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Archive for August, 2010

Hi everyone:

It’s a typical hot and sticky August Sunday morning. And once again, I am inspired to write today because of the ongoing Stadium debate here in Hamilton and the fall-out since last Tuesday night’s vote. Now I know that some of you are going to scream at your computer, send me nasty e-mails or offer comments saying things like: “Greg, you told us twice in recent days that you don’t like the West Harbour site. That you prefer the East Mountain or other location. Don’t keep telling us this – we get it!”. Fair enough. But that’s not the theme that I wanted to discuss today. Instead, I wanted to explore a couple of other aspects of this issue. First, a possible solution that involves no taxpayer dollars from the City of Hamilton. Second, some comments about the real possibility that all this could mark the beginning of the end of the Tiger Cats in Hamilton, and that the team could soon find itself in a new location.

To use a football metaphor, let’s “kick off” by talking about the Tiger Cats and their role in this Stadium Debate. The team is currently owned by Bob Young – a local guy originally from Ancaster who made his millions in the high tech/computer/information technology industries. Ever heard of Red Hat, the North Carolina based company that specializes in open-source software? How about Lulu – the IT company that allows you to publish your own books online, to the point that the company now claims to be the fastest growing provider of print on-demand books in the world? Bob Young was the CEO for Red Hat, and now holds the same office with Lulu. Mr. Young bought the team in 2003 when it was on the verge of bankruptcy or worse, in part as a way of giving back to the community. The fact that he always calls himself the “Caretaker” rather than the team’s owner says a lot about his commitment both to the team and to the wider community.

While the Tiger Cats have had limited success on the field during Mr. Young’s tenure, he has raised the team’s profile within Hamilton immeasurably. The team markets itself much better now than in the past (witness the “Proud Home of the Tiger Cats” banners on many Hamilton streets, especially in the downtown area as one example), and through a variety of other initiatives, Ivor Wynne Stadium has become “cool”. Not just for the annual Labour Day game against Toronto that is always the highlight of the football season, but on every game day, attendance has increased and there has been a good “buzz” around town about the Tiger Cats. Now if only the guys could win more often and bring the Grey Cup back here. But let’s save that for another day!

But Bob Young didn’t make his millions by making stupid decisions. Like all successful business people he made wise decisions and developed the proper acumen to make his companies profitable. I suspect he’s also a very smart man. Not to mention, of course, that many factors beyond our control (including luck and good fortune!) also contribute to corporate success. I think we owe him a certain measure of respect, and to borrow a phrase from those old E.F. Hutton investment commercials, when Bob Young talks – we should listen. In this case, he told anyone who would listen many times that he felt West Harbour was the wrong place, and that you could not put an economically viable stadium there. And in spite of that City Council, perhaps for reasons known only to them, decided to be stubborn and still chose the WH site.

So what’s next? Let me explore a couple of possible options regarding the team’s future and in particular its place in Hamilton itself. This may be a surprise to many people, especially if you are reading this from outside Hamilton, but Ivor Wynne Stadium is actually owned by the City of Hamilton. Although Bob Young and the team have invested millions of dollars in renovations and upgrades to the stadium, the team is in fact a tenant. And as of now, the same thing would apply to any new stadium. It would still be owned and operated by the City, with the football team as a tenant. In some respects, I can see how this business arrangement would work. After all, the team only needs Ivor Wynne for something like 10 to 20 days a year. One home pre-season game, 9 regular season games and if they get that far, one or two playoff games. Add to that practice days and/or other times when the Cats may need to use the stadium and that’s why I suggested 10 to 20 days. What happens the rest of the time – as in the other 345 or so days of the year? Since it is owned by the City, Ivor Wynne gets a lot of use by community groups, as well as for a variety of school sports, including soccer and other football games. That’s just a couple of examples, and while I don’t know enough about the situation to speculate further, I would wage that it’s used in many other ways. In fact, I saw an interview on CHCH television’s Morning Live with Mayor Fred Eisenberger this past Friday (August 13) in which he noted that the Cats are just one small part of the overall stadium usage.

