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fall 2010

Vets anD their Pets Wendy McClelland and others share advice and their best friends


reasons to live here


OLD is New How one man’s vision is changing Airdrie’s downtown

On GOLDEN pond Gorgeous photos inside



of mentors

URBAN Visionaries What it takes to plan a city this great

SPICE in the kitchen Hot flavours

Group Publisher





Web Manager


Anne Beaty Vanessa Peterelli

My daughter recently came back from a trip to the States, singing the praises of Washington,

Kim Williams Sergei Belski, Stacey Carefoot, Alex Frazer-Harrison, Aaron Holmes, Ellen Kelly, Cory Knibutat Kurtis Kristianson, Carl Patzel, Kristy Reimer

Wendy Potter-Duhaime

beautiful trees, 60 or 70 feet tall, overhanging the streets! Why can’t we have those here?” Well, the fact of the matter is that both my daughter, who lives in Lethbridge, and I have – maples that turn fabulous reds and oranges in the fall, winter-budding hickory, centuries-old 100-foot hemlocks. Yes, I can go to Calgary and the riverside areas if I want to see streets overhung with trees, but for those of us out on the bald prairie, that just isn’t going

Where to find us airdrielife is delivered to all homes in Airdrie and surrounding areas. If you do not receive an issue please contact airdrielife is also available at more than 50 locations around the city including the Airdrie Calgary Co-op. You can also find airdrielife in every showhome in the city and at more than 100 locations in Calgary. airdrielife is published quarterly by Frog Media Inc. with the co-operation of the City of Airdrie Economic Development Department.


D.C., and Marietta, Ohio, where she stayed with friends. “The trees, Mom! There were these

chosen to make our home on the Prairies, which do not lend themselves to those gorgeous trees

Angela Burford


Contact Us Community Investment Editorial Advertising Web Accounting

editor’s note

Sherry Shaw-Froggatt

ISSN 1916-355X

Contents copyright 2010 by Frog Media Inc. May not be reproduced without permission. The publisher does not assume any responsibility for the contents of any advertisement, and all representations of warranties made in such advertising are those of the advertiser and not of the publisher. Editorial Policy airdrielife editorial is not for sale. Editorial is completely independent from advertising, and no special editorial consideration or commitment of any kind can form any part of the advertising agreement. All editorial inquiries must be directed toward the editor. A copy of Frog Media Inc. Writers’ Guidelines can be downloaded from the editorial page on our website. airdrielife does not accept unsolicited submissions. Freelance writers and photographers interested in assignments are asked to send an inquiry, with samples from at least three published magazine articles, to airdrielife is produced from well-managed forests and printed with canola-based inks and is 100% recyclable.

to happen. Our conversation got me to thinking about the unique beauty of the Prairies, such as our incredible skies that go on forever, with their superb sunrises and sunsets, and the endless vistas, from the rippling wheat fields in the east and sweeping up into the magnificent Rockies to the west. Closer to earth, we also have a wide variety of wildlife: coyotes, beavers, moose, eagles and even the occasional black bear (one of whom meandered into a north Airdrie neighbourhood in August). With that in mind, we’re pleased to offer a glimpse of just some of the wildlife, especially the winged kind, right here at home, captured on camera by Carl Patzel as he strolled around our local waterways (page 48). This issue also celebrates how special Airdrie is for all ages, with a focus on the 55-plus crowd and what draws this demographic here, from business options to housing and amenities (pages 65 and 88). So regardless of our age, we can all appreciate what this wonderful city has to offer, both indoors and out. Welcome to airdrielife fall.

Anne Beaty, EDITOR On the cover:

There were supposed to be two cats in this cover photo but as you can see from these outtakes, wrangling cats is, well, like wrangling cats. Vet Wendy McClelland and Maddic made the cover; cat Smudge tried. Makeup by Kendall, Mezzanine Spa; JOE T-shirt. Photos by Kristy Reimer

6 | fall 2010

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All illustrations are artist’s concept. All dimensions are approximate. Prices, specifications, terms and conditions subject to change without notice. E.&O.E.

Columns and regular features


That’s Life


Musician Q & A








Rural Roots




The Back Page


fall 2010

88 Kristy Reimer (The Grey Zone, page 88): I learned that Genesis Place has amazing opportunities for seniors to stay fit. It was fun to watch the camaraderie amongst the ladies group that I spent time with. Not only were they getting exercise, but they had built friendships with each other in the process. I look forward to getting old in Airdrie!

Carl Patzel (Vets & Pets, page 43):

Kurtis Kristianson (Squash Supreme, page 78): Eddy (Zaychkowsky) lit right up when I asked him a few questions about the science of growing massive pumpkins. He is clearly passionate about it and I was amazed at how much I learned in just a few minutes. It was very interesting.

Ellen Kelly (A Glass Act, page 17): Working on this issue was great fun. All of my interviews were with lovely, warm, interesting people, and taking the stained glass workshop was a wonderful experience.

Alex Frazer-Harrison (Historic Office, page 90): Interviewing Bryan Muir about how he’s given the 125-year-old “Three Window House” a new lease on life really brought home how unnecessary it is to always bulldoze old buildings just to put up another shiny office block.

Aaron Holmes (A Glass Act, page 17): I had a great time backlighting the stained glass at Muk-Luk Magpies. As for the Cedarwood Station photos, sometimes the best angle just happens to be right over the deep fryer.

8 | fall 2010

A lifelong pet owner myself, I was interested to see how pet health care specialists relate to cuddly critters. Not surprisingly, I found those in the veterinarian field have cultivated a special bond with their own furry friends.

43 Cover Story

Vets & Pets

Three Airdrie animal health specialists share their thoughts

and wisdom on caring for and loving their best friends.

life in the moment




Carving Out a Niche – Ken Vickets

17 A Glass Act – learning the art of stained glass


Steele’s Scouts – horsemanship and buckskin


Spice is Nice – in the kitchen


Coffee Break – enjoying your java


Serving Seniors – young chef takes on the challenge

38 Tread Carefully – winter tire advice

life in the community


B-boys – basketball in the blood


On Golden Pond – the surprising wildlife on Airdrie’s waterways

54 Ever-evolving – Airdrie Fire Department

57 Anti-vandalism – making changes


Mentors – make a difference

life at home



Moving On – how the maturing market drives real estate

72 Home Office – open for design

76 Inside Advice – interior designers share tips


Squash Supreme – secrets from the pumpkin patch


Branching Out – planting and caring for your trees

life at work


88 The Grey Zone – the zoomer market fuels local economy

90 Historic Office – how an old house becomes a new business


People Pleasers – planners have a tough task


Small Business is Big News – celebrating local success


Clash of the Titans – Zeus takes on challenge


Making Sense of the Census – what our population growth means

fall 2010 | 9

moment life in the 13

Violin Virtuoso


Stained Glass Art


Spice is Nice

rings, necklaces, earrings, charms bracelets, purses, belts, shoes, scarves, travel bags, make up cases, bath bombs, bubble bath, beauty products, nail polish, lotions, pedicure kits, toe bling, watches, aromatherapy, gift sets, tights, hair accessories and much more!

209 Centre Ave. Airdrie (403) 948-0010

12 | fall 2010

life in the moment | column

So Long,


By Stacey Carefoot



his summer while on vacation with good friends I overheard the father remind his children that they weren’t the only ones on vacation. That short but poignant remark basically summed up what I have been feeling about summer vacations for the past few years. Sure, school’s out and the weather is better (OK, sometimes better), but it seems as if the minute that final bell sounds, the children think they’re off the hook and the free-for-all begins. At our house, no summer bedtime leads to children sleeping past noon. Breakfast at lunchtime, lunch at suppertime and the remnants of the midnight snack left for Mom to clean up sometime before noon the next day are par for the course. The number of ‘Can you drive me to ...?’ requests increases tenfold when the kids have more time on their hands. As they get older, their whereabouts become more mysterious and I long for the days when summer was spent split between the backyard sprinkler and the local splash park. In the blink of an eye the budget-friendly wading pool has been replaced by the golf course, paintball and waterslides, while those cute little one-piece bathing suits have been swapped for bikini tops and Daisy Duke cutoffs that (in fear of sounding like my mother) are just way too short. In the summer, cash flows out of our pockets like water through a gushing fire hydrant. Amusement park visits, golf green fees and convenience store spending money quickly add up, but it’s when many families hit the

highway for that annual trip that (cha-ching) we really start to spend some serious greenbacks. Gas, lodging, go-karts, ice cream, trail rides – the list goes on, but it all leaves our wallets begging for a vacation from spending and leaves many of us begging for a vacation from our vacation.

__________________ The number of ‘Can you drive me to ...?’ requests increases tenfold when the kids have more time on their hands. __________________ As if that’s not enough, this summer we decided to enrol The Boy in his first-ever summer hockey school. Since everybody is doing it we thought we should join the crowd. The one thing I look forward to the most about summer holidays is being able to sleep in; enter hockey school, exit any hope of sleep past 6 a.m. Blurry-eyed and foggy-headed, every morning for a week I would set out on the windy B.C. roads to a rink in the Shuswap with a sleepy, teenaged future superstar in tow. While my friends were on the beach tanning, I was in the bleachers shivering. For all children summer is the time when memories are made, a time for adventure and independence. As a kid I didn’t realize that my parents were facilitating and financing those memories or worrying over my choices of adventure and independence … or were they? life MORE LIFE ONLINE Have you got a story about your summer vacation? Share it with us online at:

life in the moment | music

Q&A with

Steven Lubiarz is a full-time violinist with Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO). He also teaches at Mount Royal University and privately in Airdrie

Steven Lubiarz

story by Ellen Kelly | photos by Kristy Reimer

How long have you lived in Airdrie? I’ve lived in Airdrie since 2004. I was born and raised near Detroit, Mich. My job with the CPO brought me here – that and the mountains. I remember coming here many years ago on vacation with my parents. We chose Airdrie because it was quieter, smaller. How did you become interested in the violin? I started playing when I was five. I was in kindergarten and a classmate brought a violin to school for show-and-tell. I loved it when I saw it so I bugged my parents for three or four months until they gave in. I wanted to play and they finally got me violin lessons. fall 2010 | 13

life at the moment | music

Tell me about your musical training. I took lessons from the same teacher through high school. I was lucky to be in a school system that had a string department and I played in the school orchestra in junior high and high school. I took my undergraduate degree at DePauw University in Indiana, my master’s at Roosevelt University in Chicago (Chicago College of Performing Arts) and at that time played with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Then I did one year post-graduate with the New World Symphony in Miami. What is your current position? I’ve played second violin with the CPO since 2003. I am also a violinist with Bell’arte Strings. Bell’arte Strings is a string quartet comprised of four musicians (two violins, a viola and a cello). We do a lot of work with the CPO but we’re a separate entity. We do gigs for weddings, corporate events and educational outreach programs in rural Alberta. We play everything from pop to classics to Super Mario Bros. from video games – whatever people want. What is your favourite music to play? Baroque music. I love Bach and many of the baroque composers. Also French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau – he’s a wonderful composer – and Handel is one of my favourites. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? That’s hard to answer because right now I’m where I want to be. I’ll be doing the same thing – playing with an orchestra for sure. Whether it’s the

14 | fall 2010

CPO or somewhere else, who knows? It could take me back to the States or to Europe. Other endeavours? I am currently the artistic director of the St. Roch Chamber Music Festival in northern Michigan each July. I try to get friends from around North America to come and perform and last year, a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts allowed me to bring Bell’arte Strings to Michigan to perform. Closer to home, I am the concert master for the Calgary Bach Society. I also do spots on Vibe 98.5. I am “Symphony Steve” and each week I play a popular tune on the radio. Listeners phone in and guess the piece or the name of the original artist for tickets. It helps the orchestra get out there to the younger crowd. Do you have any musical mentors? Anne Dodge taught me from age five through high school. She was very welcoming and very open – like a mother or a grandmother. She was very encouraging. I try to teach my students the same way. Tell me about your violin. Before she passed away, Anne Dodge gave her violin to me, which is very cool. It’s an Italian instrument, built in 1897 by Leandro Bisiach. Ironically, it was played in Michigan by a violinist with the Detroit Symphony who was quite famous at the time. It’s been all over the world and has great sentimental value for me. Anne kept all the papers on the instrument so I have a recorded history to go with it.


life in the moment | arts

Woodwork turns artist onto three-dimensional projects story by Ellen Kelly | photos by Kristy Reimer

Creative Carving K

en Vickets hadn’t planned to move west three years ago, but serendipity intervened when his wife Louise was visiting from Ontario and found the perfect community and the perfect house with a perfect garage for Vickets’ woodworking shop. “Airdrie is its own little gem, close to the big city but far enough removed that you can feel the small-town charm,” says Vickets. “When people at the supermarket say, ‘Have a great day,’ they really mean it. We’ve fallen in love with Airdrie.” The Airdrie arts community is glad that they have, as Vickets brings many talents with him. He is an impressionist painter, wood carver, turner of fine wooden bowls and is currently the vice-president of the Airdrie Regional Arts Society. Vickets has been a two-dimensional artist nearly all his life. Born in Winnipeg, Man.,

he began art lessons at age 10. “My mother was an ultra-realistic painter,” he says. “When I showed her my first painting, which was apples and pears – all blue with a big red line around the apple – I think she wondered if I should continue or not.” Vickets is still an impressionist painter. “I enjoy playing with the shapes of things, the feeling of the day, rather than how many leaves are on the tree,” he says. His paintings are inspired by the late British Columbia artist, Toni Onley. “Something about the simplicity appeals to me,” he says.“I like the way he broke things down into elements and was able to create something that still lets you use your imagination. It represents a specific location but you have to fill in the details.” Vickets paints on-scene rather than from a photograph, sometimes by making a watercolour and coming back to his studio to work.

“To go out and sit on a rock by a lake and call it your office – that’s heaven,” he says. He mainly uses watercolours but is also drawn to oils. “I don’t know whether it’s the smell or the touch or the feel – there’s something about oils that appeals to me. My goal is to get the same luminosity to an oil painting that I can achieve with watercolours – to have an oil that looks like a watercolour. It’s my elusive goal,” he says. A commercial interior decorator by profession, Vickets has worked with cabinets and designed custom furniture. His woodworking eventually led to a little workshop at home which, he says, grew into a monster over the years. He is a self-taught wood carver whose subjects are mostly local birds, although he also carves miniature rocking horses and carousel horses. When he realized that he could combine fall 2010 | 15

life in the moment | arts

his passion for painting with his more recent passion for carving, Vickets was thrilled. “It gives me the satisfaction of both elements,” he says.“But the interesting thing is, the carving is very detailed and the paintings are so simplified. It’s a balance.” Vickets began carving about 10 years ago, learning the basics, but put it aside until a year ago. Until then, he painted and did other woodworking, including turning bowls on a lathe.“I love finding some lovely pieces of wood and turning it into bowls, as thin as I can get it,” he says. “But you turn out a lot of coasters before you get a bowl.” A project on the lathe can be finished in a couple of hours. “Instant gratification,” he says, “makes it an expensive hobby.” By contrast, it takes approximately six weeks to complete a wood carving, depending on size and detail. “Carving is a great ongoing commitment to a piece,” he says. All the bases on which Vickets’ carvings are mounted are done on his lathe. For the past year, Vickets has been carving full time, eight hours a day, five or six days a week. He uses basswood, a medium-hard hardwood that has little grain, doesn’t split easily, is lightweight and seals and takes paint beautifully. The carving starts with a block and a paper plan which is traced onto the wood. Excess wood around the edges is cut away with a bandsaw, leaving a rough outline of the bird Vickets is creating. “Then,” says the artist,“it’s a matter of figuring out where the wings are going to be, where your centre lines are, where the tail covets are going to be.” The piece is then “knifed down”

and a foredom tool (like a large dremel) removes a lot of wood quickly. The work gets finer and finer as it progresses. Calipers are used to place the wings, the feathers are detailed and veins are burned in. After the carving is complete, there are about 20 hours of painting, layer upon layer, involved. But even holding the unfinished carving, the piece already feels like a little bird. Vickets takes his carvings a step further. He is interested in the personality, attitude and life of the bird so he changes the plan into a typical pose for that particular bird by adjusting the wings, body angle and so forth. He spends hours doing research, much of it between 5:30 and 6 a.m., while birds are on the ground. “Once the cars start driving, they’re up in the trees,” says Vickets, who watches all his subjects relentlessly. He does extensive Internet research as well, making sure he understands his subjects and using pictures for colour, detail and typical poses. Eyes and feet for the carvings are purchased from a carving supplier. (Vickets competes on an intermediate level; competitors at higher levels are required to make their own eyes and feet.) Most recently, at the Richmond Carvers’ Show in Richmond, B.C, Vickets submitted three carvings and came home with four ribbons, including a best in division for a cheeky magpie.“He had lots of attitude,” says Vickets. He is currently working on a nest of baby robins and a house wren. “The smaller they are, the more time it takes,” he says. “You have to pay attention to detail because people look at the small ones more closely.”

