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Historic Calgary Week preps for tales on the city’s complex history

It’s time to take a walk back in time, Calgary, to find out a little more about you, the city.

Historic Calgary Week (HCW), now in its 23rd year, animates history with enriching community events in Calgary and the surrounding area. It begins on Friday.  

“History is more than pages in a book… We pull from stories, from the people who have lived here, to bring it to life,” said Jackie Kleiner, Chinook Country Historical Society President.

This year’s theme is “We’ll Meet Again: Unseen History Brought to Life.”

Calgary’s history isn’t as simple and straightforward as some might think, according to one city literary historian.

“The city is sometimes more complex than it appears to be, and I saw that complexity reflected in the literature… and that’s high octane,” said Shaun Hunter, Calgary-born writer and literary historian. She was Historian in Residence at the Calgary Public Library in 2020.

Hunter said Calgarians’ track record of remembering the past isn’t good but now changing.

“I think now people are much more interested in looking at the past,” said the literary historian.

The Nature of the Events

HCW events are across Calgary and surrounding area. The 11-day festival kicks off July 22 with an opening ceremony at 9:45 a.m. All events require pre-registration.

There are 65 events in-person and online. Events are at libraries, churches, parks, and museums in Calgary as well as Nanton, High River, Okotoks, Chestermere, Irricana, and Rosebud.

“Yes, we do stand in front of buildings. Buildings are not for everybody. But, place characters in those buildings and stories about what went on. That I think is very powerful and very engaging,” said Hunter.

Thankfully, events include more than just standing in front of buildings. The Hangar Flight Museum plays host to an interactive event where one can explore the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) F-86 Sabre up-close. There’s also an exploration of Calgary’s Ukrainian heritage at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Sobor and Museum. 

Out of the 14 virtual events, four recorded will be available for public access after the event, according to Kleiner.

Hunter said that Calgary remains a young, complicated city where no one defining story about it can take precedence. The HCW uses this to their advantage: making the story of Calgary, the stories of Calgary. 

“Let’s look and see what’s hiding in plain sight, sometimes not in plain sight. But sometimes, yes, in plain sight,” said Hunter.

Hunter said a city of 1.4 million people can no longer be boiled down to one or two narratives.

“I do not want to be limited by one defining story. And it’s not just me. I think the city resists that as well.”

Our Top 8 Picks

  1. July 22, 1 – 2 p.m. — Colonel James Walker Family Early Pioneers
    Colonel James Walker, Southern Alberta pioneer’s descendant, Alan Lynas reminisces on life in his great grandfather’s original homestead in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.
  2. July 23, 10 – 11:30 a.m. — Walking Tour of Parkdale and Area 
    Historian Marcel Hebert provides an overview of Parkdale from the late 1800s to the 1950s through stories of 1890s market gardening, the Calgary Tram impact, early golfing, and brick and sandstone homes, etc.
  3. July 23,  2 – 3:30 p.m. — St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Sobor and Museum Tour and Publisher’s Talk on “The Little Book: Story Reader for a Free Ukraine”
    Witness heritage preservation with the archivist of St. Vladimir’s, Christie Teterenko on Ukrainian-Canadian history and upholding tradition. Dr. Lorene Shyba discusses The Little Book’s influence on prairie-schooled Ukrainian children and her new book.
  4. July 26, 2 – 3:30 p.m. – No Guts, No Glory: Inside the F-86 Sabre
    The Hangar Flight Museum reveals never-before-seen, interactive exhibit of the F-86 Sabre, the inside of the gun turrets with firsthand accounts from Sabre pilots.
  5. July 27, 1 – 2:30 p.m. – Edworthy Park – Ramble Through The Ages
    Frankie-Lou Nelligan discusses this recreational park through the narrative of the Edworthy family and their impact on Calgary’s business and architectural development.
  6. July 27, 7 – 8:30 p.m. A Literary Walk of Elbow Park
    Explore the literary past of novelists, poets, journalists, and publishers with literary historian and writer, Shaun Hunter.
  7. July 29, 10 – 11:30 a.m. –The Plaza Theatre Talk & Tour
    Learn about the oldest operational theatre, its vibrant history, and the new owner, Fatima Dobrowolski’s plans for its future.
  8. July 30, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Calgary’s Best Kept Historical Secret: Reader Rock Garden
    The Friends of Reader Rock Garden Society share the evolution of the site, the Reader family and his vision of this three-acre park.