But as part of this current Stadium Debate, I have heard Bob Young say many times that since he bought the team in 2003 he has lost millions of dollars. As have previous team owners. While I am not a businessman, and don’t have an expert knowledge of the subject, I wonder if one of the key reasons for this is because the Tiger Cats are a tenant at Ivor Wynne. So there are many potential revenue streams that they can’t take advantage of to help lessen their losses and even turn a profit. And many of the current revenue streams actually go to the City by virtue of owning the stadium. Another factor is the stadium’s location. It’s very cramped, in the middle of a residential neighbourhood, and difficult to get to from major highways. There’s very little parking in the area, and what parking does exist is on nearby streets, sometimes even on the lawns and driveways of people’s homes.

Public transit is also difficult. HSR (the city’s public transit system, officially known as the Hamilton Street Railway) does offer shuttle buses to Ivor Wynne from various locations around town, such as the downtown core, Mohawk College and some of the area shopping malls. They do a commendable job, but unless they send the buses back to storage facilities and bring them back as the game is ending, trying to find parking spaces in the immediate area is not easy. GO Transit, our regional commuter system, does not serve Ivor Wynne at all. Wonder what that tells you? And of course, we all know that this is a “car-based” society. People would rather drive to places rather than use public transit.

So in summation, Ivor Wynne is no longer a viable economic option for the team, and hasn’t been for many years. It’s also a product of its time. As I have noted before, it was built for the 1930 British Empire Games. In spite of many upgrades and renovations over the years, you can tell as soon as you walk into the place that this is an 80 year old stadium. It lacks things such as private boxes and other features associated with today’s modern sports facilities. Then there’s all the elements I mentioned above (located in a residential neighbourhood, a cramped facility, little or no opportunity for revenue generation…). And as one would expect from an 80 year old facility, the stadium is aging and is long past the make-over stage. You can only plaster over the cracks or apply a fresh coat of paint so many times. With all due respect to Sam Merulla (the Councillor who represents that part of town) and others who would like to see the stadium renovated and the team stay there, I don’t think that’s an option.

A growing number of people, both inside and outside Hamilton, also realize that Ivor Wynne’s days are numbered. But I see many of the same elements in the concept for a new stadium. By selecting the West Harbour, you are still putting it in the middle of a residential/non-commercial neighbourhood with no highway access. Currently, you access Ivor Wynne from city streets after leaving the QEW. Under the West Harbour concept, you’re using city streets after leaving Highway 403. And since the City would continue to own the facility and the Cats would continue to be a tenant, many of the same econmic conditions that currently work against the team at Ivor Wynne would still be in play at the new location. And based on the assumption that the City would also own the East Mountain facility (the other major location being discussed), all this would apply there too, although due to the location and available land, it’s very possible that the opportunities for revenue generation would be much greater than at the West Harbour site.

Here’s one solution to the issue – which to my knowledge has not been raised to date. I would suggest to Bob Young and other interested parties that he put together some sort of private consortium and then build his own stadium for the Tiger Cats without any taxpayer dollars, and with no need for the City to own the place and for the Cats to be a tenant. Get the business community in Hamilton and surrounding area behind this and it could really work. It would also speak to those Hamiltonians who are worried about giving tax dollars to the Tiger Cats in a bid to keep them in the City. Especially when you consider that Hamilton’s finances aren’t the best and/or that many folks here would prefer to have the money spent on infrastructure, social needs and the like. Don’t give the team any taxpayer dollars. Instead, encourage the business community in Hamilton and the surrounding area to help Bob Young et al fund this thing privately. The location doesn’t matter. Could be at the East Mountain, Confederation Park, maybe even land near the Aldershot GO station that many people (including yours truly!) have discussed. Any location will do just fine if it is economically viable. I think it’s a no-brainer.

Privatization, of course, means the commercialization of the Stadium project. And to many people in Hamilton, those are fighting words and should be opposed at all costs. Not surprising given that in many ways Hamilton is essentially a blue collar/labour/steeltown that may not always be friendly to big business and other commercial enterprise. Or at least there’s a large part of the community that feels that way – more about this “identity” thing later. It would also mean that the Cats just might wind up playing at a new stadium called U.S. Steel Field or similar corporate name. CHML or other local radio station could be calling the play-by-play from the Hamilton Spectator Press Box. While some fans pay big bucks to sit in the Turkstra Lumber Patio Deck at the north end zone. And don’t forget the pre-game Rock ‘N Roll Show sponsored by Oldies 1150 CKOC radio at the Tim Horton’s Party Pad located next to the south end zone. Come early for the tailgate party – the first 500 cars on site get a $100 gift certificate good at any of the stores at Burlington Mall, Eastgate Square, Centre Mall, Jackson Square, Lime Ridge Mall or other local shopping centre. Be sure to stay after the game for the fireworks show sponsored by Airways Transit… you get the idea. Obviously I made up those examples just for fun. But the commercialization of the North American sports facility has been going on for many years. Just look at the many places that now bear corporate names. You only need to travel down the road to Toronto to find places like the Air Canada Centre, the MasterCard Centre for Excellence (the Maple Leafs new practice facility), the Rogers Centre or BMO Field. It’s happening in every North American city and in other major cities worldwide. As an example, the Emirates Stadium in London, the state-of-the-art home of the world famous Arsenal soccer (or “football” if you prefer!) club. For those who don’t know, Emirates is one of the world’s largest airlines, based in the Middle Eastern city-state of Dubai.