Vickets was a guest artist at the 2010 Calgary Stampede, where he spent a day in Artist’s Window, a section of the Western Showcase, carving and explaining his work to Stampede visitors. “Airdrie-and-area artists were well represented,” he says.“Several artists from the Airdrie area showcased their works in progress throughout the week. I felt honoured to be invited.” Local birds, rather than exotic, hold a fascination for Vickets. “I think it’s very enjoyable for people to get up close and personal with birds they see in their own backyard but don’t get that close to,” he says. He has carved several sparrows, including his Tribute to Airdrie, which displays two sparrows on snow-spotted ground. Even the grass is carved – brass strips shaped and painted. The artist’s sparrows look as if they could fly away.“A funny thing happened when we were in the desert,” he says. “I took a piece with me to paint and when I got up and left the bird on the table, two or three sparrows flew over to have a look. I figure I’d psyched out the best of the best.” Vickets carves with a group called the Carvers’ Gallery in south Calgary – a group of fellow enthusiasts who share knowledge and experience. “It’s a bit of an addiction,” he says. “It’s not that you want to do it; you have to do it. I find it hard to leave it alone.” Vickets’ art is on display at Airdrie Public Library through September. Paintings can be viewed on his website at: and he plans to add carvings to the site as well. life

A self-taught wood carver, Airdrie artist Ken Vickets breathes life into his creations after much research and observation

16 | fall 2010

life in the moment | classes

Discovering the art of stained glass story by Ellen Kelly photos by Aaron Holmes


o, you can teach an old dog new tricks! I recently spent a Saturday filled with inspiration, encouragement and enjoyment while learning to do something that has always fascinated me, but that I’ve never had the courage to try. Located at the far south end on the west side of Airdrie is a haven of colour and beauty with a rather odd name. MukLuk Magpies Stained Glass Emporium has been in Airdrie since January 2009, providing workshops in stained glass, mosaics and fused glass for those new to working with glass, and supplies and support for experienced craftspeople. I asked owners Shawn MacPherson and Ron Henry about the catchy name and it seems it came about through a series of events that eventually led MacPherson and Henry to open their business in Airdrie. While working at Fusion Glassworks in Calgary, along with Muk-Luks instructor Lynn Stark, employees were often visited by a family of magpies that wandered into the shop. MacPherson, Henry and Instructor Lynn Stark

Through a

glass brightly fall 2010 | 17

life in the moment | classes

Stark had planned to open a glass co-op and name it after their inspirational birds, but then Fusion closed and MacPherson and Henry decided to open a stained glass shop in Airdrie. “We needed something to go with magpies,” says MacPherson, “so we flipped through the dictionary and when we got to mukluks it was a mouthful, and funny. It stuck. It has nothing to do with stained glass but people remember the name.”

Stained glass takes patience, something I learned quickly once our workshop started. My classmates and I began by picking a sevenpiece pattern and glass we liked from the generous supply available to students. We learned that it was OK to mix opaque glass with transparent and it was best to go with our first instinctual choices. Stark explained where the glass comes from, the different kinds of glass and how glass

Muk-Luk Magpies owners Ron Henry (left) and Shawn MacPherson put the final touches on a stained glass creation

Did you know that glass is a liquid – the molecules are always moving?

MacPherson was trained in various glasswork techniques while working at Fusion. “People are drawn to different things,” she says. “Some like sparkly, some are drawn to muted shades, but most people get caught up in the vibrant colour tones.” She does the mosaic teaching and shares the fused glass instruction with Henry, who is a self-taught artist with 30 years experience. “I’m inspired by colour,” Henry says. “I think it’s the love of colour that attracts people.” Stark began with a course at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., and has been working with glass for 21 years. Flat glass (stained glass) is her favourite medium, followed closely by glass bead-making. She teaches copper foil and leaded stained glass workshops.

18 | fall 2010

is made, both by hand and by machine. And we learned some very interesting facts. Did you know that glass is a liquid – the molecules are always moving? Once we traced the pattern pieces onto our glass, it was time to cut, a process so accurate and simple it amazed me. First, a line is scored on the glass with a manoeuvrable cutter. Then special pliers are placed over the scored line and gently squeezed, twisting the glass slightly and making it break perfectly along the line – most of the time. (I was told practice makes perfect.) Once the pieces are cut, they are aligned inside an adjustable frame to see how accurately they fit together. My picture displayed gaps and overlaps but I was assured by Stark that it would

be fine. A little grinding here, a little more there, and eventually the pieces fell into place. The next step involves wrapping each edge of every piece with sticky-backed copper foil, the copper being what solder adheres to. Once each piece is wrapped – I discovered having not one but two left hands didn’t help in the process – the pieces are placed back into the frame. Then comes the scary part. Soldering iron in one hand and coil of solder in the other, dabs of molten metal are applied to all seams to prevent shifting. Then, a thin flat line of solder is applied to both sides of the picture to hold the pieces together. At this point, we all agreed that our projects were awful – not a chance that an object of beauty would emerge. “Be patient,” said Stark. “You’ll see. It’ll be OK.” (Words she repeated often during the day.) After the pieces are soldered along each seam line, it’s time to make the solder look nice – to draw a bead (rounded strand) along each line. We practised on the back first and then “beaded” the front. I was having fun but was still not impressed with my project. Next, a thin, bendable metal frame was added to the outside edge of our pictures. Hooks were soldered in place. We washed our pieces in soapy water, dried them, placed them in an acid wash to give the metal a patina and rinsed them again. By this time our apprehension had turned to excitement. Our projects were looking good. The final step was to polish them with wax and a soft cloth. We left the shop impressed with our finished product and grateful to Stark for her patience. Muk-Luk Magpies has a large work area, a classroom and a gift area displaying stained glass and a variety of other items made by local artists. “We do a lot of glass repair and custom work,” says MacPherson, “but we encourage people to come in and try stained glass for themselves, too.” House of Magpie memberships are available and give people with their own supplies an opportunity to drop in, use the shop tools and work independently with glass. “Stained glass ...” says MacPherson,“You’re not sure if it’s for you until you try it. It’s affordable and attainable. You can really tell if you’ve caught the bug.” life

life in the moment | fall months

What’s Going On? Plenty. Here are just a few of the highlights for the fall months. For a complete list and more information or to list YOUR event, go to: Sept. 19 Now in its 17th year, the 2010 Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup presented by Loblaw runs Sept. 18–26. In Airdrie, the Nose Creek Park cleanup, with site co-ordinator Jean Giesbrecht, takes place Sept. 19, starting at 9 a.m. Meeting place is Nose Creek Park at the totem poles. For more information on the program or to register, visit: or call 1-877-427-2422.


Sept. 28 Airdrie Business After Hours 5-7 p.m. Drop-in RBC Royal Bank - Main (100 Main St. N) This popular open house event includes ‘business-to-business’ exhibitors, door prizes, food and refreshments, a cash bar and plenty of networking opportunities for exhibitors and visitors. Free.


Oct. 1 Thunder on Ice! Airdrie Thunder plays its first home game of the season against the Mountainview Colts, 8 p.m. For the full season schedule, check out:


Oct. 5 Municipal/School Board Candidates Forum Bert Church Theatre, 7– 9:30 p.m. Candidates are invited to square off during this all-candidates forum. Candidates running to be our next aldermen, mayor and school trustees will be given time to represent their platform, followed by questions and answers. A reception will be held in the school cafeteria afterwards.





Oct. 11 Thanksgiving weekend is your last chance to Ride the Rails at Iron Horse Park before the trains are stored for the winter. Visit:



Oct. 13 An annual favourite, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra will be back on the Bert Church LIVE Theatre stage.

Only 5 minutes south of Airdrie on Highway 2 | 403.984.6800

fall 2010 | 19

CIM-0268-A01F AD1 Aidrie Life.indd 1

8/12/10 4:01 PM

life in the moment | fall months



209 Centre Ave West Airdrie 403-948-0010 Open Mon-Fri 9-9 Sat 9-6 Sun 11-5

20 | fall 2010

Oct. 14 AIRdirondack Art Project Auction Gala at Woodside Golf Course. 12 chairs, 12 artists, 1 dream. Buy your ticket now for this exclusive event featuring wine tastings, gourmet nibbles, live music and 12 works of art. Only 100 tickets available online at:

Oct. 18 Election Day – Have your say. Take time today to vote for your new city council. Polling information available at: Oct. 18-22 Small Business Week – Take time to hug a small business owner – they deserve it! A week of activities for start-ups and those wanting to grow. See page 96 for more details.

Oct. 22 Winning Edge Awards Banquet at Woodside Golf Course with guest speaker Tim Tamashiro. Tickets on sale Sept 20 at:


inning Edge

AWARDS Nov. 5 Denim & Diamonds A fundraising gala in support of Habitat for Humanity Airdrie Faith Build. Win a diamond in a glass of champagne! Woodside Golf Course. Only 100 tickets sold, call 403-540-3438 for tickets.

Nov. 21 Airdrie Women in Business Association (AWBA) Holiday Shopping Extravaganza 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Town and Country Centre. There is always a large variety of vendors from Airdrie and surrounding areas, as well as several door prizes, with all door prize ticket sales going to Airdrie Food Bank.

life in the moment | proud past

Steeling Courage story and photos by Carl Patzel

From their buckskin shirts to their cartridge belts, Steele’s Scouts present a historically accurate picture of their namesake’s group


hat began as a 90-day skirmish has been immortalized into a 33-year tradition. As they display their excellent horsemanship while decked out in authentic buckskin uniforms and military arms, all that’s missing is a hostile enemy to transport the Steele’s Scouts Commemorative Militia Cavalry back to 1885. Named after Maj.-Gen. Sir Samuel Benfield Steele – a distinguished Canadian soldier and eventual inspector in the newly formed North West Mounted Police – and similar to the original group of volunteers that was assembled to put down uprisings during the Northwest Rebellion 125 years ago, the modern-day scouts come from all walks of life. “I’m a realtor, we have plumbers, truck drivers, school teachers … I have a retired principal,” says Airdrie resident and commanding officer Maj. Gordon Pethick before marching in Airdrie’s Canada Day parade. “It’s for

How a historic moment more than 100 years ago is kept alive people [who] have horses and enjoy a little bit of history.” The 30-35 active member Scouts come from all corners of central Alberta, from as far as Lamont to High River and all towns in between, including Olds, Didsbury, Carstairs, Crossfield, Airdrie, Cochrane, Strathmore, Okotoks, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Founded by Douglass A. McRae, the commemorative troop has participated in every Calgary Stampede Parade since 1977, and passes on historical knowledge at many events and forts across Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Montana. In an ironic twist, the Scouts have spent more than 30 years replicating the short 90day conflict that helped shape northern Alberta and Saskatchewan and Canadian relations with indigenous people. “The original Steele’s Scouts were only in operation for 90 days. We’ve been around for

33 years,” says Pethick.“Once the [Northwest Rebellion] was over, which took about threeand-a-half months, virtually all the cowboys went back to work on the ranches and the mounted police went back to their duties.” Today the Steele’s Scouts, also referred to as the Cowboy Cavalry, Ranch Cavalry or Buckskin Cavalry, call their home station the Spruce Meadows equestrian grounds in south Calgary, where they are a colourful addition to events each summer. They draw plenty of interest with historically correct fringed buckskin shirts and jackets, bright red neckerchiefs and replica handguns complete with holsters and cartridge belts with cartridges. “We’re talking to people and getting the history out – trying to keep Albertans up to date with what happened 125 years ago,” Pethick says. Although still a volunteer venture, with members incurring all costs of travel and fall 2010 | 21

life in the moment | proud past

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expenses of keeping horses, the Scouts keep the military tradition alive with a command structure. Pethick says the ranking system is part tradition, part organizational survival method. Promotion is based on ability, hard work and participation. “We run it quasi-military. Everybody starts as a trooper and you work your way up in rank. That’s why it’s survived,” he says. “You earn your way up. As the guys are getting their corporal stripes and sergeant stripes it gives them initiative to stay in and do better.” Riding skills are imperative to the success of the Scouts and to getting membership into the organization, not only from a traditional standpoint but also a practical one. “That’s one of the qualifications before we even accept anybody. They have to be able to walk, talk and canter their horse in command and be in total control at all times, especially when we are in parades,” Pethick says. Saddlesores have to be ignored during the historical ride held every second year retracing the Steele’s Scouts’ original journey from Frog Lake to Steele Narrows. This year the troop will celebrate

the Scouts’ 125th-year commemorative march in September with a 160-kilometre journey, stopping at historical battle spots along the way. They’ve also been invited to be part of the Saskatchewan centennial celebration, where most of the Steele’s Scouts were originally in action. Since the group’s inception 35 years ago, more than 60 Scouts have pulled on the buckskin, with two original members still riding in their 70s. “The oldest member I do have is 85,” the commanding officer says, “and he’s still riding.” What ultimately keeps members in the cavalry is a chance to spread the word on small yet colourful, dramatic event that helped shape early Alberta. That and the feedback they receive from the public. “[Tourists] come from all over the world and want to know who we are. We’re very authentic from 1885. It definitely causes people to come and talk to us,” says Pethick. “It’s Alberta’s proud past – a little bit of Alberta that keeps the western spirit alive.” life MORE LIFE ONLINE Learn more about Sam Steele and the men who commemorate him at: www.

life in the moment | column

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FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH The Fitlife Top Five

he secret to staying young is to fit healthy habits into your daily life. At least that is what doctors, nutritionists and other health care professionals tell us. Although living a healthy lifestyle does not promise eternal youth, it will certainly help us extend our active years and enjoy our lives. The key to integrating healthy habits into your already-hectic life? Make looking after yourself a priority. By doing so, you will be amazed at the extra energy you will find to help meet life’s daily challenges. Here are some simple, healthy habits you can easily incorporate into your routine. 1. Hydrate: Water is critical to good health. Water rejuvenates your skin, aids your digestive and circulatory system and can help in weight loss. To reduce fatigue, drink water throughout the day. Ideally, carry a bottle of water, flavoured with a slice of lemon, during your daily activities. 2. Walk: Whenever possible, walk. This is an easy way to fit exercise into your day. Park your car at the back of the lot or down the street from your destination, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk while the kids are at soccer practice or visit a friend and suggest a walk instead of a cup of coffee. 3. Sleep: Lack of sleep weakens your immune system and makes you more prone to viruses. Adults require six-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep improves your ability to function effectively. 4. Exercise: Ride an exercise bike while you catch up on your reading, do an exercise video

at home, work in the yard, attend a fitness class, go for a run with a friend or do some crunches, sit-ups and lunges while watching television. Do whatever you can to fit exercise into your day. It is recommended that adults exercise a minimum of 30 minutes three times each week. 5. Sugar: To maintain an even level of energy throughout the day, focus on reducing consumption of refined sugar. Sugar and caffeine dehydrate you and create a cycle of energy rushes followed by crashes. Replace refined sugar foods, such as soft drinks, baked goods and candy, with low-sugar foods, such as fruit and vegetables. Make the effort to integrate some or all of these healthy habits into your day and you will reap the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle. All of these ideas are simple, but individually and combined they can have a huge impact on your health. A few small changes, requiring a small investment of time, will help you feel better and stay young. life MORE LIFE ONLINE For more tips and to learn about the free wellness seminars provided by Joan and her Airdrie wellness colleagues, visit:

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life in the moment | cooking

Taste Buds Spicing up your life begins in the kitchen story and photos by Carl Patzel


f variety is the spice of life, it’s time to shake up the flavour factor in the kitchen with some zesty zing from your seasoning rack. With the culinary world shrinking daily, searching for that elusive spice doesn’t have to be a fedora-wearing, whip-cracking type of Indiana Jones adventure. Avoiding some peppery pitfalls on the plate takes just a little research, an open mind and an empty stomach. Anything but bland, the history of spices is

