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Is Alberta the Texas of the North?

I recently went to Dallas for a Library Communications and Marketing conference. It was awesome but I’m not talking about that today. My goal for this post is to put to rest the stereotype that Alberta is the Texas of Canada by comparing Dallas to Alberta’s two big centres, Calgary and Edmonton. Let’s see if it works… and I’ll try to be an unbiased as possible.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Dallas. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore because of my conference but I’m hoping that my short three days I’ve at least noticed and observed any similarities. I should be able to spot a ‘hard-living country vibe’ in three days as a born and raised Albertan.

For the purpose of this article, let’s start by examining some of the facts. Then, we’ll get into the Dallas vibe.
Happiness Sculpture in Dallas Arts District

Information cited taken right out of Wikipedia and some fast googling for a mediocre comparison but it’s better than nothing.

 DallasCalgaryEdmonton
Population1,281,0471,230,915812,201
Size (km²)999.3825.29684.37

Dallas and Calgary are pretty similar in size and population… hmmm…

 DallasCalgaryEdmonton
DemographicsWhite
Mexican
Asian
White
South Asian
Chinese
White
East and South Asian
Aboriginal

So, I’m seeing some patterns here. Lots of white folks in all three cities. But, I thought Dallas was more ethnically diverse than Edmonton when I was there. Did you know that Dallas has a thriving LGTB scene and the 6th largest LGTB population in the US?

 DallasCalgary Edmonton
Median Age of Population31.536.435.3
Median Household Income$58,190 ($77,350 CAD)$98,300 CAD$96,030 CAD
Median House Price$180,000 ($240,000 CAD)$425,000 CAD$399,900 CAD

Holy [bleep], why are houses so [bleepin’] expensive in Canada?!

 DallasCalgaryEdmonton
Major Economic IndustriesOil & Gas
Telecommunications
Engineering
Corporate Headquarters
Oil & Gas
Entrepreneurs
Transportation
Corporate Headquarters
Oil & Gas
Research & Education
Finance
Retail

Ok, Alberta and Texas have some similarities here too.

 DallasCalgaryEdmonton
Known for (according to me, totally biased):JFK assassinationRocky MountainsFestivals
BBQStampedeBeing cold
CowboysCowboysWest Edmonton Mall
FootballNaheed Neshi (World's best mayor)Edmonton Oilers (losing hockey team)
Oil tycoonsOil tycoonsTheatre

Did anybody know that Fort Edmonton Park is Canada’s largest living history park? I sure didn’t.

After two hours and one beer break later what did I learn? Albertan cities are mega wealthy and our house prices are insane. But I was left asking myself, what is Edmonton known for as a city? I know what I love about living here but what draws tourists here? Any insight to this from readers is greatly appreciated because I’m clearly biased (as seen by my breakdown of what Calgary is known for).

Dallas and Calgary both have fairly walkable downtown cores and I had no idea that Dallas had a big public art scene, which was a delightful surprise. Calgary also has some neat public sculptures downtown that are interactive too. Edmonton could improve on this in the future but there is a lot of potential because there is currently a lot of construction and plans for the heart of the city.

From being on the art selection committee in Lacombe, I learned a bit of how art is selected and funded in cities and I like to compare their spending. Dallas spends 1.5% of construction on public art but it has come under scutiny as an afterthought to building construction and it’s argued that approach hinders innovation. But, I was pretty blown away by the public art in Dallas so that may be a harsh criticism. I wonder if Edmonton has planned their buildings around public art?

The Eye in Dallas

Deep Ellum Mural Red Head

Back to the diversity in Dallas, I met so many different people in those short three days! There was a black lady who drove Uber and sang gospel to us, a middle-aged gay man who was sharply dressed and attempted to pick up two handsome younger gay men, a bearded cocktail bar owner who had all the industry connections, rich university kids living off their trust funds, BBQ masters… I could go on. Sadly, I didn’t meet a true Southern Belle. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I met one at my library conference but she was from Georgia.

Freeway Park in DallasWhen we were checking out food trucks in the new park that’s situated over a freeway, Billy noticed that there were a lot of young, well-dressed professionals taking their lunch break and clearly worked downtown. This isn’t really apparent in Edmonton as it still holds on to it’s humble blue-collar attitude compared to Calgary’s white-collar industry. Before any Edmontonians hold this against me, the blue-collar attitude is one of the characteristics I like best about the city.

I did learn that Dallas has some regions of the city that are pretty rough. One Uber driver, who had a penchant for Metallica, motorcycles, and sported an aggressive lip piercing, described these areas as places you wouldn’t stop at a red light because you might get robbed. I don’t know of any areas of Edmonton or Calgary that would even come close to this.

I went to Dallas knowing the median income from 10 years ago (around $55,000 CAD) and we thought there might be a large discrepancy between the rich and the poor but overall it seemed fairly middle-class. Then, I googled the median household income of 2014 and found out it was closer to $80,000. This made more sense because Dallas appears to have a lot going for it. But, I didn’t venture into the poorer areas of the city.

Deep Ellum Guitar and ChicksAs for similarities, all three cities have little bit of a western vibe, some political conservatism, a growing art scene, and opportunity. In my eyes, Dallas is more culturally diverse than Calgary or Edmonton though and engaged in the development of art in their community. The first time I compiled the facts, I wrote them out and my trusty editor said a table would be more effective. After I put the information in tables, my outlook shifted. There are definitely some strong similarities between Texas and Alberta but they also stereotypical and I try to be careful about only seeing the ‘single story.’ Each city has something special and they are all affluent.

As a travel destination, Dallas is a wonderful city to visit. The locals were very hospitable, gave us excellent recommendations and even hooked us up with free drinks and dessert. Dallas folk are friendly, eager, chatty, and kind. And the BBQ is outstanding.

Save Deep EllumFavourites
Neighbourhoods: Deep Ellum and the Arts District
Brew: Braindead Brewing
Food: Baker’s Ribs in Deep Ellum, casual eating with a nice rooftop patio to admire lit-up downtown Dallas in the evening.
Walk: Downtown Dallas and the Arts District. So much public art to admire!
Transportation: Uber. I had an absolutely terrible experience with a taxi cab in Dallas. Don’t even bother, it’s double the price and the driver I had was reckless (as in decided to go 160 km/h on the freeway in order to pass street racers.)



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