I cite all this to show that a new stadium can be built with private funds. Including the “naming rights” that I just noted above and which can generate millions of dollars in corporate revenue. No tax dollars need to be offered and the City doesn’t need to be involved at all. By owning and operating the facility, it would also give the Tiger Cats the chance to explore other revenue generating opportunities. For example, Bob Young noted his interest in bringing a professional soccer franchise to Hamilton, which could play out of that same stadium. Concert promoters could use it as another Hamilton area location for many of the biggest acts on today’s music scene. Those are just a couple of examples, there are obviously many more opportunities out there to make the team and its new stadium more economically profitable.

I decided to name this blog entry “Go Cats Go – to another city?”, and that brings up the second key point I wanted to address today. Although it may seem unthinkable to many people here, and especially to those who are hardcore Cats fans, unless the right solution is found, Hamilton could indeed lose the franchise and a vital part of the fabric of this city. So “Go Cats Go” could be more than just a cheer to urge on the team during a game. It could also urge on the team to a new city. Some have said all this is a bluff. That Bob Young is holding the city hostage. Or that the team can’t leave Hamilton because there aren’t any other viable options. Maybe so – but it’s still worth examining and debating the idea.

The “private” option I just noted could also work in another city or town. Or maybe some kind of “public-private partnership” where a city could enter into an agreement with private enterprise to get the stadium built. So if a deal can’t be reached to keep the team in Hamilton, what about other jurisdictions in this area, such as Burlington, Oakville, Milton or St. Catharines? It’s a real possibility – although one would hope that moving the team out of Hamilton is a desperation “last-resort” thing.

Moving to a nearby community could also be one element in the the regionalization of the Tiger Cats. If it can no longer work in Hamilton, keep the team in a nearby community, which could grow the fan base beyond Hamilton itself and reach out to the surrounding communities in places like the Niagara region, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph or Cambridge. Maybe even cities further west, such as Brantford, Stratford, Woodstock or London. And of course there’s the communities which make up the Halton and Peel regions – which occupy the north shore of Lake Ontario between Toronto and Hamilton, and include the places I mentioned earlier, as well as others such as Brampton or Mississauga. Some might argue that the location doesn’t matter. As long as the team remains in Hamilton, or moves to a nearby city, the same 25,000 or so who go to every game at Ivor Wynne will go to the new place too. Again, that’s an interesting one to debate, but there is always merit in growing your fan base, tapping into new revenue sources and related matters.

The possibility that the Tiger Cats could leave for another location was a theme I touched on during my earlier blog entries. As I noted then, how about the “Moncton Tiger Cats” or “Les Tigres-Chats du Quebec”? Sure, they are both longshots, but it could happen. In fact, this whole “Stadium Debate” thing and the related issue of whether the Cats may be leaving town also points out just how “dysfunctional” Hamilton is and why there has always been a tug-of-war not only for the soul of this city, but also to establish its identity. I mentioned earlier that some folks like to think of Hamilton as a blue-collar/labour/steeltown. That’s just one example. This tug-of-war also explains in part why it’s hard to make any real progress in terms of getting things done. How can you when there are so many competing visions and identities for Hamilton – some which are directly at odds with each other.