28 | fall 2010

a colourful and tasty one. Traded centuries before throughout Asia, India and Europe, the aromatic seasonings were at one time valued the same as money and, in some cultures, worth their weight in gold. What is now a staple in the everyday diet was also once used in religious practices and held in high esteem for its medicinal qualities. In holistic circles it’s still promoted as the cure to what ails you. But before the Internet and cooking chan-

nels brought culturally diverse recipes to our fingertips and tender taste buds, a little bit of adventure was needed to encounter a little spice. Through a typical Canadian culinary upbringing, flavour at the table was contrasted only with the black and white of pepper and salt (which is technically a mineral). Looking to add some colour to my cuisine, I decided to search out some gastronomic guidance while trekking across the globe. Discovering an appetite for the unknown brought me to the wide-ranging and unique flavours of the Orient. It took a trip to Korea to discover a hot and powerful cabbage dish called kimchee (also spelled kimchi), with the vegetable being liberally covered with hot red pepper flakes. In a country where the traditional breakfast of toast, eggs and cereal has yet to catch on, and probably never will, fermented cabbage wasn’t exactly my first choice for the morning meal. I soon discovered that travelling in foreign lands means extending your palatable choices, no matter how sour to the taste buds. Enticed by interesting aromas and beautiful plates, I overcame my hesitation and dived into the guessing game of figuring out what spicy blends made each dish pop in my mouth. After a few months on the road, and a little bit of digestible knowledge, I headed back to the kitchen to root through the spice rack. Attempting to replicate several flavours, I learned that spices come from many different plants, usually taken from the bark, stems, roots, berries and seeds. Plant leaves, although used in the same methods as spices, are classified as herbs. Of the many spices available today – and there are plenty, from allspice to vanilla bean; way too many to mention here – among the most popular are black and red pepper, garlic (fresh or powdered), paprika, cumin, mustard seed, ginger powder, nutmeg and cinnamon, just to name a few. Italian food rests heavy on fresh and dried herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary, the latter adding a touch of sweetness to pasta or combined with a protein in ravioli. French cuisine relies more on such herbs as thyme, sage and parsley for its flavours. Mediterranean fare uses several combina-

tions of the above, but also leans heavily on a healthy dose of paprika. Mexican cuisine relies on garlic, onion, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and, of course, chilies and chili powder. Using spices on their own becomes a trialand-error process. These days premixed spice blends such as Jamaican jerk spice, five-spice powder from China or Montreal Steak Spice – a kitchen staple in my own home – offer appetizing options. But probably the most popular blend of spices in the culinary world is curry. Originating in India – the largest spice-producing nation on the planet – and used virtually around the world, curry powers and pastes can contain any number of spice combinations using turmeric, fenugreek, cloves, cumin, ginger, black and hot red pepper, coriander, garlic and many other ingredients. Flavours can vary across nations, with some curries very hot and others slightly sweet. The heat is usually indicated by the colour, which ranges from green and red to golden yellow. For our family, several hours have been spent in specialty grocery stores and over a hot stove attempting to replicate the perfect golden curry shrimp dish, a personal household favourite. Getting the right balance between spice, sweet and heat was hit-and-miss. Some early heated efforts needed a generous sip of liquid after each burning bite, while others boasted near perfection. Now there is rarely a bland meal served at our kitchen table. At least five or six different spice-filled flavour combinations tantalize the taste buds. Whether your supper is parched, pan-fried, poached, barbecued, braised, grilled, fricasseed or seared, spices can enhance any beef, chicken, seafood or vegetarian dishes. Ultimately you don’t have to hike through Morocco to find the perfect spice at a food vendor. A trip to the corner grocery store’s spice rack could be a solution to rejuvenating any meal. In the end it can only help to spice up your life. life MORE LIFE ONLINE Spice up your life with a tasty gift basket from The Store Upstairs.

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life in the moment | hearty brew

It’s a matter of taste and time story and photo by Cory Knibutat


ive dollars for a cup of coffee? Most coffee enthusiasts don’t have too much trouble paying that much several times per week. But it adds up quickly and the major nationwide franchises know that. The Coffee Association of Canada says that 63 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 drink coffee daily, making it our preferred hot beverage, while the average coffee drinker guzzles 2.6 cups per day. Airdrionians seeking the specialty-coffeeshop experience locally can head to Anna’s Café Europa, where a delicious cup of java can be had for slightly less than at some of the franchise shops. Anna’s has consistently held its own for more than a decade. A friendly, non-headset-wearing atmosphere, unique Italian blended coffee – such as the house favourite, Blue Blend – and loyalty to customers is the tried-and-true formula that Anna’s has stuck with even as the café changed owners a few years ago. “I didn’t want to change the place into a franchise or anything,” owner Thuy Ngyuen says. “I wanted it original. I kept it as is so it’s familiar to the customers.” But maybe you’re still reconsidering your coffee budget and realize that refining your home brew might be the way to go. Buying a $5 coffee five times per week, every week of the year, will end up costing well over $1,000. Think what else you can spend that money on: home renovations, vacations … or perhaps buying yourself a nice French press, some fair trade beans and a coffee grinder and attempting to recreate the specialty-coffee experience for less in your own home. Every Starbucks has a variety of premium beans for sale, so all the loyal java junkies can try their hand at being a barista. For roughly $13-15, anyone can buy a pound of his or her favourite specialty-coffee-shop coffee.

30 | fall 2010

“Drinking two cups a day, a pound will typically last you two to three weeks,” says Ashley Warman, a former Second Cup employee. At a cost of $10-15 for at least two week’s worth of coffee, home brewing sounds like the obvious choice, then. But what’s the best way to recreate that over-priced, paper-cup taste while you’re still half asleep and underdressed? It’s a matter of taste and time. More accurately, it’s a matter of convenience. Do you have the early-morning freedom to grind some beans and have a truly fresh-brewed cup of coffee? You might, but you may also have family, friends or roommates who won’t hesitate to pitch your obnoxiously loud grinder into the middle of the street if you fire it up first thing in the morning. “People tend to think that the beans must be ground fresh right before you brew your coffee,” Warman says. “At Second Cup, we ground all our beans the day we used [them] and the leftovers would get tossed. I would always take the leftovers home because the flavour is still great for about a week as long as the grinds are kept in an airtight container.” So it’s a win-win! Buy the fancy beans but grind half a bag to last the week. You won’t sacrifice a great-tasting cup of coffee and your housemates won’t sacrifice you to the sleep gods. Now you just have to decide whether to use a French press or a coffee pot. One you’ll have to supervise and the other you can abandon. Either way you’ll end up with a greattasting beverage. “The question is, do people have the time to grind their beans and use the press? The average person can’t be bothered and just uses the pot. To me the press has a bit better flavour,” says Airdrie’s Greg McGinley of Costa Cana Import Inc., a Canadian suppli-

er of fair trade, hand-harvested coffee from Costa Rica’s San Vito Valley, which McGinley sells at the Airdrie Farmers Market. It really does come down to personal preference. If you have the time, by all means nurture your premium beans into the best-tasting cup of Joe you can. If you don’t, the coffee machine probably won’t let you down. “It is a time thing. I have a grinder, but for me, I’m in a rush in the morning and have to get quickly going,” McGinley says. Despite a specialty-coffee shop in every other neighbourhood, your best bet, financially, is to try to make the best coffee you can at home. Invest a bit of cash and pick up a nice coffee pot and grinder; $100 is probably the most you’ll have to spend on both but don’t worry, you’ll make that money back within a few months. Your coffee will taste nearly the same as the $5 paper-cup variety but at least you don’t have to wear pants to enjoy it – barring any requests from your housemates, of course. life MORE LIFE ONLINE How do you brew? Take our coffee quiz online and win a gourmet coffee gift basket from The Store Upstairs at:

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life in the moment | food personalities

Cedarwood Station’s young chef goes out of his way to accommodate


Tyler story by Cory Knibutat | photos by Aaron Holmes

Cedarwood Station chef Tyler Aitken’s commitment to his craft is evident in both his meals and the residents’ response


ore than 90 residents pack the dining room of Cedarwood Station retirement community every morning, noon and night to enjoy a nice, healthy meal. The menu, different every week, is the result of a young chef ’s tireless work and commitment to please. While the residents of Cedarwood have put their careers behind them and hope to relax and enjoy each day as much as possible, Tyler Aitken is busy in the kitchen, putting in the hours of hard work required to propel his cooking career as far as possible. Ten years ago, Aitken got his first job at Woodside Restaurant at the age of 13. He washed dishes and prepped food for service, much like many other first-time kitchen employees. Two years later he had impressed his chef while working the omelet station for Sunday brunch and was asked to use his talents in the kitchen. “I started working full time as a line cook there at around age 15 and eventually he asked me if I wanted to do an apprenticeship,” Aitken says. “The chef saw that I was looking to cook and I had the skills to do it.” Throughout the rest of high school Aitken learned as much as possible working at Woodside. Next, he enrolled in SAIT’s two-year professional cooking diploma program. “I got a really good background working at Woodside, so school was kind of a breeze getting through and I just wanted to get out and work,” he says. Fresh out of chef school, Aitken didn’t have to look far for a job. One of Cedarwood’s chefs at the time used to work with Aitken during their younger days at Woodside and tipped the new graduate off to a job opening at Cedarwood. fall 2010 | 33

life in the moment | food personalities

The Original Turducken The Original Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a chicken, which is stuffed with a duck - all fresh and all de-boned. Stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs and fresh sausage stuffing, the finished product looks like a regular turkey ready for the oven. This delicious Original Turducken is made with 100% Canadian products by Canadian owned and operated companies. • 100% Canadian, grain-fed Lilydale turkey and chicken • 100% Canadian Brome Lake ducks raised on a diet of cereals and soya enriched with vitamins and minerals. • Stuffed with locally-made Spolumbo’s sausage stuffing.

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“That’s originally why I came here, [to] talk to him and see if they were looking for anybody,” Aitken says.“When I came here he was gone and the job was still offered to me, so I followed up on that and took it.” In only eight years, the young man had transitioned from dishwasher to chef, all by the age of 21. By kitchen standards, that is quite young but Aitken hasn’t had to face such a large responsibility single-handedly. Acting as his colleague and mentor, Victor Klassen has worked alongside Aitken since day one. While Aitken is able to create his own menu and run the kitchen, Klassen, also a chef as well as the kitchen’s manager, helps to ensure the meals meet any special dietary requirements that some of the residents may have. By their stage in life, Cedarwood Station’s residents know what they do and don’t like to eat. Aitken and Klassen enjoy the challenges of creating a menu to accommodate everyone’s tastes and dietary needs. This includes working with a dietician to make sure their meals are meeting the Canada’s Food Guide requirements, says Klassen. “Almost 30 years ago I started working with health care and dieticians, so it’s been beneficial for Tyler because I’ve been able to answer some of those questions,” he says. Aitken adds:“Mostly it’s dealing with diabetes and stuff like that, so I started making a lot of our desserts … with Splenda so everybody can have [them].” “[We’re careful about] sodium and high fat, too,” he adds. The trick with healthy recipes is to avoid creating dishes that are about as palatable as chalk. So Aitken took it upon himself to try out new dishes that residents may or may not have ever tasted before while still adhering to the lowsodium, low-sugar and low-fat mantra. “I’ve tried duck, lamb and osso bucco and stuff like that for them and most of the stuff they go for,” Aitken says.“There are some people who aren’t very open-minded and never try it, but the ones who do try it, try it again.” Klassen adds: “Some of the people we’re dealing with are from the old way of thinking where you give them meat and potatoes and they’re going to be happy because that’s what they’ve been raised on. It gives Tyler a chance to figure it out and search and find what works,

what doesn’t and that kind of thing.” Compared to a typical restaurant, running the kitchen at a retirement home certainly comes with a different set of positives and negatives. The menu changes every week as opposed to every season. The menu accommodates the diners’ needs not the chef ’s ego. And all fibre jokes aside, residents are far more regular than any restaurant’s regulars, making them the best critics a chef could have. “It’s different having the same people every day because if you serve them something they had last week you’re going to hear about it,” Klassen says. But the familiarity between Cedarwood residents and Aitken is actually a welcome challenge when he creates his menus every week. Menus are sent out to residents every Sunday to make them aware of the coming week’s food choices but Aitken holds monthly meetings with residents to discuss what foods they would like. Some even offer their personal recipes. “It makes them feel good,” the young chef says. “It makes them proud to see their own stuff on the menu. “I try to talk to everybody, but there [are] obviously certain people who take more of an interest in food,” he adds. “We just did the Stampede barbecue and we get a lot of family here for that and when [the residents] come up and thank you and tell you how good it is it always feels good.” life MORE LIFE ONLINE Try Tyler’s take on raspberry cheesecake (deep-fried!) or tempt your taste buds with his duck confit with blueberry barbecue sauce only at:

Aitken serves up one of his delicious, healthy repasts


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life in the moment | wheels

Roadworthy Why getting winter tires may be your best decision this fall story by Alex Frazer-Harrison | photo by Sergei Belski

Smart Auto manager Greg Trantner recommends Thanksgiving and Easter as dates to change out your winter tires


lthough this past summer’s hailstorms might have made a few people wonder if digging out the winter tires might not be a bad idea, it’s usually not until fall that the annual ritual of switching out your tires comes on the radar. In our chinook-prone climate, however, winter tires aren’t mandatory (unlike in Quebec, where they’re the law) and options do exist for motorists who don’t want to be switching their tires twice a year. That said, “the best comment I can make about winter tires is, once you have them, you always want them,” says Greg Tranter, manager of Smart Auto & Tire. What makes winter tires so effective in manoeuvring and braking on snow and

38 | fall 2010

ice? It’s all in the chemistry and the treads, explains Tranter. “In true winter tires, the rubber compounds will be softer,” he says. As a result, they’re better able to grip the road. “But that’s why you can’t drive winter tires through the summer, because the softer rubber with the heat of the pavement will wear fast.” The more sipes a tire has – that’s those little lines cut across the surface of the tire between the treads – the more the tire can flex with the demands of snow and ice, Tranter says. Thanksgiving and Easter are the target dates to circle on your calendar if you plan to switch to and from winter tires, Tranter notes. Depending on where you live and your driving needs, a four-season/all-season tire

can be an alternative to changing out tires. A key difference between four-seasons and standard winter tires again comes down to chemistry. “All-weather tires have the same characteristics as a winter tire, but they don’t put the soft rubber in [them],” says Tranter. Whichever option you choose, making sure you have the best tire for your needs and environment is key to safe driving. “It can save you money. And it’s about safety, comfort and peace of mind – that’s the major reason for getting winter tires,” says Tranter. “We’ve had many handshakes from people, saying, ‘Thanks for putting winter tires on our vehicles.’” life more life online All-season tire options plus tire maintenance tips at:

2971 Main Street SW


Did you know that


is neighbourhood Honda dealership?


Here’s why customers are choosing to service at Airdrie Honda: conveniently located right next door to Wal-Mart and the Home Depot factory trained technicians along with 21 service bays for all servicing needs friendly, knowledgeable staff to assist you at your pace convenient pick-up and drop off hours along with aaer-hours drop off option vehicle pick-up and drop off VALET SERVICE available (please call or details) )eet of courtesy cars available dedicated customer shuule service comfortable customer lounge with wireless internet and satellite TV


community life in the 43 Vets & Pets 50 Rural Roots 57 Safe Airdrie

Virtually Vigilant lifetimes

By Ellen Kelly

Ellen discovers connecting with her grandchildren involves a computer, a mouse and ... a chicken?


recently purchased a pet chicken called Bianca. She is white and fluffy with dark beady eyes and she lives in her own elaborate chicken coop. I thought she would be an easy pet to keep, but as it turns out, she’s high-maintenance. She is always hungry, she gets sick and she constantly wants to be entertained. And that’s only the beginning … Bianca is a virtual pet. She lives in her own affluent virtual world inhabited by a multitude of other virtual pets, all on a quest to earn virtual cash and buy more virtual stuff. I purchased Bianca so I could play interactive games with my grandchildren, a concept that intrigued me but, it seems, is not high on the website’s priority list. It’s very difficult to meet up in game rooms without being aggressively overrun by other virtual pets that are either starved for attention or, considering the life Bianca leads, spoiled rotten. I’ve spent time as an interloper in this virtual world, trying to evaluate the quality of time spent on such a site. Certainly children learn to take care of their virtual pets, but beware: it’s“pets,” not “pet.” Pets need friends and therefore there is a big push to add to the virtual pet community. Poor Bianca remains alone, only finding companionship in game and reading rooms where she meets virtual strangers on a superficial level. Each pet comes with a virtual room and some virtual money. Like anyone just starting out in life, there are necessities to acquire: a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, food and furniture; maybe a television, trampoline, motorized scooter – the list is endless. With a little money, anything is possible. And where does the cash come from? It comes

42 | fall 2010

from a small daily allowance, answering quiz questions, playing arcade games and maybe getting a job. At first I thought Bianca should take the high road and become a valuable member of her virtual society. She went to school and was rewarded for her achievements. Then she looked for a job. There wasn’t much for an inexperienced chicken to do, but she tried hard to be successful. The tasks became difficult very quickly. Poor Bianca couldn’t keep up and her confidence was shaken. (Lord knows how five-year-olds do this!) However, she managed to earn enough to add rooms and a yard to her home and purchase food and clothing. But Bianca yearned for more. I tried to find a creative outlet for her or some community-minded activity that would teach her to share, but other than buying and sending toys to other virtual pets – the ones belonging to the grandchildren – there was no opportunity to be a nice, upstanding chicken. So now she raises virtual fruit and vegetables in her virtual garden and occasionally attempts jobs that challenge my dexterity. Eventually Bianca and I had a virtual breakthrough. She was able to save up and buy a virtual pool table and has discovered she is very good at playing pool – so good, in fact, that she now earns a steady, if somewhat shady, income from her talent and has been able to turn her home into a virtual mansion, take virtual vacations, visit the virtual spa and build up a six-figure savings account. I wonder, as Bianca chalks her cue yet again, if perhaps a little more emphasis on relationships, sharing, community service and charitable donations, were they available to her, might do her some good. life

life in the community | pets Gheorghe Rotaru gets some love from the canine member of the Rotaru family, Moxie, a giant schnauzer

story and photos by Carl Patzel

Vets Pets and


They work with animals all day so it’s natural they would unwind with their “best friends” fall 2010 | 43

Megan Bartkowski’s special friend Kid knows just how to listen

If we could talk to the animals. Yes, it would be wondrous to have the ability to decipher a boisterous bark or mellow meow, but ultimately you don’t have to be Dr. Doolittle to communicate with Fido and Fluffy. Actions in some case can speak louder than words, growls or purrs. No matter what the language, household pets continue to be lifelong friends, constant companions, irreplaceable buddies and always-willing confidants. With personalities as diverse as those of their human owners, our four-legged friends can teach us plenty of life lessons. “People [who] own pets, they learn to be better. They learn to love unconditionally. They learn to appreciate everything in life just a little bit more,” says veterinarian Dr. Gheorghe Rotaru. Airdrie’s Heartland Veterinary Clinic animal doctor knows from personal experience how a barking buddy or meowing mate can affect a person’s daily life.

