Bowness Park’s grand reopening on Saturday, Feb. 6 had a surprise performance in the form of a flashmob representing nearby Paskapoo Slopes.
The flashmob, which stayed under the radar until the last moment, kicked off the festivities Saturday afternoon shortly before scheduled bands hit the stage at Bowness Park, in northwest Calgary.
Breaking out in dance to MGMT’s ‘Kids,’ the flashmobbers performed a mostly choreographed routine before inviting others to participate.
“That’s what it is, getting everyone active and engaged,” flashmob choreographer Michelle Bennett explained afterward in an interview.
“As the choreographer for this flashmob, it was a really great way to get the youth, the kids and the parents, involved in Bowness and in the Slopes.”
Partially reopened last year after being in redevelopment since 2012, Bowness Park finally unveiled the refurbished west side of the park Feb. 6, including the parking lot, picnic areas, and a new central square.
The flashmob included many younger dancers, making their song choice for the afternoon particularly appropriate.
“They’re dancing, so they’re having their voices heard without having to use their voice,” says Bennett.
He organized the flashmob with Save the Slopes, an activist group whose goal is to create awareness for responsible development and environmental issues in northwest Calgary.
Laurie Quon, a Calgary lawyer and fellow Paskapoo Save the Slopes organizer, wants to keep the focus on Bowness.
“We’re here to celebrate the Lagoon,” Quon said. “It’s a green space like any other green space in Calgary.”
“I feel amazing community here, that’s why I moved here,” said Bowness small business owner Jacqui Esler, who has operated her pottery studio Fire Escape in Bowness for the past five years.
“After the flood, it was tough for Bowness. It completes Bowness.”
Once the lighthearted disruption had passed, Bennett and Quon had an opportunity to explain their cause to curious observers.
“We’ve had a lot of concern for flooding in the recent year or two so, in light of the Calgary floods, we want to keep that natural sponge that’s providing an upslope from the Bow River,” said Bennett, describing the slopes to the east of Olympic Park.
An environmental engineer by profession, Bennett described herself as “a professional tree-hugger.”
We’re not out with picket signs, but we want to create awareness because it affects Bowness, and we don’t want to see flooding again. – Michelle Bennett
In the absence of Bowness Park, the northwest was sorely lacking in green spaces, but even with its return, the area lacks a major wilderness recreational area such as Nose Hill, or Fish Creek.
With a development application for Paskapoo Slopes already in the works, the area has the potential to become a similar centre of activity. Housing developments have also begun to appear in the Paskapoo area.
Save the Slopes failed to steal the thunder of Bowness Park’s reopening, which was widely covered by the news media.
But according to Bennett, who has organized Bollywood themed flashmobs on Stephen Avenue and participated in a flashmob of the Stampede Grandstand show in 2012, it was never their intention to take attention away from Bowness.
“We skate here in the winter, and head up the river there to Lover’s Lane. It’s a really beautiful experience,” Bennett says of Bowness Park itself.
“We’re not out with picket signs, but we want to create awareness because it affects Bowness, and we don’t want to see flooding again.”