Another factor in this particular debate is to look at how Hamilton has changed and evolved over the years. Just as the City is trying to move its economic base away from the steel industry and become more diversified (with some success), the same could be said of the Tiger Cats role within the City. As some have noted, this isn’t 1965 any more. Just as Hamilton has moved beyond its “steeltown” roots, the Tiger Cats are no longer the only game in town. Although it may sound surprising to some, there are many people who live in Hamilton who don’t care about the Cats. Who don’t bleed Black and Gold. Who have no interest in whether the team gets a new stadium or not. Some have even said that Hamilton’s “identity crisis” is a moot point because these days, like many other places in this area, the City is rapidly becoming nothing more than a bedroom community for Toronto. I’m not so sure about that one, but as someone who frequently commutes to places like Burlington, Oakville, and Misissauga (as well as to Toronto itself) I will concede there are times when you can’t help but think that all this really does look like one big super city. The shopping malls, GO Transit stations, libraries and community centres in Burlington don’t look all that different from their counterparts in Oakville. There’s very little to differentiate between the different cities in the Greater Toronto Area. Except perhaps for the economic idea that the further out from Toronto you go, the less expensive things become. I can go for that one – in that I have noticed over the years that Hamilton is a much less expensive place to live than my old home city of Mississauga. But lest I really go off on a tangent, I think I will leave it there for others to debate.

No matter what you think about Hamilton, however, I think that all this simply adds to the “dysfunctionality” that I mentioned above. It’s something that I have sensed right from the time I came here in September 2002, and even commented on it as part of a blog entry I wrote a year ago (August 2009) entitled “An Ode to Hamilton” You can find it at:

An Ode to Hamilton AKA Canada’s Steel City

And in an interesting piece of timing, an excellent Globe and Mail article about Hamilton was published just after I wrote my blog entry which really sums up the City well. And which in part:

Hamilton’s Dead – Or Is It?

Time to finish this entry. As usual, another long entry and I apologize for that. But when I get on a roll like this, especially when it’s something I am really interested in, that seems to happen. One last thing. The Hamilton Spectator has a wonderful information resource which talks about this current situation. Just go to the Great Stadium Debate site:

The Great Stadium Debate – A Special Section from the Hamilton Spectator

Thanks for reading this entry – and I will be back again soon!

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Hi everyone:

It’s now Wednesday August 11. Or at least that’s what most people would call today. In Hamilton, however, we’re calling it “D Day + 1”. As in “Decision Day + 1”.  If you don’t understand the reference, read yesterday’s blog entry which serves as the prequel to this one. After an 11 hour marathon session, Hamilton City Council voted just after 8:00 p.m. last night to put the proposed Pan Am Games stadium on the West Harbour site.  I did follow some of the discussions yesterday as best I could. Our local newspaper (the Hamilton Spectator) did a good job, and several other media sources in the City did the same. I found it interesting, however, that Cable 14 (our local community cable channel) broadcast the proceedings, but on a tape delay basis. So if you got home after work at 5:30 and turned on Cable 14 thinking that what you were watching was a live feed from City Hall – not quite. I think they were actually running a couple of hours behind. But at least they were covering the session. The Spectator was supposedly offering a live video feed on their Web site, but I never did manage to access it.  Speaking of The Spectator, they have several articles on all this in today’s paper – which is to be expected. If you’re reading this and want to follow along, have a look at their Web site:

http://www.thespec.com/

Now that it’s the day after the vote (12-3 in favour of the West Harbour site, with 1 abstention), I’d like to take a moment to offer my take on all this.  I must confess that I am a bit disappointed with this decision. While I do commend Hamilton City Council for actually making a decision on a stadium site (at long last!), I think that WH is the wrong place for a stadium. In my opinion, it is not an economically viable location. I agree entirely with the Tiger Cats and others who have major concerns about the site.

I noted several reasons why I don’t like the  West Harbour in my earlier entry, and while I don’t want to belabour the point, let me add one more. The Tiger Cats currently play at Ivor Wynne Stadium, located in the city’s East end.  There are some “issues” with the stadium (more about that later!), but it also shares one major similarity with the West Harbour location. Both are in the middle of residential neighbourhoods with no immediate highway access.  In each case, you must use city streets for a good part of the trip once you leave either the QEW or the 403.  Just as there are limited parking options in the neighbourhood surrounding Ivor Wynne, the West Harbour is also not a “car-friendly” environment.  As a result, it’s difficult to attract fans from outside Hamilton itself to either location.  And if the Cats are going to attract more fans, grow their busienss,  and expand their core market beyond Hamilton to places like the Niagara region, Halton and Peel regions, Kitchener/Waterloo, Cambridge or Guelph, you’ve got to have a stadium that has great highway access. You could have had that at the East Mountain site. But you don’t at WH.