44 | fall 2010

After emigrating from Romania, Rotaru had to put down two long-time pets, whom he called“the only family we had,” only months after arriving in Canada. Although heartbroken, he and wife Gabriela, also a vet, decided an immediate replacement would be unfair to the memory of their previous pooches. “For two years we felt it was not fair to replace them. But in those two years nothing made sense,” he says. Consumed with work and daily routines, the pet lovers were skeptical about whether or not they would have the time and energy to provide a proper life for another dog. In the end, the prospect of animal companionship outweighed all other concerns. “It was like the day was longer, life was easier, we had more fun and had time for the dog; we had enjoyment,” says Rotaru. “We realized that we actually had a lot of time that we were not using. Maybe on purpose we would not come back home from work because there was nothing to come home for.” Now with a giant schnauzer and three

cats, balance has been restored in the Rotaru household. As a pet health specialist and pet owner, Rotaru sees the influence cuddly creatures have on shaping their owners’ lives, from the smallest pleasures to the mental and physical health benefits of a fuzzy companion. “They bring sense in our life. They cry with you, they laugh with you,” he says. Part companions, part comedians and always life enthusiasts, pets have been linked to everything from stress relief to helping minor depression. Will a positive pooch help keep you off the psychiatrist’s couch? Maybe not, but veterinarian Dr. Wendy McClelland sees major benefits of pet ownership. “They provide so much support. If [you’re] going through a hard time animals are just there. I have so many clients … they say, ’This cat or dog was here when I went through some really rough times,’” she says. McClelland provides care for pampered pooches and fussed-over felines in their own

backyard through her local Home Sweet Home Veterinary Care business. “It’s even proven some that they lower blood pressure in seniors, and anyone … just to pet animals,” she says. Raised on an animal-abundant ranch, McClelland’s earliest memory of wanting to become a veterinarian came at eight years old. Now a mother of two young children and two even younger ragdoll kittens, she relates the benefits of pet demeanour on youngsters. “You can teach [children] so much about kindness and how to treat other people, through how they treat their pets,” McClelland says. “So many kids, they can’t tell their parents everything but they’ll tell their dog. If they’re having a rough time at least they have someone to talk to. “It’s pretty special,” she adds. McClelland agrees that pet owners can learn a big lesson about unconditional love, loyalty and a non-judgmental attitude, not just from the household canine but also cats. “It’s not just dogs. My last cat was like a dog. He would greet me at the door and he would high-five for treats. [There was plenty of ] unconditional love, for sure,” she says. A lick on the face or a tail wag is definite

Wendy McClelland’s cats teach her and her family about unconditional love and loyalty

proof of love and loyalty. But that visual vocabulary can also be found in larger domesticated animals. An equine enthusiast, Megan Bartkowski doesn’t horse around when it comes to communicating with animals. Ranch life for the Airdrie Animal Health Centre veterinarian’s assistant involves a wide variety of fourlegged friends stemming from outside the house-pet realm. Her ranch abounds with animal activity including chickens, pigs, cattle, barn cats, a sidekick black chocolate lab named Buddy and many horses. A whinny being just as expressive as a bark, Bartkowski equates her equines’ manners to those found in house pets. “My horses, everyone has a different character. They all have their little quirks and things they love and things they don’t like,” she says, getting a smile from horse Dixie after a wellplaced scratch. Bartkowski finds a good scratch and a little neigh from her horses is enough to brighten any sour mood. In their own language, it’s as if the horses are asking,“Why the long face?” “My horses will tread a little lighter if I’m having a cranky day, or if I’m really hyper

or excited, they know. They feed off of what you’re feeling,” she says, adding that she can’t envision living in a world without the camaraderie animals provide. “I went without horses for a couple of years and I would never do it again. They’re a nice stress release. If you’re in a bad mood, they know. I can’t explain it, they just know. My one horse listens better to me than [anyone else].” Apart from a positive psychological effect, an enigmatic connection often develops; a pet can take on its owner’s personality and vice versa. Veterinarian Rotaru spots comparable personality traits between pet and owner through his daily dealings at the veterinary clinic. “You can even see it in the facial expression. If you step back and think scientifically, it’s because we are mimicking them so much … you get some traces [of similarity in] your expressions,” he says. The adage that opposites attract doesn’t exist in the pet-people world. In most cases people attempt to find a pet to parallel their own personality. Rotaru says a very active person with a love of life, the outdoors and perhaps extreme sports will be attracted to an athletic breed of pet. Cats, on the other hand, can be a bit more mysterious with their actions, something Rotaru describes as the selfish Garfield attitude of ‘feed me, love me, never leave me.’ “Cats, it’s everything about me, me, me. They are so much different. I have three cats with three different personalities and they all make me laugh,” he says. While a perturbed pussy may seem to hold a grudge, a positive pooch will soon forget and forgive a slight scolding or Master’s moody manner. With a sign hanging in his clinic stating, “Be the person that your dog wants you to be,” Rotaru says more pet owners could take that advice. “I think that says a lot,” he says.“If we would be what our dogs would like us to be, I think we wouldn’t have those wars and hate. It could be such a beautiful place to be.” life MORE LIFE ONLINE Get some solid advice from our experts on choosing a puppy. In October: See why small is the new big. All on:

fall 2010 | 45

o Ho ping it life in the community | sports


The Rabels are synonymous with basketball in Airdrie story and photo by Carl Patzel


here’s always been plenty of hoopla surrounding the Rabel family’s favourite pastime. With the majority of time spent bouncing a ball through his younger years, it was a slam dunk that Garth Rabel’s family would continue his basketball tradition with sons Tyler and Troy. “It’s kind of a family thing. They all played ball together, then we’d coach, watch and referee,” says Rabel, speaking of his sons and wife Marylin.

46 | fall 2010

A lifelong passion, the game of basketball has been a family affair for Garth Rabel (right), who still referees with son Troy

“For quite a few years basketball kind of ran the household for the weekends. We’d travel and we always made sure we enjoyed the experience we had with the kids.” One of the co-founders of the Airdrie Minor Basketball Association, the 52-year-old sports enthusiast has spent much of his life sharing his love for the fast-breaking game with youngsters throughout the city. After graduating from George McDougall High School, a custom kept up by his sons, Rabel noticed a gap in the community hoop scene. “Community ball hadn’t started out here in Airdrie yet,” he says. “We were the first rural group to join the Calgary Minor Basketball Association. That was exciting for us, because Airdrie is such a hotbed for basketball.” An all-around athlete in his younger years, Rabel played all the seasonal sports offered in high school, from volleyball to football to track and field. But the round-ball game seemed a better fit for a year-round activity. “It’s a game that’s not really expensive to play; you need a pair of running shoes and a pair of shorts, basically. It was a great game you could play outside in the summertime, then just move that game inside,” says Rabel. “It was a great way to play with your friends and [embed] yourself in the school spirit and stay active in the school community. You meet lots of great kids all around the division, as well.” After high school, Rabel still spent plenty of time on the hardwood, trading in his uniform for the black-and-white-striped shirt of a referee after donning the whistle more than 20 years ago. Dribbling away from the game when his sons became involved, Rabel put aside his officiating rule book and pulled on a coach’s shirt. He drew up the plays for several years coaching in the minor association. “There is still a sense of great basketball in the city,” he says, “but back in those days there was a great rivalry between the two high schools and that really helped feed the community programs, as well.” Following in his father’s sneakers, older son Tyler, 27, took the reins for the George McDougall varsity squad when his playing

days ended. Younger son Troy, 24, donned a referee’s uniform as a tandem officiating team with his father. Along with refereeing in the Calgary Minor Basketball Association, overseeing up to nine games a week during high-play season, Rabel also has a seat on the southern-city developing team executive. As well as helping bring minor ball to the city, Rabel takes great pride in encouraging and mentoring youngsters in the officiating and coaching arenas. He believes in a homegrown product in all aspects of the game. “We helped train and mentor young basketball officials and we did that here with some of our local kids, so that we could have our own in-house officials. Kids get beat up pretty good when they officiate any sport. We protected them here, taught them well and had senior officials mentor with them,” Rabel says. “I was really proud of the fact that [the minor association] really promoted [clinics] to our coaches to help get them better.” Rabel helped mould the local program to assist players of all ages. The minor basketball association saw the association as a great farm system for junior and high school basketball squads. Players have been able to touch the ball much sooner (beginning at eight years old), get exposure to the game and rules, and experience better coaching as they develop through the divisions. “Instead of sending our young people initially to [Calgary], where they get gobbled up by the big beast,” Rabel says, “we kept them out here and did a mini-program with boys and girls on Friday night. “We protected our league out here. We didn’t take advantage or abuse each other as we learned basketball together. That was really important.” The association pulled out all the stops to keep the kids on the free-throw line. Early on it introduced an end-of-season tournament complete with inspirational music, player introductions and prizes for all the competitors. “We tried to make them feel that was a really important part of their life. For some of those kids that might be the only year they

play basketball, or it might keep them in the game,” he says. Plenty of youngsters did stay with the game, moving through successful programs at both George McDougall and Bert Church high schools. Many players who jumped through the minor association leagues went on to successful careers at the college and university levels. Rabel coached several players who went on to play at Mount Royal and Red Deer College. His lengthy officiating career has offered the chance to keep track of players as they mature through the playing ranks. “These are all kids I got to know when they were little,” he says. “They’ve become quality starter basketball players for many of our post-secondary institutions. “That’s what I love about officiating. It puts me in the gym, keeps me in touch with the kids and gets me great exercise.” life MORE LIFE ONLINE Learn more about the Airdrie Minor Basketball Association at:

Minor basketball continues to be an important part of life for many of the community’s youths fall 2010 | 47

life in the community | nature

Ducks Unlimited story and photos by Carl Patzel

A reflection on pond life in Airdrie

48 | fall 2010


esides the benefits to my pampered pooch, I like to think of my morning stroll as a walk with a purpose. Not only do I take time to stop and smell the Alberta wild roses, but wandering the local trails offers a chance to glimpse nature at its finest. A daily stroll through the pond and canal systems – which link several communities on the west side – can turn up many wondrous images and sites, from the smallest plants and flowers to birds of many feathers, including one of Alberta’s largest winged creatures. Those lucky enough to have access to the water areas use the trail system for daily exercise, whether that be walking or cycling, the occasional jog, a dog walk or some quality family time. The ponds attract plenty of wildlife, from a migrating great blue heron to ducks of all colours and gaggles of Canadian geese. Several winged species use the water areas each spring as kindergartens for their young.

Sparrows can be seen year round nestling in the surrounding trees and swallows soar through the air, diving close to the water’s surface in hopes of catching a bug feast. With long beak and sharp eye, the heron proves a mighty angler, stabbing at the many minnows that can be seen jumping through the surface. It’s a bird-watcher’s delight, even for some frisky felines that skulk through the tall grass waiting for a Tweety Bird to come close. Like the ever-frustrated cartoon cat, Sylvester, they never seem to accomplish a catch. A closer look brings in focus various smaller species of natural plants that give off bright yellow, purple and blue colours that attract buzzing bees. Occasionally a young deer will wander into the tall grass areas near undeveloped land and hawks will lazily circle overhead. When the wind is calm and the sun is just the right height in the sky, you can catch a dramatic reflection of the homes surrounding the water. So next time you’re out for a little exercise, remember to stop and smell the roses. life

fall 2010 | 49

life in the community | Rural Roots

Waisted Enterprise

story by Alex Frazer-Harrison | photos by Sergei Belski

Becker’s Buckles

Becker’s Buckles are custom handmade pieces of jewelry


n this age of mass production, it is nice to know traditional craftsmanship and skill are still alive and well. For more than 20 years, Kraig Becker has been creating waist-level works of art – intricate, often-spectacular buckles that adorn the belts of many of Alberta’s top rodeo athletes and business people. From a distance, the buckles look fascinating enough, but take a closer look and you will see patterns, symbols, logos, raised letters, stones and jewels, all painstakingly melded together.

50 | fall 2010

“A piece of jewelry is what you’re looking for,” says Becker, 41. “[A buckle] is probably one of the fewer things left that you can get custom handmade, hand-carved, engraved. It’s not just a plated piece of tin.” Becker’s family roots run deep in the Airdrie area. His father, Dennis, came from a family that once owned part of the land that now makes up East Airdrie. “I originally lived a mile north of Airdrie,” says Dennis.“And we had property on the east side of the [highway], right in Airdrie.” Dennis’s wife, Karen, comes from the De-

Witt family, who had farmed the Balzac-Airdrie region since 1920 (including land where the rodeo grounds are today). The two married in 1967. Kraig recalls his dad was running a water well-drilling business when he decided to move to a piece of property west of town in 1974. “I wanted to be out on the farm, I wanted to get a farm,” says Dennis.“I bought property just west of Airdrie to start with and then had a chance to sell it again right quick. Talking with Bob [DeWitt, Karen’s father], he said I

should come out a little farther west and build there. And so we were neighbours.” Over time, the Beckers moved into the cattle-penning business and then into reining. “It was mostly quarter-horses and then we had a chance to put up the arena,” says Dennis. Dubbed Becker’s Arena, the facility near Dennis Becker’s home was built in 1990 and has hosted events and programs, such as a reining school. “I have always been interested in horses,” says Dennis, who continues to be involved with the Airdrie and District Agricultural Society as a director. “I’d always had horses from a young age and you gotta be in the country to have a horse. I competed for 24 years in Kraig Becker puts painstaking work into all of his creations

the cattle-penning and the reining industry and won something like 35 belt buckles in all that time.” Ah, yes, the buckles. To rodeo competitors, the buckle is the equivalent of an Olympic medal – a lasting reminder of a competition well-fought and an accomplishment well-earned. Kraig Becker was introduced to the world of buckles in the late 1980s. “Right out of high school, I went to Nebraska with a friend of mine and helped a guy down there make buckles for a couple of weeks

and it just went from there,” says the modestspoken craftsman. “Working with metal and bending and carving – it looked like something I wanted to do.” He makes it sound easy, doesn’t he? But take a tour of Kraig’s workshop – located near his parents’ home and his own property that he bought about 10 years ago – and you will find it takes the eye of a watchmaker, the hands of a surgeon and the discipline of a marble sculptor to transform blank sheets of metal into buckle designs. After a modest start making buckles for family and friends, Kraig’s work now adorns the belts of corporate Calgary and Airdrie – Cam Clark Ford was his first client, he recalls – as well as champions at the Calgary Stampede, Airdrie Pro Rodeo (including Miss Airdrie Pro Rodeo), Tsuu T’ina Nation Rodeo, Canadian Supreme Non Pro Reining, Alberta Cutting Horse Association Championships and many other competitions. His creation usually starts with a piece of paper, on which Kraig sketches a rough design for the buckle – a design that includes several elements including logos, flourishes, stones or jewels or beads and, of course, lettering for the names, years and titles. This is then scanned into a computer. On a sheet of stock metal, the design is scratched into the surface and this becomes the pattern from which Kraig and his staff take various elements that are cut, polished and soldered onto the buckle-to-be. A jeweller’s saw is used to carve pieces of metal into the various letters. “There are a lot of aspects to it,” Kraig says. “There’s soldering, sawing and the whole art form of western engraving. That takes the longest to learn. I’ve been around to a few places to find out different techniques. I’ve been to California and went to a few shows in Rhode Island, and I just kind of picked it up from there … progressively got better.” Oh, and did we mention that at some point during the process the sheet of metal is no longer flat, but has been curved into that distinctive buckle shape? That is where the handsof-a-surgeon part comes in, as it requires a steady hand indeed to manoeuvre the tools that grind and carve the various parts into a

unified design – especially when working on buckles made with gold and silver. “[Working on the curve] makes it twice as hard,” he says. Depending on its complexity, a buckle can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to complete. He has a few people who work with him on various projects. “Not one [buckle] is ever the same as another,” he adds, although he admits that when he’s asked to do a larger order of, say, 20 pieces, “the 19th one gets a little monotonous!” Kraig spent his early years in Airdrie before moving out to the farm at age five with his parents. He was a member of the local 4-H horse club as a youth and today two of his three children – Chelsey, 11, and Sierra, 12 – are currently in their first year with the Balzac Beef Club (his youngest is six-year-old Kolbie). Kraig had been living in Woodside on Airdrie’s west side when he and his wife, Kari, decided about 10 years ago to buy some property near his dad’s place, “so I could build a house and move back. It’s way, way better – more space and just quieter,” he says. Which is a good thing during the busy season for Becker Buckles, which Kraig says goes from May to “November-ish,” although he works year round to also produce buckles for corporations and special events. He says he even already has a couple of orders due around next year’s Stampede. Burning the midnight oil isn’t unknown around his workshop. “A deadline’s a deadline,” he says. “You can’t postpone a rodeo.” With his dad still actively ranching nearby, what does Kraig Becker feel he’s learned the most from his father? “Perseverance, patience and honesty,” he says. “With a job like this, you always want to be honest and do an honest day’s work.” Like many artists, Kraig takes pride in his work and enjoys the feeling of a job well done. “You don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” he says. “But it’s gratifying to see how it turns out.” life fall 2010 | 51







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This map is for thematic purposes only. This map may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means without written permission of the City of Airdrie. The City of Airdrie provides this information in good faith, but it provides no warranty, nor accepts any liability arising from any incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or its improper use.

