowboys, native culture, Dinosaurs or f***ing big easter eggs, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Wild Rose Province!

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