I’m sure that those who do support WH cheered long and loud into the night, and praised the Council for what they think is a great decision.  But if any of you are reading my words right now, let me ask you a couple of important questions. What exactly have you won? Is the West Harbour really the best site anywhere in Hamilton for a stadium? And will this really be the jump-start for downtown Hamilton’s renewal/revitalization that you all seem to think it will be? I would say no in each case – and just because Council voted for this, don’t expect the groundbreaking ceremony and construction crews on the site any time soon. All they did last night was vote on a concept that may still never happen. When I was just a wee lad many years ago, I remember learning an expression “You cut off your nose to spite your face”. A more folksy way of describing a Pyrrhic victory. Yes, you won something – but at what cost, and what exactly did you win? That expression was how my parents and grandparents might have described last night’s vote.

I suppose the question we’re all going to ask now is what’s next? My understanding is that the next step involves discussions with many other parties. In particular the Pan Am Games organizers. Then there’s the federal and provincial governments. What about the Tiger Cats? Unless I read it wrong, it seems to me that Bob Young, Scott Mitchell and others associated with the football team have made it crystal clear that the team will never play at WH. Which leads me to another question. So you build a stadium at the West Harbour which hosts the soccer competition for something like 2 or 3 weeks as part of the 2015 Pan Am Games. But then what? Who will be the “anchor” tenant after the Games are done?  Probably not the Tiger Cats.  Sure, you could open up the stadium for schools, community groups and so on. But let’s not be naive here – it takes money to run these facilities. And unless you have at least one major anchor tenant who can make a profit and run the stadium in an economically feasible way – then it’s all for naught. From what I have read, the Tiger Cats rejected WH because they felt that you couldn’t make that location work. I’m not an economist, far from it. But given that I live only a few minutes walk from the West Harbour site and I know that piece of land well, I think the Cats are absolutely right. Which is why I said yesterday that my preferred choice is to make WH an extension of Bayfront Park  – just across the railway tracks. Do some low density stuff. Some walking trails, picnic areas. An outdoor concert ampitheatre that could be a summer home not just for things like the Brott Music Festival, but also for organizations like the Toronto Symphony or the Hamilton Philharmonic. Festivals like the Hamilton Mardi Gras that I attended last Saturday and then wrote about here could use it. Can you imagine thousands of people dancing to the live sounds of calypso, soca or other “island” music on the West Harbour Concert stage? I could – and I think it could work very well.

How about the Tiger Cats? What’s next for them? It is becoming increasingly apparent that Ivor Wynne Stadium is not a long-term option. The stadium is now 80 years old and even though it has undergone many renovations and upgrades over the years, you can tell as soon as you walk in that the “old girl” is showing her age. I can say that from my own experience because I usually get to 1 or 2 games a year, and always enjoy it. Ivor Wynne is a great place to watch a football game. It’s friendly and intimate, and the atmosphere is second to none. But it wasn’t built yesterday or even last week or last year. It was opened in 1930 for the very first British Empire Games – now known as the Commonwealth Games. And just as the Empire itself is now just an entry in the history books, Ivor Wynne Stadium’s time is pretty much gone. You can only plaster over the cracks and apply a fresh coat of paint so often. The Cats current lease with the City of Hamilton expires as of January 1 2012. And as it stands now, I seriously doubt that Bob Young and the gang will want to renew it again. If Mayor Fred Eisenberger and the gang at City Hall are smart, they should recognize this. They had the chance to fix the problem by selecting a site other than WH, whether it was the East Mountain or not, and with last night’s vote, they blew it. Or to put this in football terms, yes – they fumbled the ball.

I think all options are on the table now for the team. Including, shocking as it sounds, the real possibility that Hamilton could lose the team entirely. Can you say “Moncton Tiger Cats”? How about the “Halifax Tiger Cats”?  Ottawa City Council recently approved the “Lansdowne Live” proposal that will include the rebuilding of Frank Clair Stadium. But maybe the CFL doesn’t need to give Ottawa a brand new expansion franchise. How does the “Ottawa Tiger Cats” sound?

If they move to Quebec City, another option recently mentioned by the media, how about “Les Tigre-Chats du Quebec”? Hmm – could be a great rivalry with my hometown Montreal Alouettes. After all, the Montreal Canadiens-Quebec Nordiques rivalry heated up the ice every winter from the late 1970’s until the Nordiques moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. It could certainly happen in the Canadian Football League too.