© April 2010, City of Airdrie

52 | fall 2010


To Calgary & International Airport


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Church School

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US Border (340 km) fall 2010 | 53

life in the community | fire department

All fired


Airdrie firefighters are dedicated to the job story and photos by Anne Beaty


t’s been a year of ups and downs, but the Airdrie Fire Department, formerly Airdrie Emergency Services, is now embracing its role as a unitary fire services organization. Having officially divested itself of emergency medical services earlier in the year, the new department is looking forward to the challenges and successes that lie ahead. After nearly three decades as an integrated service, the transition has gone smoothly, yet it has been difficult on an emotional level. “It’s been a service that we’ve all come to love and appreciate,” Fire Chief Sheldon Leavitt says. Nonetheless, Leavitt is optimistic about

54 | fall 2010

the future, with the evolution of the department as a fire service, as well as for the individual members in terms of personal growth and career opportunities. “Now we’re really going to see some growth on so many levels,” he says. “The sky is pretty much the limit.” Not that the department hasn’t been growing and evolving at a rapid pace already – when Leavitt took on the chief ’s role eight years ago, the integrated emergency medical and fire service boasted a staff of 24. Over time on the fire side, it went from a completely volunteer department to paid-on-call to full-time. As of September 2009, the service had 56 full-time

dual fire- and EMS-trained members on the floor, along with five administrative staff. Now, even with the departure of eight members who did what was right for them by choosing to work as full-time emergency medical providers with Alberta Health Services (AHS) – and more than 40 fire department members working with AHS on a casual basis – the fire department is still going strong. With two dedicated fire stations staffed with dedicated fire crews, there have had to be changes in platoon makeup to match qualifications and experience with each platoon. “That was a big change,” Leavitt says. As well, the department recently acquired

Airdrie Fire Department members practise their vehicle extrication skills

Eight Key Fire Safety Behaviours for Preschool Children from the Learn Not to Burn® Preschool Program

Firefighters go over their individual roles during a day of training at the Calgary fire tower

1. Stay away from hot things that can hurt. 2. Tell a grown-up when you find matches or lighters. 3. Stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch on fire. 4. Cool a burn. 5. Crawl low under smoke. 6. Know the sound of the smoke detector/alarm. 7. Practise an escape plan. 8. Recognize the firefighter as a helper.

a new 100-foot platform aerial truck and two new stations are in the process of being built. The 10,000-square foot Kings Heights station is slated to open in February 2011 and the 25,000-square foot headquarters in the southwest of the city in fall 2011. A third station in Gateway in north Airdrie is on the books for 2013. By that time, Leavitt says, the department will have to start bringing in more manpower and moving the experienced people around. That, of course, will mean logistical and other challenges, but the chief sees it all as par for the course. “Change will always occur. Change is our status quo,” he says.

Assistant Chief Ken Hubbard agrees. “We know change is our constant,” he says. “Our industry changes faster than we can keep up.” For him, the new unitary focus of the department will enhance his ability to devote to his own area of expertise. Hubbard, who has lived in Airdrie since 1977 and has been part of the department since 1986, is responsible for fire training.“There’s lots to do,” he says.“As the (firefighting) industry evolves, we have to evolve with it.” This means continuing to build and enhance relationships with colleagues in the region, especially through the Calgary Regional Emergency Services Training Group

(CREST-G), focusing on the three pillars of firefighting: prevention, preparation and response. One of the original eight full-time members with the department, Hubbard has been living his dream from the beginning. As a child, he went with his Cubs group on tours of Calgary fire halls and the TV show Emergency was a “never-miss,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to be in a field that gave back to the community, that helped people.” Having initially gone through the fire training program for the volunteers with fellow trainees from all walks of life, he immediately felt at home. “Instantly it became family,” he fall 2010 | 55

life in the community | fire department

During Fire Prevention Week, fire prevention officer Chuck D’Amico synchronizes a fire drill at Airdrie Koinonia Christian School, with the help of education assistant Maria Gray

says. That sense of family extended outside the department, as he and his colleagues often have had to work with people from other departments and agencies, such as the RCMP, especially in such emergencies as the snowstorm of 1986. All these experiences have reinforced the importance of teamwork, regardless of the uniform. Now, that teamwork is coming full circle, with all fire department members learning to go with the flow – and see themselves in a whole new light. “We need to take and embrace our future if we want to be a healthy organization,” Leavitt says. Looking ahead, Hubbard, too, realizes that the dynamics have changed, but he accepts the fact that while the department’s roots will always be important, so too are the opportunities and potential in the years to come. “It’s going to be exciting … I know I’m not finished,” he says. Chuck D’Amico is another member who will be honing and sharing his skills even fur-

56 | fall 2010

ther. D’Amico, the assistant chief in charge of community safety, has been spreading the fire safety word far and wide since joining the department in August 2009. Having been with Calgary Fire Department following a career with the RCMP, he is happy to be able to apply all he has learned over the years to his new position in Airdrie. “I love working with kids and I love working with seniors,” he says, adding that he’s happy to work with Baby Boomers, too. “We’re always dealing with all levels to educate.” It may be the motto of the Boy Scouts, but the concept of being prepared is not lost on D’Amico. For him, one of the fire department’s most important roles in the community is education and he wants to ensure all residents are able to protect themselves, while at the same time hoping the worst doesn’t occur.“We’ve got to prepare for what never happens,” he says. Preparation is key to safety and the ultimate scenario, he says, is one in which the fire department will never be needed. “That’s my

job: to put us out of business,” he laughs. That concept is echoed by the chief. What Leavitt sees is a more “holistic” approach, involving education and the input of both the business and the residential communities. “If we’re successful, we wouldn’t have the lights and sirens running around at all hours of the day and night,” Leavitt says. Until such time, though, the Airdrie Fire Department will be moving ahead with a positive attitude, fulfilling its essential role in the community. For D’Amico, the Phoenix Fire Department philosophy says it all: “Prevent harm, survive, be nice.” life

Firefighters clean up away after a day of training

e f a S irdrie A

life in the community | issues

story by Alex Frazer-Harrison


f you see someone throwing a rock through a window or scrawling slogans in spray paint, you’re not seeing a victimless crime. Someone has to clean up that mess, which costs home- and business owners money if it happens to them, and if it happens on city property, it costs all of us through our tax dollars. Several years ago, the City of Airdrie established an anti-vandalism committee to deal with concerns of a perceived increase in vandalism in the city. In 2010, this committee is now set for the next stage of its evolution, broadening its scope to be more of an all-around crime-prevention promoter. Earlier this year, it rebranded itself the Safe Airdrie Partnership, with the slogan “Promoting Community Involvement for a Safer Airdrie.” “In 2006, the public became concerned with vandalism,” says Safe Airdrie committee member Robbie White, community developer for youth with the City of Airdrie. “I don’t want to say there was an increase, because the statistics don’t reflect that … maybe it was just more visible, but there was quite a bit of outcry over vandalism.” City council was asked to consider a youth curfew, which resulted in protests. “I’m told some youths actually chained themselves to the bike racks out front [of City Hall],” says White. “So instead of going to curfew, [council] sent back to staff for other options. “The community developer for youth at the time promoted that the anti-vandalism committee address vandalism from a preventative standpoint, instead of being reactionary. They had a number of initiatives and focused on community-building, taking a more positive look at a negative issue.”

After White and his colleague, community developer Kim Harris, joined the City, the committee became involved in several initiatives. For example, it hosted a “Crimefighting Café” at City Hall.“We didn’t really sell it as a way to fight crime, but more a way to get the community together and talk about it,” says White. This idea was also extended to schools, with sessions being held for student leaders at both George McDougall and Bert Church high schools. White noticed some interesting trends with these gatherings. “All the youth agreed that graffiti and vandalism were crimes and they knew it was happening, but chose not to act on it,” White says. “The general consensus was that it was a victimless crime, and one message we try to put out there is it’s not victimless. But when talking to youth, there’s not much point talking about taxes, etc., because they’re not paying them directly. So you have to look at different ways of talking about it.” Airdrie’s RCMP detachment appointed two community resource officers (CROs) to improve communication and relationships between law enforcement and citizens, in particular youths. Constables Patti Reid and Rob Frizzell have spent much of their time interacting with kids, in and out of school. “When this committee was formed, one of its goals was to get CROs in Airdrie,” says White. “They started in September [2009]. They’ll go to Genesis Place on Toonie Night and play sports with them … and they’ve been trying to get to know the kids better.” Another initiative supported by the committee pushes the idea of making positive choices. “We’ve come up with a ‘You’ve Been Caught Doing Good’ program,” says Harris. “So whether it’s a youth or adult, if you’ve

Anti-vandalism initiatives bring the community together

been caught doing something good, maybe you might get a coupon or a chocolate bar – some incentive.” Harris says the details of this program are still being worked out, while White notes similar examples of “positive ticketing” have been undertaken to great response in Richmond, B.C., and locally Airdrie municipal enforcement “has been doing positive ticketing for a while. Even Citizens on Patrol (COP) wants to start doing that.” Harris says Safe Airdrie is also looking into creating an anti-vandalism tool kit. “It would be about how to spot it, how to look for it,” she says,“and include some inexpensive tricks, like how to light your house to prevent things from happening in your neighbourhood.” Right now, the committee is exploring funding options for this project. One initiative that has been around for a while and is getting good response is the neighbourhood incentive program. “It’s a grant of up to $500 that people can get to do some community-building initiative,” explains White. “Often, it’s used for things like block parties, but it’s not exclusively for that. For example, one community used it to put up a sign for posting community notices.” Adds Harris:“It’s [also] something that can be used in a neighbourhood to beautify it, like putting in some trees or plants.” It’s all about giving residents greater sense of pride and ownership in their community, says White. So the question is, with raised awareness of vandalism and other property-related crime in Airdrie, have the efforts of the antivandalism/Safe Airdrie committee, COP, the RCMP and others made a difference? continued on page 60 fall 2010 | 57

life in the community | mentors Mentor Robbie White (left) shares a laugh with his mentee, Nevan Cunnah

Matching youths with mentors

mPowered story by Alex Frazer-Harrison | photo by Sergei Belski


eing a teenager is a full-time job, and like every job there’s stress, fatigue and the occasional desire to express your frustrations. Fortunately, Airdrie teens have access to mPower, a mentorship program that promotes positive guidance and friendship between youths and adults. Nevan Cunnah met his mentor, Robbie White, when he was in Grade 10. At the time, the program was called the Alberta Mentor Foundation for Youth (AMFY); in 2008, it merged with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Calgary and Area (BBBS) and became mPower. For Cunnah, who just graduated from Grade 12, one of the biggest impacts of mPower is illustrated by the fact he’s able to express himself in an interview. “I’ve usually had a tough time communicating with people; whether they’re the same age as me or younger or older, I had difficulty communicating with them,” he says. “When I started [the mentorship program], my communication got better and I talked a lot more, and I was more social. “It brought my life around a bit more. Now, every time I meet Robbie, I know I can always talk to him, knowing he won’t say anything to anybody at all about what I just said. It gives me a place to go and talk.”

White signed up with AMFY/mPower after already working with youths such as Cunnah in his position as community developer for youth with the City of Airdrie. In fact, when he was matched with Cunnah, the two already knew each other from a youth council called Hyjinx that they attended. “I was new to the City of Airdrie, and there was a lady who works here who’d been mentoring for a few years and was trying to get people to work with AMFY, especially males, because there was a need for that,” White says. “With the nature of the work I do, working with youth, it seemed like a natural fit. “I already knew Nevan, because he’s on the youth council, but it was a coincidence, because it’s not as if I was asked to be matched with him.” Cunnah says he didn’t realize his mom had been looking into the mentoring program until he got called to the guidance counsellor’s office one day. “I thought I was in trouble – I thought, oh jeez!” he laughs.“Then I saw Robbie standing there and they started asking if I wanted to be part of [the program].” During the school year, once a week Cunnah and White would meet at the school for an hour. For Cunnah, that has been real quality time. “We mostly play cards and that’s how we get

into conversation about stuff,” he says.“We talk about what’s going on in life … just playing a leisurely game and having good conversation.” And the communication goes both ways, says White. “It’s not as though Nevan is the only beneficiary – it’s a two-way thing,” he says. “When I try to sell the idea to people, they think,‘I don’t have a skill or special talent,’ but having a conversation with someone is no different than sitting down with a friend and having a chat.” The mPower program is currently offered though the Airdrie branch of the BBBS, says Tim MacDonald, Airdrie and area co-ordinator for the organization. “The mPower program is about connecting concerned, caring adults in the community with students in middle school or high school,” MacDonald says. “Sometimes the students themselves, or their parents or teachers, think they’d benefit from having a mentor, and so the mentor will come on one hour a week to connect with the student.” Mentoring appeals to all demographics – it’s not a case of it being just for single-parent kids or kids on the wrong side of the law or heading in that direction, MacDonald says. Instead, mPower is aimed at anyone who might benefit from just having someone to talk to. “The requirements we have for mentors is fall 2010 | 59

life in the community | mentors

they must be over 20 years old and they must have a flexible work schedule … and we ask they commit for one school year,” MacDonald says. This is because the meetings take place during school hours only, although BBBS does host occasional special events, such as trips to Calaway Park for mentors and mentees. Mentors undergo security clearance and other checks before being matched with compatible students. And once they start their meetings, MacDonald steps away and lets them do their thing. “Confidentiality is a very high priority for us,” he says. “When Robbie and Nevan hang out, what they talk about is their concern – I have no idea what they talk about! And we value that.” Says Cunnah:“I really enjoy the time I spend with Robbie – every time we meet, it seems like I’m hanging out with a really good friend. I like how I can always talk to him about stuff and he gives me his honest opinion.” In the true tradition of ‘paying it forward,’ Cunnah has even found himself informally acting as a mentor to some of his classmates. “I’ve actually been trying to help my friends

a bit,” he says. “I’m almost trying to mentor them a bit within the school, help out like a friend would. They always come to me with their problems.” Cunnah says he’d consider becoming an mPower mentor after graduation, which is something MacDonald considers to be a best-case scenario. “The best would be to have students go from mentee to mentor,” MacDonald says. “We encourage the students to do that – it doesn’t always happen, but it would be fantastic.” In fact, BBBS recently launched its Teen Mentoring program in Airdrie that promises to spawn a new generation of mentors. So far, 85 high school students have signed up to provide mentorship for elementary school children aged six to 12. “It’s basically a carbon copy of the mPower program, where these high school students go and mentor elementary school students in school hours during free time,” says MacDonald. “We actually have more mentors than mentees right now. We have 60-70 little guys who will meet their teen mentors soon.”

