Its Canadian Lakehead Exhibition Time Again…

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Lumberjack CompetitionTHUNDER BAY – Its time for the annual Canadian Lakehead Exhibition. The CLE kicks off today and one can only wish it all the best. For me however on a personal level, I won’t likely be traipsing down to the grounds to walk the midway. Part of that is that I am not a huge fan of the rides.

The other part is that I think that events like the CLE could be a much better event. It could be an event tied to the heritage of our region.

As a former Calgarian, I compare the Calgary Stampede and Exhibition, which is “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” featuring a parade, an incredible rodeo, agricultural exhibitions, and of course the nightly chuck wagon races.

Indian VillageThere is a huge First Nations component too. The Indian Village is both modern and historic, Aboriginal people from around Calgary would travel in, starting on horseback to attend the annual event. The people are an integral part of the Calgary Stampede.

The Calgary Stampede rolls out across Calgary, with Stampede breakfasts, and barbecues going on across the city. On opening day, upwards of a million people line the streets to watch the Stampede Parade.

It is all a lot of fun.

While the joke is that during the Calgary Stampede, the “locals” head out-of-town, the reality is that for business, and for families, the Stampede offers lots to do, and lots of fun.

Now, I know that it might be unfair to compare the Calgary Stampede to the CLE. Calgary is a much bigger centre. I am also thankful to all of the directors of the CLE. They work long hours as volunteers to bring the annual Family Fair together.

Next year, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede will celebrate its centennial. The CLE is nearing its 100th Anniversary – its less than ten years away – however long gone are the Auto Races, and many of the early attractions.

It is almost as if the Midway, a stop for Select Shows has become the focal point of the carnival.

However maybe it is time that Thunder Bay start looking at the CLE as a way to celebrate our region and city’s heritage. We have a very diverse heritage with our First Nations, with the fur trade, and our forestry and mining sectors. We could be celebrating our past, while embracing our future.

What if… the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition were to change.

Embrace our history. There could be competitions where people could duplicate the feats of the early voyageurs? We could showcase the opening of the CLE with the arrival of voyageur canoes coming from Quebec. We could host events at Fort William Historical Park that embrace that part of our history.

We could celebrate our long history of logging. There are competitions already to find the best lumberjacks and jills? Perhaps during the CLE, Thunder Bay could be a stop on that tour?

Many are seeing mining as our future. What if the CLE were to feature mining. There could be educational exhibits, and opportunities for companies to showcase their current activities.

There is also the opportunity to host concerts during the CLE, bringing in tourists from across the region and beyond, and we could, as planning comes together for the Event Centre, there could be some great music as well. Our city has lots that could be offered to build a truly world-class event. This year’s CLE features music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Now that is great for the older crowd, and with the advent of Guitar Hero lots of younger people are getting into some of the older music.

However maybe it is time we looked a little bigger and looked at what else we could be showcasing?

Like I said, there are no knocks coming from me to all the hard work that the dedicated team at the CLE have been doing, however with a little of that famous Thunder Bay spirit and giant heart, the CLE could become major show that both locals, and tourists from around the world would attend.

Just maybe in our ever Emerging Thunder Bay, it is time to take it up a notch.

That of course is just my opinion, as always, your mileage may vary.

James Murray

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