Over twenty-five years ago, I left Banff for Johannesburg. I was about to be placed on an independent national newspaper that would have me on the front lines of history as South Africa lurched toward democracy. I was well aware that I’d grown up ‘in a postcard’; knew people came from all parts of the globe to photograph the natural wonders that I took for granted. Back then, I was not in search of the beautiful however, I was off to expand my horizons.
The irony of arriving back in Banff, to take my travel app for a test drive, isn’t escaping me. The very reason I sought experiences in other countries was to come face to face with customs and traditions different from what I’d known growing up. It’s the same motivation I’ve had for developing an app called Culture Dock, that’s all about understanding regional cultures from around the world, yet here I am… face to face with a culture I’d known, intuitively, my entire life, looking at it in a whole new way.
“What year was ‘The Cliff House built?’ I’m with my dad, atop Mount Norquay. He’s lived in Banff most of his ninety years and has skied the slopes of this mountain since before there were lifts. He picks up a book in the restaurant that sits at an elevation of 2085 m (I know that now) over the town of Banff and opens it to a page where Banff artist Bern Smith, explains it was built in 1952. Norquay was the epicentre of my childhood; it’s what I think of when I think of ‘home’. After lunch, Dad and I spend over half an hour hanging out at the top of what I (and I think most locals) still call the ‘Big Chair’ even though it’s been renamed ‘North American’. We joke with Japanese tourists, take pictures of one another and breathe in the champagne air. I shoot video and take photos of the scenery, something I don’t remember doing before — not ever.
Next, it’s on to The Whyte Museum Of The Canadian Rockies. I recall being about five; meeting Catharine Whyte with my parents in her home that still stands next to the museum. She gave me a small Nakoda Papoose that I wish I’d kept, that I should have cherished. An artist, supporter of the arts and of education in intercultural development, Catharine was the great aunt of my oldest childhood friend and now at fifty, I find myself mesmerized by what she’s given to this town; by the wealth of material in the museum’s archives and the exhibits and events that enhance the mountain experience as much for locals as for tourists. She was a strong supporter of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity — my next stop.
For a summer my parents managed a pizza joint in the basement of Lloyd Hall at ‘The Centre’. Just a few years later, my Mom, as the executive director of The Banff Television Festival (Banff World Media Festival) had an office on campus. For seventeen years she held this position and I essentially ‘grew up’ with the festival, absorbing the lives of the people who came and went from places around the world not only for the festival but for the many programs and events The Banff Centre offered. Passing by the Leighton Artist Colony, I pay closer attention to the violin music emanating from one of the practice cabins, knowing the space that artist is being given, is life-changing.
I know I didn’t have to see so many other countries to know I come from a special place. Wherever I travelled, I was ‘eager’ to say that I was from Banff and proud when people in almost every city knew of the town I call home. To be a tourist in my hometown, shooting videos and taking photos that I think will communicate something about its heart, has been a very cool experience. I’ve revisited bits of my past but have been able to look at Banff with fresh eyes. It’s been a gift and one that I hope Canadians from across the country will also receive.
The imagiNation 150 app is being gifted to Canada for our 150th anniversary of confederation. As the official app of imagiNation 150, it’s a platform for individual Canadians, and small and medium-size enterprises in culture and tourism, to share what makes their part of Canada unique — an opportunity to show our diverse national character. As part of a larger ‘parent’ app called Culture Dock, anything you, in the Bow Valley, upload onto the imagiNation 150 app is going to be viewed on a global scale as Culture Dock becomes the global go-to app for cultural tourism.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Show us either videos or photos of:
• Wildlife and/or perhaps advice on how to behave around animals in a national park.
• a festival, concert or celebration, taking place.
• A heritage site or landmark that tells us about our history or our natural history.
• a writer, artist or photographer wishing to share your creativity?
• an owner of a restaurant serving locally made goods or dishes Canada is known for?
• an owner of a tourism business that explores regional culture?
• the owner of (or visitor to) a museum or gallery; eager to let other Canadians and visitors to Canada know more about it?
• someone who loves to explore the great outdoors and can show us your favourite local spots or sports you enjoy?
• a new immigrant to the Bow Valley, wishing to show us your impressions of your new home?
• have visitors coming to The Bow Valley who want to share their experiences on the app?
*There really are no hard and fast rules for what we want to see on the imagiNation 150 app. We’re relying on you, to communicate what is unique about mountain culture in the Bow Valley and the people who make it special.