Besides considering his options as a future mentor, and continuing his work with Hyjinx, Cunnah is also getting ready to take the plunge into a career field post-high school.“I hope to get into SAIT to take their IT program,” he says. “I’ve had this planned since Grade 9. I love working with computers and technology.” Cunnah says his experiences with his mentor have left him better prepared to face the world of post-secondary school and work. “Before, if I tried to talk to someone, I wouldn’t,” he says. “The time I spend with Robbie helps me get out of that shell and helps me get ready for the life outside of high school.” The mPower program currently has about 18 matches in Airdrie and area, including one in Crossfield. “We’re looking to expand up there, too,” says MacDonald. There’s currently a waiting list and MacDonald says the program is particularly in need of more male mentors. life FOR MORE INFORMATION about mPower mentoring opportunities, call Tim MacDonald at 403-771-4340, or visit:, where you can apply online for the program.

life in the community | issues continued from page 57

This is, of course, always hard to qualify. But the number of cases of property damage and mischief reported to police in recent years do show some interesting trends: • 2007 - 639 reports; • 2008 - 722; and • 2009 - 644. The numbers show a spike in 2008, but then a dramatic dropoff last year. Sgt. Dennis Esayenko, acting NCO (non-commissioned officer) with the Airdrie RCMP detachment, says it’s important to remember that Airdrie saw considerable population growth between 2007 and 2009, so for the number of cases to actually drop back almost to two-year-old levels is notable, given the issue is on more people’s radars these days. “As awareness increases, the numbers usually go up, so this is a surprising aspect,” says Esayenko, adding that the CRO program, public education and the efforts of the antivandalism committee are among the factors that have contributed to the decrease.

60 | fall 2010

And month-over-month trends seem to be continuing downward, too. Esayenko recently reported to the City that in November and December 2009, 63 property damage/ mischief complaints were filed, way down from the 109 reported during the same two months of 2008. White and Harris say that although efforts have been successful, more has to be done. One idea on the table is to broaden the scope of the committee to better reflect its overall goal to prevent crime, which resulted in the new Safe Airdrie name for the group. “We sat down and started talking about why this committee exists,” says White.“What should crime prevention look like in Airdrie? We’ve moved beyond [anti-vandalism]. “One of our members said we’re a victim of our own success; we set out to do certain things and we did them, so now what?” The partnership currently includes the City of Airdrie, Citizens on Patrol, Airdrie RCMP, Crime Stoppers and community members.

Reid says one possible direction is for the committee members to improve collaboration. “For example, [COP] volunteers put on 28,000 kilometres last year to keep their neighbours safe,” she says. “How do we encourage people to have healthy neighbourhoods and take pride in their homes and have safer communities? “Through the collaboration of all these groups, that’s what we hope to achieve for Airdrie.” White and Harris say fresh perspectives are always welcome on the committee, adding that they’re looking for new community members on a continued basis. There’s no prerequisite for joining, other than a desire to help improve life in Airdrie. life FOR MORE INFORMATION about the City of Airdrie’s anti-vandalism and crime-prevention efforts, to volunteer as a Safe Airdrie committee member or to find out more about the neighbourhood incentive program, visit: or call 403-948-8800.


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life at home | options

Airdrie’s housing market is right on track for 55-plus demographic

Mature Homes Market story by Alex Frazer-Harrison | photo by Kristy Riemer


Choices are improving for 55+ crowd

ging in place – the idea of being able to stay in familiar surroundings, a favourite community, without having to move elsewhere as one’s housing needs change – is a concept that has grown in stature in the last few years. Back when Airdrie was a small town, this often meant someone wanting to downsize to a condo, or who needed assisted living, would have to look at relocating to Calgary or elsewhere. Today, many housing options are available right here. “The mature market is maturing,” says Alan Tennant of Re/Max Rocky View.“We’re slowly seeing a broader selection, a broader base.” Tennant says older buyers are attracted to Airdrie because it allows them to be closer to family and because Airdrie provides a “jumping-off point” for visiting other parts of Alberta or taking advantage of Calgary’s airport. “I think things have improved dramatically in the last five years and there are better choices out there,” adds Bonnie Wegerich of Century 21 Castlewood Agencies.“People are

looking for something with minimal maintenance and … don’t want to worry about whether they hire someone to cut the grass or shovel the snow. “I think for sure the attraction is the smalltown atmosphere, and the community spirit in Airdrie is huge.” Housing options in Airdrie include standard single-family homes, of course, with new communities, such as King’s Heights, Reunion and Cooper’s Crossing, offering plenty of selection. There are also condos and townhomes, many offering maintenance-free living. There is also more available in terms of affordable and subsidized housing for seniors. The Airdrie-based Rocky View Foundation recently added 12 more suites to its Diamond Jubilee Manor and Suites downtown. “It’s independent living, and for 60-plus … there is a demand for senior housing and independent living and we always have a wait list,” says foundation CAO Carol Borschneck. The 32-suite government-subsidized

property is close to medical services, shopping and transit. For residents looking for independent living with the option of additional support, Luxstone Manor opened last year. “Luxstone Manor is a supportive-living facility, and that is we provide three meals a day, housekeeping, laundry and activities,” says Gene Zinyk, president of Integrated Life Care Inc., which operates Luxstone. “What we’re finding is a lot of people are coming to Airdrie, No. 1 because they have family here. Airdrie seems to be a younger community, so children [here] want to bring their parents in.” The 92 suites at Luxstone are “steadily filling up,” Zinyk says, adding that his company is now looking at working with Alberta Health Services to expand Luxstone to include assisted-living residences. This is the next level of care, for people with greater needs in terms of medical and other support. Meanwhile, Cedarwood Station, a retirement community near downtown, has also found its services in high demand. fall 2010 | 65

life at home | options

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Cedarwood Station retirement community’s common area provides a homey atmosphere

“We’ve had to put people on a long waiting list – we’re down to our last two-bedroom unit,” says Elisa Prashad, vice-president of marketing for Toronto-based Origin Active Lifestyle Communities Inc. “There’s definitely a demand” for the wellness-centred services provided at Cedarwood, she says. “Definitely, [Airdrie] is a more family-oriented community. We find about one-third of our resident population is [here] because their family is in Airdrie.” Bethany Airdrie opened its residence on the west side 23 years ago and has been home to many “people with long-standing ties to the community” over the years, says administrator Randy Bourassa. Bethany offers a mixture of supportive living for independent seniors (“Meals, housekeeping, social and leisure, and 24-hour emergency response,” explains Bourassa), as well as continuing-care rooms for residents with round-the-clock medical needs who cannot live on their own. Bourassa says the needs of today’s seniors “are completely different now than 10-20 years ago. They’re much more active, individual in their needs and choices.” Reflecting the growing number of housing options available for older Airdrionians, Trina Balkwill recently launched A Place for Mom and Dad Seniors Housing Transition Services.

“I started my business by listening to seniors and families on what they were feeling and experiencing when facing later-life transition issues,” Balkwill says, adding that they often feel confused by the different types of housing choices. “I advocate for them and help them ask the appropriate questions,” she says, adding that the first step is to go over the clients’ current housing situation to see if options exist for staying in their own home, such as accessing homecare. “We’ll provide referrals and counselling … a single point of contact for families when dealing with managers, realtors, movers. I hope to help take away the stress of helping them choose a residence.” Borschneck says she’s noticed newer communities are moving toward being more senior-friendly, noting the increased use of wheelchair-accessible curbs, for example. According to Tennant, although Airdrie has a lot to offer, there is room for further growth in terms of housing options for older buyers, especially on the higher end. “I’ve had a lot of people in the 55-plus bracket end up buying a so-called conventional home because they couldn’t find what they were looking for,” he says.“I hope developers consider offering some high-end alternatives for 55-plus. I think they’re a growing market in Airdrie.” life

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life at home | spaces

Home Office Design story by Stacey Carefoot

Creating a workable space


hether you use your home office as the hub of a home business or employ it as a catch-all room, its level of efficiency and your level of productivity undeniably relate back to organization.

Everything in its place

“Start with de-cluttering,” says local design expert Linda Cummins, who reminds us that the saying, ‘There is a place for everything and everything in its place’ is ultra important when it comes to our home offices. “Have the items you use most easily accessible so you’re not wasting unnecessary time getting to them. Being organized just makes everyone happier. Have quick and easy access to information and schedules.” It is essential to place things where they belong, Cummins adds, so other family members could walk into your home office and easily locate what they are looking for should you be unavailable. In order to spend less time sifting through those endless piles of paper, Cummins recommends labelling envelopes to house receipts and filing important documents immediately, as opposed to allowing them to pile up until your inbox overflows onto your office floor. To avoid clutter on open shelving, she suggests keeping well-labelled manuals, binders and folders in the open and all other unsightly elements behind closed doors.

72 | fall 2010

Design details

Once you are organized and decluttered, you can then consider design elements that will increase your productivity and level of professionalism. There is no end to furnishings, storage and shelving for home offices, but before busting out and purchasing anything, says professional decorator Leah Buss, keep scale and proportion at the forefront of every purchase and placement. “Scale is based on perception; objects appear to change size based on other objects around them. Furniture that is too large crowds a small room, making it appear even smaller,” Buss says, cautioning against placing big, bulky desks in smaller office spaces. She also emphasizes the importance of furniture pieces not overpowering each other and considers ample storage and shelving to be one of the key elements in office functionality. When deciding on a colour palette for your home office, both experts agree that choosing a shade that is both cheerful and calming would work best.“Green is a great office colour choice,” says Cummins, who also recommends gold and yellow tones to her clients. As for colour’s memory-sparking capabilities, “It’s no coincidence that 3M™ Post-it® notes are yellow,” she says. Buss suggests using an appealing piece of fabric or artwork as your starting point and allowing other colours you bring into the

room to fall in line.“Save the strong colours for small pieces – chairs, artwork or accessories,” she says. Light up your life

Lighting should also play a big part in home office design and decorating. Improper lighting can cause eyestrain and decrease your productivity. The use of natural light complemented by task lighting will allow you to control illumination levels with the help of blinds, sheers and curtains. Positioning your computer screen away from direct sunlight will reduce the opportunity for glare. “Proper lighting has the ability to energize you,” says Cummins. A general rule of thumb when it comes to task lighting is to use a desk lamp with an adjustable arm and a three-way bulb, allowing you to control position and light levels. Place the lamp on your left if you are right-handed and to the right if you are left-handed. If you are lucky enough to have a comfortable chair in your home office, use a floor lamp to provide you with the light you need for reading or relaxation.

Declutter, organize, design and decorate: These four easy steps will lead to endless levels of productivity and comfort in your home office and throughout your entire living space, regardless of square footage or budget. life

Be creative with




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life at home | interiors

Insider advice on your interiors story by Stacey Carefoot


hile we prepare to say sayonara to summer and bid our lawns and gardens adieu, it’s time to turn our attention inward and sink our teeth into little home decorating changes that will make a big difference. We talk to three Airdriebased interior designers for their advice. Most homeowners are limited by time and budget but according to a few of our favourite interior design experts there are numerous ways to increase your home’s appeal without breaking the bank. “You can make the largest impact by painting,” says Marlene Weaver. “If you are in an older home that could use new paint, choose a colour that pulls the majority of your decorating objects together; if your home is new and you love the colour of your walls [add] a splash of colour by creating an accent wall or two.” Injecting colour can be done by painting islands, niches and walls, keeping in mind that any new accent colour should appear

76 | fall 2010

at least three times, in three different places, in each room. Weaver suggests that a colour consultation with an expert is always money well spent. If painting isn’t your thing, perhaps simply rearranging your home furnishings can give you a whole new perspective. Keep in mind that every room should allow for easy traffic flow. “Space furniture so that you don’t have one side of the room feeling top-heavy,” says Weaver, who suggests distributing larger pieces of furniture evenly throughout a room and then filling in spaces with smaller accent furnishings. According to Leah Buss, furniture placement can affect usage, flow and focus of a room. “By changing the orientation of your furnishings, you can alter how you use a room or how it feels. Determine the current focal point of your room and try to create a new arrangement around it or an alternative feature in the room,” advises Buss.

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when redecorating is not treating each room as part of a whole. Our experts recommend drawing up a plan and following it through, even if it takes years to complete your whole home. This isn’t to say that all rooms have to match. Linda Cummins says taking an element, texture, colour or pattern from room to room will allow for continuity and bring a harmonious feel throughout your home. “All rooms don’t have to match; that would be way too boring,” jokes Cummins. To prevent impulse buying and wasted dollars, Buss recommends planning in advance where you want to allocate your money. “Determine the focal point in your room and make your purchases to enhance and coordinate with it,” says Buss, who also suggests getting extra mileage out of artwork, area rugs and other accessories by moving them to new locations throughout your home. life



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Area Manager 77

life at home | gardens

The Pumpkin Patch

If only Linus knew Eddy ...

story by Ellen Kelly | photos by Kurtis Kristianson While Eddy Zaychkowsky may not be growing his massive pumpkins this year, he’s still keeping busy and all set to get started again in 2011

“Go big or go home,” says Eddy Zaychkowsky when asked about his

plans for next year’s giant pumpkin growing competition. Zaychkowsky has his eye on the world record and says,“I would love to break 1,500 or 1,600 pounds next year. I’m shooting for that.” This year is a transition year for the local grower as he reduces the number and increases the size of his greenhouses. He needs 700-800 square feet to grow a world-record-sized pumpkin – pumpkins are dependent on growing space as well as climate.“I can change the climate somewhat in the greenhouse but I was running out of square footage. And we’re thinking of heating systems – in-ground water heat to warm up the soil. This isn’t a hobby, it’s an obsession.” Zaychkowsky, who lives nine miles east of Airdrie, has been growing giant pumpkins and long gourds in his greenhouses for the past eight years, ever since his father told him he couldn’t grow pumpkins in Alberta. “We’re 700 pounds behind the world-record ones,” he says. “Our night temperatures and lack of humidity kill us.” He has taken

78 | fall 2010

first place in squash and first place in long gourds at the Smoky Lake, Alta., annual competition. In 2007 he placed second with a pumpkin weighing 1,011 pounds; in 2008 he tied for first with a 770.5-pound pumpkin.“The ironic thing about the 770.5-pounder,” Zaychkowsky says,“is that the guy who tied with me grew his pumpkin on my seed, so I won both ways.” His first-place long gourd measured 98 inches. Hard-shelled gourds are grown on a trellis and look like long English cucumbers. The vine climbs the trellis and gravity makes the gourd grow downward. Long gourds are judged strictly by length. The focus of the competition is on friendship. The few growers in Alberta from such places as Lloydminster, Taber and Airdrie meet growers from the Okanagan at this once-a-year celebration. The prize money at Smoky Lake is $1,200 – not much compared to the cost of raising the pumpkins. “It’s not about the money,” says Zaychkowsky. “The nice thing is to try and beat what you did the year before.” Raising pumpkins is no small feat. In five months, a pumpkin plant goes from nothing to 1,000 pounds.“When I plant on May 1, they’re very small, just two little leaves,” says Zaychkowsky,“but by July they’ve grown to 700 square feet of plant.” One pumpkin gained 43 pounds in 24 hours.“But really,” says Zaychkowsky,“most of the growth happens at night in a three-hour period. I’ve measured at 8 p.m. and again at 9 p.m. and it’s gained two inches in circumference. On a big pumpkin, that equates to about 20 pounds.” The soil is so rich other plants would die in it.“I don’t fertilize, I use organics,” says Zaychkowsky.“Not all pumpkins can take the rich soil, but the giants do. They love fertility, they love water and they love heat.” Each plant needs about 50 gallons of water a day which, starting this year, will be natural water coming from Zaychkowsky’s new dugout. Although more watery than smaller jack-o-lantern-variety pumpkins, the giants are edible and taste great. Most of the growers use organics and Zaychkowsky says his pumpkins see absolutely zero chemical fertilizer. “I’ve been working on my own strain of seed and we’re hoping next year to get something really, really good,” he says.“Out of the 10 people I’ve known who have grown my seeds, they’ve all grown a personal best. The genetics are good.” Zaychkowsky doesn’t sell his seeds. Most growers give them away or donate them to clubs for seed auctions. Seeds might go for $1,000, with the money going to the club. Even with his own personal triumphs when it comes to the giant squash, Zaychkowsky says, “Anyone out here, with a little bit of care, could grow a 300-pound pumpkin outside. They need a lot of room, good soil and plenty of water.” The pumpkins bought here at

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Halloween come mainly from California, but some are grown by the Hutterites east of Airdrie, in the Okanagan and around Taber. “It’s a lot of fun,” Zaychkowsky says of his organic pursuit. “We’ve had countless numbers of classrooms come through and spend the afternoon looking at the pumpkins. And it’s a phenomenal stress reliever. I drive through the gate, walk down to the greenhouse, and in about 10 minutes I can’t remember why I was stressed.” Zaychkowsky has donated pumpkins to various charity events, including the Blue Grass Pumpkin Festival, celebrity carvings, the mayor’s gala and a display at the Country Hills Golf Club (with proceeds going to Alberta Children’s Hospital). “You feel sad sometimes when the season is over but it’s a relief,” says Zaychkowsky.“That last day – when I don’t have to close the greenhouse door – it’s OK. It’s the life cycle of the plant – it’s done. Next year is the new generation.” life Pumpkin Facts Canadian record (grown in Ontario) – 1,678 pounds World record (grown in Ohio) – 1,725 pounds Western Canadian record (grown in Vancouver) – 1,500 pounds

