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What the Canada Games got right (and what we should do with that information)

Posted on 2 March 2015

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Alright, I just got back from the final performance in the Canada Games Plaza, after seventeen days of sports, music, and fireworks. I’m sure in the weeks ahead there will be plenty of discussion of the good, bad, and ugly of the past two-and-a-half weeks but here, in the aftermathy buzz of excitement, are some things that I think went right with the Games and what we, the people of Prince George, should do with that information:

1. Showcase local talent

The Games far exceeded my expectations on this one. I really expected the musical offerings to be lower-level top 40 CanCon. There’s nothing wrong with lower-level top 40 CanCon per se, but having night after night of critically acclaimed Canadian musicians was way better. And the cherry on top was the huge showcase given to local and regional musicians. Bright City Heights of Prince George, Rosewood’s Diary of Vanderhoof, Jerusha White of Fort St James, King Crow and the Ladies from Hell of Terrace, Doug Koyama of Quesnel… all names familiar to people keyed into the local festival circuits but unknowns for the vast majority of people in this city and virtually everyone visiting from out of town.

The Games (in conjunction with the Coldsnap Music Festival) took their massive platform and opened it up to these relative unknowns, exposing them to new audiences and, in turn, audiences to new listening experiences hidden right in their own backyard. It would have been really easy to just get Hedley to play the opening ceremonies, but the Games went with Black Spruce Bog and it made everything that much more special. Future event organizers, take note: you don’t need to import great talent.

2. Put the Lheidi T’enneh front and centre

We’ve already established that when a bunch of kids sang “Oh Canada” in Dakelh I got tears in my eyes. But man, has it been great seeing the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation be such a big part of this. Prior to 1913, the entirety of downtown Prince George was Lheidli reserve land, just before their village was burned and they were moved out to Shelley. For decades afterwards, there was almost no visible reminders of this. But thanks partially to the Games, that’s been changing. The Civic Canada Games Plaza now has columns welcoming people to Prince George in English, French and Dakelh, along with pictures depicting the four clans of the Lheidli T’enneh. In the centre is a sculpture depicting a traditional Lheidli drum, full of stones to be used in prayer rituals. Every night, entertainment moved over the to the Lheidli T’enneh pavilion. It was more than acknowledging that we are the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, it was embracing it. Let’s keep that up.

3. Turning the Civic Plaza into an actual civic plaza

Honestly, I was kind of cynical about the Civic Plaza in front of the library being renamed the Canada Games Plaza, but two-and-a-half weeks later I think that name’s been earned. I mean, holy cow. Prior to this, I had never envisioned the plaza as much of civic gathering place largely because it is almost always empty. But the redesign, adding art and history and benches and lighting where there was once just basically empty concrete, coupled with the nightly mainstage shows has completely reimagined what this space can be.

Time and time again I heard people say how great it was having the main gathering place be here, and I completely agree. It makes sense: you have the library, art gallery, civic centre, and swimming pool right there, you’re near city hall, and you’re on the corner of downtown with it’s shops and restaurants. Why shouldn’t it be the gathering place? I mean, obviously that was sort of the plan since it was the “civic plaza” and all, but this seems like the first time the idea actually came to fruition. Let’s figure out how to make sure it isn’t the last.

4. We don’t need the Canada Winter Games to have a great party

This is not a slight on the Games, by any means. But I would like to dispel any ideas you may have that none of this would be possible without the Games. Last night, I was at a show at the ArtSpace. At one point the band asked how many people were athletes. No one cheered. Athlete parents? Silence. From another province? No one. How many from Prince George? Almost everyone clapped.

This was a full house, with a line to get in, and it was almost all locals- there was no need for a big tourist event to make it happen. Oh, and just before that I had been at a packed show at the main stage and again, the loudest yell went out for B.C. and Prince George. Having the people from out of town was nice, but the bulk of people taking in the entertainment were living right here. The audience exists- the Games demonstrated that very clearly, but now they’re done and we shouldn’t think it can’t happen again. Put on something good, and this city will support it.

Let’s do this.

Filed under: Prince George

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There are messages everywhereIf you don't walk in random places you don't see stuff like thisOn the side of the old RCMP building in Prince George. #graffiti #cityofPGInteresting.#cityofPGMy office buddy is cuter than yours