“What is it about Grande Prairie?” I was faced with the question that many of my family ask from time to time once again the other day. You see, they have all been here, and most of them have lived here. They all eventually migrated back to the Okanogan, and I have remained here, loyal to my “Home”. They can’t understand it and they make it sound like I live in some remote hell, far north of where anyone with any ounce of sanity would consider living.
Let me paint you the picture of their “jaded” opinions. Spring…1994…Or what was supposed to be spring…It was April after all. My dad got up to go to work and was once again faced with snow drifts up to his waist and the wind howling at about -50! He snapped! He packed up the family and headed home, vowing to never live here again. My sister and I remained, having found roots of our own. Eventually those “roots” rotted away and my sister returned to her home. I must admit that I did try at one time to leave, but the economy in southern BC didn’t suite my mentality at the time, and I found myself heading back to my northern home with the prospect of making a decent living, owning property and raising a family.
Grande Prairie was a city booming with prosperity and growing like crazy. I guess you could say I was caught up in the hustle and bustle. With people working hard, unemployment almost non existent, good friends, and contrary to the beliefs of my family, not bad weather, Grande Prairie offers me almost everything I could want in a home. That spring that everyone turned tail and took off was the last year in a long time that we suffered the bitter, endless grasps of winter’s fury. I have seen the 10th of December come and go many times with barley a skiff of snow and people about their Christmas shopping with out the bulk of a jacket. Sure the temperature still drops on occasion, like this past Wednesday for instance. At six am the radio declared that it was a cold minus sixteen outside and two short hours later the mercury was hovering at plus three! Where else but Grande Prairie does the weather change every few minutes? Where else but Grande Prairie can you shovel your drive way before work and pull weeds from your flower beds that afternoon?
So to my sister in law who said to me the other day (she has never been here and my brother won’t bring her) “What is so terrible about Grande Prairie? It can’t be near as bad as they make it sound!” I would say “It’s not!” It is a wonderful place to live, to work, and to play! I can shop in some of the best stores in the afternoon and hit the slopes for some night time fun. I can take in a live theatre production one evening and head out for some target practice the next! I can dine in the finest restaurants and sweat in the best gyms. Swimming, hiking, river racing, skating, skiing, sledding, Motocross, theatre, movies, shopping, baseball, football, hockey, and soccer. Highland games, Maple Sugar Festival, Street Performers, bike rallies. Parades, drive-in movies, drag wars and mud bogs. Hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, rock climbing, camping. I could go on, and I probably will the next time someone asks, “What is it about Grande Prairie?” I think I can honestly reply “What isn’t it?”