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life at home | backyard Crabapples are some of the most popular trees in Airdrie and area


Out The truth about trees story and photo by Anne Beaty


No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm; But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm. How often already you’ve had to be told, Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold. – Robert Frost: Good-bye, and Keep Cold ________________________

80 | fall 2010


hile fall may not be the time you think a whole lot about planting in your yard and garden, it is an ideal time to put in some trees, as is spring. During these ‘dormant’ times of the year, it’s not as hot and the trees won’t undergo stress; therefore they can put their energy into developing a strong root system. Trees can be planted in the fall pretty much any time. What’s important is to ensure the planting hole is the proper size: three times the width of and as deep as the root ball, with the soil around it loosened up. The hole can also be made a bit deeper than the root ball, with fresh top soil going in the bottom. Once the tree is planted, saturate the root ball for the first couple of days and then water regularly after that, but make sure not to overwater. Unless the temperature rises quite a bit for an extended period of time, at least one to two times a week should be fine, provided the soil is staying moist, but not saturated. When it comes to existing trees, the No. 1 tip in our part of the country is to ensure that the tree stays well-watered right up to freeze-up, so the root ball stays frozen through winter and doesn’t ‘wake up’ during warmer periods. “You want to make sure they stay watered in for the winter. You don’t want your tree to start waking up and think it’s spring,” says Brent Park from Blue Grass Nurseries. As for pruning, now is a great time to clean house.“Anything dead can be pruned off … and you just cut back until there’s life,” says Park’s colleague, Shari Eitzen. As well, some trees may be developing suckers. This, Park says, is usually a sign that the tree is under some sort of stress. It’s OK to prune back the suckers now, but wait until spring to fertilize. “Don’t fertilize in the fall, because you want your tree to go dormant,” he says, adding that when spring comes, using fertilizers with a high middle number, indicating phosphorous, will encourage root growth and development. When it comes to what type of tree to plant, it all depends on what you’re looking for – shade, decoration, fruit. For Airdrie’s climate and environment, Park has some recommendations for trees that will do well here. Larger trees include: Colorado blue spruce, which grows to 20 metres tall by five to nine metres wide; Swedish columnar aspen, a tall but compact deciduous tree that will reach 20 metres while only growing two metres wide; and the ever-popular Schubert chokecherry, which reaches eight metres in height and four metres in breadth. Popular smaller trees include: any kind of crabapple, which can grow to five or six metres high and three to four metres wide; upright juniper, at three to four metres tall and one to 1½ metres wide, with one of the hardiest varieties being Wichita blue juniper; and Japanese tree lilac, at seven metres tall and five metres wide. This tree has become quite popular in our region. “We get a lot of requests for Japanese tree lilac,” Park says. The City of Airdrie also has suggestions on its website ( for trees that do well locally, which run the gamut from Russian olive and mayday to linden and Scots pine. The website also has valuable information on what to take into account when planting trees on your property, such as location of over- and underground utilities. So even though the growing season may be coming to an end, now might be just the time to start planning for next year and putting in your own little bit of urban forest. life

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fall 2010 | 85

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life at work | economic factors



Zone Zoomers are attracted to Airdrie story by Alex Frazer-Harrison | photo by Kristy Reimer


hile much has been made of how young a city Airdrie is, this community has also proven to be a rich draw for older Albertans, specifically those aged 55 and up. Dubbed “zoomers” by Canadian media guru (and zoomer himself ) Moses Znaimer, this older demographic is made up of people in the prime of their careers, people who have retired and are looking for new opportunities, and people who have reached the point where they’re ready to retire. And Airdrie offers plenty to attract this demographic. One of the biggest attractions is the variety of housing opportunities here, says Kent Rupert, Economic Development team leader for the City of Airdrie. “Airdrie, a number of years ago, used to be big houses on big lots, but we’ve been diversifying our housing to include things like townhouses and apartment condos,” he says. “That allows seniors [who] want to downsize their house and move into something smaller [to] have that option in Airdrie.” Encouraging “aging in place” – from prime-of-career single-family homes all the way up to seniors’ condos and even, if necessary, longterm care residences – means that as people get older they don’t have to look at leaving Airdrie if their needs can’t be met here. That also includes boomer/zoomer-friendly amenities and services, such as Airdrie’s recently revamped transit system and the new ICE bus link to downtown Calgary, and the Genesis Place recreation centre, which provides many activities for zoomers and seniors. People in the 55-plus demographic have long come to Airdrie as a way of opening new horizons. Jean Simpson, 68, moved to Airdrie from Calgary nine years ago when she and business partner Carolyn Kaun started Airdrie Office Supplies Ltd. “We wanted to go into business for ourselves, but we weren’t sure

88 | fall 2010

Jean Simpson was filling a need when she opened Airdrie Office Supplies

what we wanted to do,” recalls Simpson, who had worked as a controller for a steel company and an entertainment organization before deciding to set out on her own. “We met with people at the City of Airdrie and asked them, ‘If you could have any business, what would you like?’ No. 1 on the list was an office supply store, because Airdrie didn’t have one.” Simpson has seen tremendous growth in Airdrie over the last nine years, but says that she wouldn’t live anywhere else. “I can’t say I didn’t like Calgary, because I did, but Calgary is getting a lot larger and when I came to Calgary 40 years ago it wasn’t anything like it is today. I just find it takes me so long to get around. “But in Airdrie, I can be anywhere in five minutes. And Airdrie has community things like the rodeo and we have our [Canada Day] parade, and you find you know everyone in that parade!” But the biggest impact Airdrie has had on Simpson – and if you’re looking for ‘old-fashioned values,’ this is it – is how Airdrionians come together to help people in need. “There was a fire and four houses burned – everyone stepped up immediately to get these people help,” Simpson says. “Another lady … her house burned down a year ago and the community stepped up and had a fundraiser for her. I don’t know of anyone who got in serious trouble the community has not stepped in for.” This idea of helping out is reflected in the arrival of new businesses aimed at providing support to Airdrie’s older population. “We provide companionship and we encourage seniors to participate in activities they enjoy doing – it’s about engaging them,” says Robyn Pearson, owner of A Friend Indeed, a service that opened in May. For example, Pearson helped one senior take on the daunting task of updating her wardrobe, figuring out what pieces worked best and then helping her buy them at her favourite shop. Although similar services exist in Calgary, having a local service like

TELUS Products and Service you can depend on. A Friend Indeed makes it easier for older Airdrie residents to access this kind of support, which goes beyond helping with chores, shopping or getting to the doctor. Sometimes it’s just a case of listening. “I’m an extra set of eyes and ears for the family, and we’re a safe person [for the client] to talk with,” says Pearson. “We’re not nurses or homecare, but I see us as a complement to homecare.” Mike De Bokx, president of the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce, notes with tongue in cheek that he’s “starting to see some similarly grey-haired business owners in town, and I think it’s a positive. It’s not just young 20-somethings; we’re seeing people who may have been in the corporate world and are now following a dream they’ve had all their life. “Now, they can build on that experience they’ve had and the contacts they’ve made and become a success because of everything they’ve done previously,” De Bokx adds. And with Canada’s older population ever growing, and becoming ever more active, Airdrie’s ‘grey power’ isn’t likely to peak anytime soon. life

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Old Teahouse life at work | location


Local business owner takes downtown revitalization seriously with his new office

story by Alex Frazer-Harrison | photos by Sergei Belski

90 | fall 2010

Although fully renovated, the old teahouse building still pays tribute to its storied past

Bryan Muir is pleased to be able to preserve some of Airdrie’s history


t’s been standing since the days of the Northwest Rebellion, when places like Airdrie and Calgary were little more than blips on the unsettled frontier of the Canadian West. The building at 117 First St. NW has gone by many names since it was erected in 1885, including the Three Window House and, for

some 15 years starting in the 1990s, just the Tea House after it was converted from a residence to a business. Today, this historic property has been given a new lease on life, thanks to renovations undertaken by local financial planner Bryan Muir. Amazingly, the work was all but completed inside of six months, a fact made more amazing by the hurdles Muir faced in getting the project off the ground. “They told me even Mike Holmes wouldn’t touch this place!” Muir recalls of one visit by inspectors soon after he’d purchased the property for the purpose of relocating his office from Main Street. “When I bought it, I thought I’d put in a few renovations, a bit of paint, remodel a bit – but it couldn’t be further from the truth. As we checked things out, we found we had a lot of problems – we redid all the electrical, the plumbing was all redone, the heating had to be upgraded; we put a lot of work into it.” And we won’t even go into the wasps’ nests found inside the walls. Or the fact the City of Airdrie was unable to find any past development permits for the property. So if the property required so much work, why not tear it down and build from scratch? Muir says that while some people suggested this, he wanted to keep the 125-year-old structure intact as much as possible. “There had to be another way than tearing it down,” he says. “I would really like us to preserve some of the past of Airdrie and incorporate that with the new growth. I’ve always believed, you don’t know where you’re going ‘til you know where you’ve been. That’s why I wanted to keep this place.” Muir says there were times when he felt he had bit off more than he could chew once work began last December. Although he hired contractors to do some of the work, much of it was done by himself and his friends. All this while he maintained his retirement income-planning business, Muir Financial, during the height of RSP season and completed his master of financial advisor program, to boot. “People were telling us we should get rid of the place … I said let’s hunker down, and with

help from quite a few good friends, we were able to bring it to where it is today,” says Muir. “My family was very supportive,” he adds. “At one point, I came home and my wife had changed into a dress and my suit was lying on the bed. My [two] daughters said, ‘You gotta put your suit on,’ and they blindfolded us and sat us at the table. The girls said, ‘You need a date with Mom,’ so they cooked us supper!” By May 2010, the majority of the work had been completed, although additional work, such as installing new tiles and finishing exterior walls, continued into the summer. “I look back and I go, how did I ever get it done?” Muir laughs. Walking through the renovated building, it’s hard to believe it used to be a tea house and, before that, a residence. The first floor has space for four offices that are leased out to several small businesses, including a psychologist, a counsellor and a bookkeeper. The second floor is where Muir runs his business. Among the changes Muir reluctantly made in order to bring the building up to current code was replacing the barn floor upstairs, plus he had to thicken one of the walls to meet current fire code. Muir says he wants to commemorate the history of the building and has done research and interviews with long-time residents to find out more about the place. He hopes to give the building an official name reflecting its history. “Three Window House” is a candidate, but Muir says other ideas reflecting its ownership might come up. “I want to create a heritage story behind this house and put a plaque out front,” he says. “I’d like to create an ownership history of the house. For example, I heard at one time it was a CP Rail house, and I also heard it was an RCMP house. “I’m trying to track that back, so I’m appealing to anyone in the community: if you have pictures or lived in this property, please contact me.” Anyone with historical information about the history of the one-time Three Window House/Tea House is invited to contact Muir at: life fall 2010 | 91

life at work | careers



Perfect City planners have a huge responsibility story by Anne Beaty | photo by Sergei Belski


rawing on ideas from around the globe, City of Airdrie urban planners are working hard at building a sustainable community; creating ‘people places’; providing greater living, working and playing choices; and enhancing residents’ quality of life. Their job entails not only dealing with today’s issues, but also crystal-balling decades down the road. “Planning as a profession tends to be future-oriented,” says Jeff Greene, former Airdrie manager of Planning, Parks and Sustainability, who recently made the move to the City of Lethbridge. “We therefore anticipate how communities are evolving.” If Airdrie was designed as a suburb, merely an extension of Calgary, then building roads and houses would be all the planning department need concern itself with, Greene says. However, if Airdrie wishes to evolve as a sustainable municipality with its own separate identity, planners must look at much more – creating employment centres, adding more transit, balancing housing needs, ensuring

92 | fall 2010

Airdrie is a walkable community and a whole host of other concepts and designs. The idea that the community is simply a suburb, a type of displaced government out of Calgary, is not a sustainable notion.“I think the residents have started to realize that,” says city planner Jennifer Stevenson. With that in mind, the City has played host to a variety of planning experts over the past several months. One of the world’s top urban planners, Larry Beasley – whose resumé includes nearly 30 years with the City of Vancouver and projects in such far-flung places as Abu Dhabi – spent time in Airdrie in February, holding sessions with individual groups and giving a presentation open to all. Throughout the day, Beasley placed emphasis on quality livability, regional planning, the environment, a balance of housing options, good land use, a solid transportation plan and accessibility for all members of the community, from youths to seniors – everything necessary to ensure the city continues to

thrive.“Sustainability is survival,” he says. While he brought some new ideas to the table, Beasley’s overall perspective mirrors that of Airdrie’s planners.“I think most of the people in our department already get it,” says Airdrie planning team leader Jamie Dugdale. In April, another guest, Richard Drdul, City of Vancouver community transportation planner with 25 years experience, offered his expertise on sustainable transportation and non-traditional approaches to planning, with pedestrians and cyclists in mind. What this means, Drdul says, is giving people options, regardless of their circumstances. In Airdrie 92 per cent of people go to work in their motor vehicle; therefore, the City needs to look at affordable, feasible and effective alternatives. “People want more choices in transportation policy in walking and cycling,” he says. In regard to traffic infrastructure, alternatives to Airdrie’s current choices include roundabouts and traffic circles, instead of traffic signals or signs. “Stop signs are just stupid,”

Despite what it may look like, it’s not all paperwork for Airdrie city planners Jamie Dugdale (left) and Jennifer Stevenson

Drdul says.“If I had my way I’d rip then all out and replace then with traffic circles.” Other transportation considerations include parking choices, safe pedestrian crossings, sidewalks, safe routes to school, more transit services, traffic calming and bike routes separated from traffic: “If they can do it in [Manhattan], we can do it in Airdrie,” Drdul says.“ Airdrie may not be changing overnight, but plans are already in the works to focus more on pedestrians, cyclists, transit and other alternatives to motor vehicles.“It’s about … making the small steps,” Dugdale says. Such changes may come as somewhat of a shock in a car-addicted society.“People don’t even walk to get their mail anymore,” Stevenson says. Yet these concepts are not new to local urban planners. Six years ago, at the same fall 2010 | 93

life at work | careers





Renee Doucette 403-948-7389 betteRbookkeepingaiRDRie@

The benefits of joining today • Discount registrations to Chamber events • Airdrie Home & Garden Fair Booth discount of 20% • VISA and MasterCard Merchant Discount Rates • Chambers of Commerce Group Insurance • Purolator, Husky, Esso and Petro-Canada discounts • Business Listing on the Chamber web site • Free Export Document Certification • Exhibit at Chamber Business and Consumer shows • Participate in seminars and workshops • Receive business referrals from the Chamber office • Sponsor one of many Chamber functions or activities • Network at monthly business and social events • Advertise in the monthly Chamber News newsletter and monthly Chamber Chat • Exclusive copy of Chamber Roster and Chamber News monthly newsletter


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Phone: 403-948-4412 • Fax: 403-948-3141 106 120 2nd Ave NE Airdrie, AB T4B 2N2

94 | fall 2010

time a UN report pointed to poor urban planning as a factor in obesity, Airdrie planners started talking about ‘road diets,’ Greene says, along with roundabouts, bike lanes and alternative road designs. “There are actually some drawings on the books,” he says. And even though Alberta has to suffer through cold and snow several months of the year, that’s no excuse not to at least consider trying alternatives to motor vehicles, Dugdale says, adding that residents in Scandinavian countries and cities seem to have had no problem adjusting. And this appears to be what an increasing number of residents are asking for – options that will help the city be sustainable in the years to come. All that information and more is what Airdrie’s planners work with each day. The work can be very rewarding, seeing projects come to fruition and ideas come to life. Not only do they look ahead, they also look back, evaluating past decisions, seeing what did and did not work and the ripple effects it had socially and economically, Stevenson says. Although the job description may sound upbeat, with its focus on a municipality’s positive potential, urban planning is not exactly a sinecure. “Planning is not an easy profession … [it’s] not black and white,” Greene says. Sometimes it seems as if the job is to keep all the people happy all the time, from developers to residents to business owners to city council. Since that’s an unattainable goal, planners come in for their fair share of flack. They’ve been accused of being communists and ‘social engineers,’ Greene says, yet they must deal on a regular basis with forces beyond their control, such as provincial and federal rules and regulations, the market and regional dynamics, and the economy. Despite the public perceptions, the planning department is only a small part of what influences municipal decisions. “There are a lot of dimensions to urban planning,” Greene says. Even though many may believe that urban planners are the be-all-and-end-all, such is not the case; equally important are

such players as community services, the public and the developers. “We rely on the development industry too. We encourage them to come forward … we want to push those boundaries,” Dugdale says. Greene agrees: “The developers can be the most creative resources around.” And with a whole new generation growing up in an environment of public engagement, Dugdale says, the social aspect of urban planning is shifting to engage the youth of Airdrie. “They are the ones who are going to educate their parents,” he says. Ultimately, it’s teamwork that creates a sustainable community, with a team made up of not only the municipality and its various departments, but also city council, developers and the public.“When it comes to building a city and a community, it takes all of us,” Greene says. And that can start within City Hall itself, where the various departments sometimes appear to be working in isolation from one another. “A lot of times they feel we’re talking ‘planning talk’ to them,” Stevenson jokes about interdepartmental communication. Communication challenges aside, what’s necessary, Greene says, is to work toward a uniform approach to development. However, it’s essential that the municipality and those responsible for urban planning do not become too focused on policy and regulations. Planners can get so used to a systems approach that they get in the way of creativity. “We get caught up in numbers,” Greene says. The solution lies not in the creation of more policy, he says, but of more design – a belief with which Beasley agrees. “Land use and transportation policy is just not good enough,” he says. In the years to come, Airdrie’s planning department will have a lot to do with how the city evolves, drawing on expert knowledge from near and far to build in sustainability. But what it comes right down to is that the choices are in the hands of those who live, work and play here and Greene encourages everyone to take part.“We need to manage our destiny,” he says. life

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fall 2010 | 95

life at work | small business

Small is the new


Celebrating and fostering small business in Airdrie story by Alex Frazer-Harrison


Singer Tim Tamishiro will be guest speaker at this year’s Winning Edge Awards banque


inning Edge


96 | fall 2010

mall businesses and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of many communities in Alberta, and that’s why Airdrie celebrates Small Business Week every October. Featuring several networking and information opportunities, and culminating in the newly expanded Winning Edge Awards, the week “is truly about celebrating entrepreneurial success,” says Leona Esau of the City of Airdrie Economic Development department. “Fifty-eight per cent of businesses in Airdrie are home-based businesses, and nearly 98 per cent of all businesses in Airdrie are considered small businesses.” Esau says Airdrie’s entrepreneurial spirit is second to none.“It’s that pioneering spirit,” she says. “Our business community has become more sophisticated and we have more developed leadership and resources in the community.” The leadership of the City, resources such as the BizPal online information system, and proximity to Calgary and its airport have made Airdrie increasingly attractive for smaller businesses, says Lorna Hunt, executive director of the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce. “[Airdrie] Economic Development is very passionate about any size of business,” Hunt says, adding that this includes many who open a small business as a way to generate a second income or to work from home while they raise a family. “I find with every home-based business it’s all about the passion,” she says. “And if we see them become a storefront because they outgrew their home and have moved into a commercial space, that’s a thrill.” Small Business Week gets started Oct. 18 with a kickoff luncheon hosted by the Chamber at Woodside Golf Course. Hunt says the luncheon is a fun event with a serious purpose – to give local business people a chance to meet and network in a relaxed atmosphere. A facilitator from Community Futures Centre West will be on hand to keep the conversation going. Airdrie Business Resource Partnership (ABRP), in conjunction with Community Futures Centre West, hosts the Entrepreneurial Edge Evening Oct. 19 at City Hall. “The evening is geared towards business people with an idea, and what is their next step,” explains Hunt.“This year, we’ll have a panel of people who have taken the passion of an idea and expanded upon it.”

ABRP also hosts a small-business-related seminar at City Hall Oct. 20. Finally, on Oct. 22, the week climaxes with the Winning Edge Awards banquet at Woodside Golf Course. In only a few years, the ceremony has grown into one of Airdrie’s top social events. “It is the culmination of Small Business Week and it’s the premier business award in Airdrie and a great way for the community to recognize itself,” says Christina Waldner, communication fund development specialist for Airdrie Public Library and an ABRP board member. Waldner says that a little-publicized fact about the awards is that not only can anyone nominate businesses for the awards, but businesses are welcome to nominate themselves if they think they’ve exhibited excellence in any of the categories. A new honour has been launched this year – the Airdrie Business Leader Award. While the other categories recognize businesses, the new award, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, spotlights individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership at both the business and community level in Airdrie. “We’re really excited about having this award,” says Waldner. “And it doesn’t need to be a CEO or president of a company; just someone who, from a business perspective, has made a significant contribution.” Meanwhile, the other categories are back for another year, now under the umbrella title “Airdrie Business Awards.” The Eco Edge Award, sponsored by the City’s environmental advisory board, honours businesses that go the extra mile to reduce their environmental footprint, reduce/ recycle/reuse or follow other innovative practices that promote sustainability. The Family Friendly Business Award, sponsored by the Airdrie National Family Week steering committee, is an honour that is often misunderstood, says Waldner.“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a business for families,” she says of the category. “But it could be a business that exhibits great family-friendly practices with its staff.” The key to the award,

she says, is in how businesses support their employees’ needs, at work and at home. Lastly, the Winning Edge Award goes to a small business (defined as having 50 or fewer employees) that basically provides the full package, including innovative practices, customer service and community involvement. Last year’s recipient was the UPS Store Airdrie. Tickets for the banquet, which will feature singer Tim Tamashiro as guest speaker, go on sale Sept. 20, with an early-bird price of $50 in place until Oct. 1 and $60 afterwards, with ticket sales closing Oct. 15. Nomination deadline for the awards is Sept. 10. For more information on the awards, including nomination forms, as well as to purchase tickets for the banquet, visit the ABRP website at: life MORE LIFE ONLINE Learn about Community Futures Centre West’s self-employment program at:

Airdrie Small Business Week


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Events Calendar

Monday, Oct. 18 Kickoff Luncheon Hosted by Airdrie Chamber of Commerce Woodside Golf Course 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Roland and Dave Jeffries

Tuesday, Oct. 19 Entrepreneurial Edge Evening Hosted by ABRP, organized by Community Futures Centre West Airdrie City Hall Foyer & Council Chambers 6:30-9 p.m.

Jeffries Brothers Vegetable Growers Portage la Prairie, Manitoba

Wednesday, Oct. 20 SBW Seminar - TBC Hosted by ABRP Airdrie City Hall Council Chambers Friday, Oct. 22 Winning Edge Awards Banquet Hosted by ABRP, organized by SBW Committee Woodside Golf Course 6-10 p.m.

fall 2010 | 97

life at work | retail Zeus manager Gillian Fleming and her staff are drawn together by a love of music, movies, books and pop culture

Ato Zeus Local entertainment store has it all

story by Alex Frazer-Harrison | photo by Kristy Reimer

Leave it to Airdrie to buck the trend.

While Calgary has lost several book and record shops in the last few years – most recently the beloved Megatunes – Airdrie’s Zeus has continued to thrive. From their corner location in the revamped Towerlane shopping centre on Main Street, Gillian Fleming and the staff of Zeus offer up an eclectic array of music, as well as books and novels on a wide range of subjects. So much for the idea that people just want to download their entertainment.“Books have really come back with the youth and I think it’s because of all the vampire stuff,” says manager Fleming, as an action figure of Twilight’s Edward Cullen peers out from a wall rack behind her.“Youth are starting to read again and that’s good.” And there’s still interest in CDs. Although Fleming notes that more of her shop is dedicated to games and DVDs/Blu-rays than in the past, there are still people who are collectors. “They want to hold the CD in their hand, they want to read the liner notes, they want to see the artwork,” she says. It didn’t take me long during a recent visit to locate a CD box set of old Sesame Street albums from the early 1970s. It’s the type of release I really wouldn’t expect to find at a big box store. Likewise, Zeus’ selection of CDs by local artists, such as Airdrie-born Katie Rox (a.k.a. Katie Biever), takes pride of place here, whereas in a larger shop this stuff might be eclipsed by the latest Miley Cyrus album. It all comes down to a common language among Fleming’s staff of five. “We hire people who really love music and movies,” she says.

98 | fall 2010

“We don’t just hire people to have a body in the store. And we try to hire people who have knowledge of different genres, as well. Not everyone knows about metal or country – you go into [the larger chains] and ask for Linkin Park and they might not have any idea.” Zeus opened in the original Towerlane Mall as CD Plus about 10 years ago, and Fleming has grown up with the store, having worked there since its early days. “I started there when I was 16,” she recalls. “It was my part-time high school job, and then after high school I went full-time and became assistant manager. They transferred me out to their store in Banff, I worked there threefour years, and then I came back. Airdrie is my hometown.” Fleming credits her family with fostering her love of music.“My family is fairly musical – most of my cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, they can’t read music at all, but they’ll do it by ear. “I love every type of music, and I’ll listen to anything once!” she adds. This has come in handy for Fleming when an unexpected request comes her way. “Lots of our youth market is into metal music, but you’ll get older couples coming in looking for Roger Whittaker or Stan Rogers … they’re always so surprised I have any clue who he is!” As for the books, which run the gamut from unusual humour titles to some of the greatest works of literature and any number of graphic novels and art books in between, Fleming gives credit to the Zeus/CD Plus head office. “One of the ladies in head office used to work at Coles and she came over to be a DVD

buyer for us, and she also started to introduce books,” says Fleming. “It started out with just music books and then it started to branch out into everything.” Fleming notes the chain was ahead of the curve when it came to reintroducing the mix of literature, music and movies, which was something the now-defunct A&B Sound chain used to pride itself in. Today, not only do most Zeus stores have a book section, books have also made a comeback at HMV, too. Fleming says this is all to the good. “People need to read, not just sit on their butts and watch TV all day!” Manitoba-based CD Plus, which is currently rebranding its stores as Zeus (named in honour of the original owners’ dog), specializes in smaller markets. You won’t find a Zeus store in Calgary, says Dave Bially, vicepresident of retail operations for Canada. “Our staff all have a common bond,” Bially says. “Anyone [who] loves music, movies, pop culture – it draws everyone together.” And the strength of the Airdrie market led the company to test-market one of its new-concept Zeus shops here, he says. That common bond extends to the customers, as Zeus has also kept alive another tradition of the book-and-record store business – making the customer family. “One of our customers comes in all the time and buys DVDs and Blu-rays, and he phoned to say he had a heart attack,” says Fleming.“We got a card and signed it and gave it to his wife when she came in to buy a movie for him. “It’s like a little family, all our customers,” she adds. life

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Celebrating Airdrie’s business community Friday October 22, 2010 6 pm Woodside

Golf & Country Club Tickets go on sale Sept 20 $50 early bird (until October 1) $60 regular price Buy your tickets online at Ticket sales close October 15. This event sells out quickly.

Guest Speaker Tim Tamashiro CBC Radio 2 host

is a proud media sponsor of this event fall 2010 | 99

life at work | census

Adding It Up story by Alex Frazer-Harrison

Population explosion provides pressure and opportunity


early 40,000 people now call Airdrie home, according to findings from the 2010 official census, which were released over the summer. To be precise, Airdrie’s official population stands at 39,822, and it is estimated the city adds just under five new people every day. It remains Alberta’s eighth-largest city (not counting such communities as Sherwood Park, which don’t have city charters). Although the numbers show Airdrie’s growth rate has cooled off from recent years – down to 4.54 per cent this year, compared to a feverish 11.65 per cent last year, the smallest level of growth recorded since 1999 – City of Airdrie economic team leader Kent Rupert says this is far from being a negative. “We’ve been very fortunate in Airdrie in that we’ve always seen an average of around eightand-a-half per cent growth,” Rupert says. “And whenever you see growth, it’s good for business and investment attraction.

100 | fall 2010

“[Investors] see Airdrie as a young community, with higher-than-average household income,” he adds. “And we’re really fortunate we’re continuing to grow; you look at some communities in the States or Canada where they only get one per cent growth, and it’s hard to justify starting a business.” Dropping back to 4.54 per cent actually reflects a return to normal levels of growth, says Mayor Linda Bruce. “We have had phenomenal growth, and it has been head-shaking, really, to have it go into what’s actually normal; it feels low because it’s a mind adjustment after a decade of high growth,” Bruce says, noting that three per cent is considered healthy growth. And considering Airdrie’s population has nearly doubled in the last decade – and was less than 29,000 at the time of the 2006 federal census – Bruce says a slowdown is a good thing because it will allow the City to catch up on infrastructure projects.

“For the most part, we have been able to [keep up],” she says. “What people see is a project on top of a project on top of a project. Our citizens have a little bit of development exhaustion. “That break from being under that kind of pressure will be great for the citizens,” she adds. “You always feel there’s that pressure to have another road torn up – I don’t think we’ll see that go away, but it takes some of the pressure off for it to happen right away.” That doesn’t mean everything is grinding to a halt, of course. New commercial and industrial businesses continue to open, development continues on several new neighbourhoods and the full impact of the megamall-driven commercial district at Balzac on local home sales and business attraction has yet to be truly felt. Rupert says that comparing year-to-date building and housing starts as of May 2010 with May 2007, “we have more housing starts than 2007 and more commercial/industrial


starts than 2007. And 2007 was our biggest year.” The numbers show Airdrie is still a desirable place to live, says Airdrie Chamber of Commerce president Mike De Bokx. “From the Chamber’s perspective, growth is a positive thing because it shows people want to live here and that helps promote business growth,” De Bokx says. “But it’s not necessarily a bad thing that growth has slowed.” Bruce says that although the official numbers show Airdrie just shy of 40,000, the city is undoubtedly well past that number in reality. And for De Bokx, he sees 40,000 as a milestone for the city. “We’re kind of in that in-between of being a small town and a big city,” he says. “Some people would say it’s a negative, thinking back to when we were only 16-17,000. But with the population boom has come all sorts of additional benefits to living in the community. We certainly wouldn’t have facilities like Genesis Place, and Genesis Place is something that attracts people to Airdrie.” Hitting 40,000 “puts us certainly on the map,” says Alan Tennant of Re/Max Rocky View. “I remember years ago when they said we’d be 50,000 by 2020, and it sounded ludicrous and we said,‘Wow, how’s it going to look?’ Now, 50,000 is a comfortable and sustainable number – but let’s not do it next week!” Bruce says that as the city’s population reaches such milestones, additional grants and other funding start to become available. “And 40,000 seems to be the magic number for the next level of businesses [to consider Airdrie],” she says, “and it also allows homebased entrepreneurs to expand because it provides them with a greater population base for their business.” Adds Rupert: “Once you hit 40,000, it opens new markets. Just like when Calgary hit the million, it was put on the radar [for some companies].” The City of Airdrie has been in the process of crunching other numbers from the latest census. Look for full results at: this fall. life

What’s Your Magic Number?

September 16, 2010 What Age? How Much? How Confident Are You in Your Retirement Plan?

Giving a little, to Get a lot

Oct 7, 2010 Tax Benefits of Charitable Giving Details:

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Paula and Stephanie established Wine, Women and Wealth to bring women together over a glass of wine and appetizers to discuss the value of sound financial planning and how it relates to you and your loved ones. Whether you are in a single or double income home, women make 80-90% of the purchasing decisions. Could your household benefit from some new ideas?

Contact The Range with your community news or information! Office: 403-217-1061 Contest Line: 403-212-1061 159 B East Lake Blvd, Airdrie, AB, T4A 2G2 fall 2010 | 101

life online | extras

Online exclusives Recipes from our features Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Deep Fried Raspberry Cheesecake

It’s the Great Turkey Charlie Brown! Well it’s more than a turkey ... It’s a turkducken!!

Calgary Co-op is giving away one glorious stuffed bird from “Original Turducken Inc.” to a lucky airdrielife reader. Here’s what the website says: “Our original Turducken is a de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned chicken, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned duck. The cavity of the chicken and the rest of the gaps are filled with our homemade seasoned breadcrumb- and-sausage stuffing. The culinary symphony is then bound together with butchers twine and seasoned externally with our special rub. Yum!!! Hurry, draw date is Oct. 5, 2010

Be a glass act!

Win one of two beginners workshop gift certificates from Muk-Luk Magpies

55+ good times We’ve rounded up the list of classes from art to yoga that will appeal to a mature audience

Wellness Wonders Stacy Shields checks out a series of seminars by local wellness experts

Tired? You won’t be after getting more advice on winter tires from Airdrie experts

Little handfuls Why small dogs are gaining popularity

Airdrie Minor Baseball Learn about this great organization and how to get involved with your kids

The Entrepreneur Great advice from CFCWest

Draw date is Nov. 15, 2010

It’s good to be square! Win one of six boxes of

assorted squares from Avenue Cakery & Bakeshoppe. Enter online at: Enter as often as you wish

Draws made Oct. 1,8,15,22,29, Nov. 5

102 | fall 2010

Talking about life Are you a great host? Do you know someone who pulls off a party effortlessly? Tell us all about them and they could be featured in an upcoming issue of airdrielife. In the November issue Antique fashion finds The election outcome Everything you wanted to know about hockey but were afraid to ask Winter fun for everyone


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