But before people start organizing “Save Our Tiger Cats” rallies, singing funeral dirges, wailing in the streets or organizing “wakes” for the Cats, let’s get real here. I think moving the team out of Hamilton is very much a desperation “last resort” option. We have just seen a debate over 2 major locations. But you can’t convince me that it had to be either the West Harbour or the East Mountain. In a city of something like 600,000 with a large physical area, are you really telling me that these are the only 2 sites that could work? Some folks have mentioned Confederation Park as a good stadium site. And that’s just one. I am sure there could be other feasible locations within the City.

Did you notice that I just said “within the City”? Do the Tiger Cats really need to build a new stadium within Hamilton itself? There must be appropriate sites in the surrounding cities and towns that would be glad to host the team. St. Catharines? Grimsby? Niagara Falls? Or if you want to go towards Toronto – how about Oakville,  Milton, Georgetown, Mississauga, Burlington, Guelph, Cambridge or Kitchener – just to name a few communities within easy travelling distance of Hamilton?

I remember a while back there was talk about going in with their hated rivals the Toronto Argonauts on a joint new stadium within easy access of both cities. Sounds strange, but if you look at the National Football League, both the New York Jets and Giants play in the same stadium – across the Hudson River from the towers of midtown Manhattan, in New Jersey. The Cats and Argos could easily do the same.

OK – time for the “wild card” entry. And in fact this next idea was mentioned by a columnist in today’s Spectator. There’s land available near the Aldershot GO station, in the west end of Burlington, at the intersection of Waterdown Road and Highway 403. It just so happens that this land is already zoned for entertainment and related stadium purposes. Not only that, but the province is building a new interchange at Waterdown Road and the 403 that should be ready sometime in the fall of 2010 – which would make accessing the site that much easier. What makes this even more interesting is that the Tiger Cats know about this, and in fact have talked about this idea before, including media coverage such as the following article from earlier this year:

http://www.thespec.com/article/765647

Although this option has been dismissed in the past, I think this site is a great idea and should be seriously re-examined. You are next to a major highway (the 403) – so getting there by car would be easy. Close to the Aldershot GO, so it works by public transit too. And if there is also sufficient land to facilitate other commercial development as a spin-off or in conjunction with the stadium, then this baby really is a “win-win”.

I think this Aldershot thing is really worth pursuing. Bob Young and Scott Mitchell – are you guys reading this? If I were them, I would put together some kind of private consortium to fund the thing. Perhaps Cam Jackson (the Mayor of Burlington) and other “movers and shakers” in their city could get in on this and make it a public-private partnership. The potential here on so many levels is quite remarkable.

Here’s another possibility. As part of the Pan Am Games organization, Burlington has offered to host some of the soccer competitions. See where I am going here? No – then I’ll spell it out. The City will need to build an appropriate stadium for the competitions. So why not tie this in with the Tiger Cats need for a stadium and build something which will also make economic sense for the Cats? Perhaps at Aldershot, or at another suitable location within Burlington. It could really work well for all parties.

And while one could say that if the new stadium is built at Aldershot or other location in Burlington,  they now become the “Burlington Tiger Cats”, there’s no need to go that route. There are many precedents for sports teams playing outside their “named” city. I mentioned the 2 New York football teams – even though they are called the New York Jets and the New York Giants, they don’t play in New York City at all, but in New Jersey.  The New York Red Bulls, the city’s Major League Soccer franchise, recently opened their new state-of-the-art stadium, the Red Bull Arena. Where is it? You guessed it – New Jersey. Another New York sports team, the Islanders, have their arena in Uniondale, located on Long Island (hence the name “Islanders”).  And lest you think this only happens in New York, how about another NFL team, the Washington Redskins. Their stadium is not in Washington, but is actually located in one of the nearby Maryland suburbs.  The Detroit Pistons basketball team’s arena isn’t in Detroit itself. It’s in Auburn Hills, another suburban setting. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with a team called the Hamilton Tiger Cats playing next door in Burlington. Or any other nearby city.

Time to finish off my “rant”. I must confess that I am tired hearing about this whole stadium thing – but this thing has been going for a long time and I suspect it’s only just begun.  Let’s all just “chill out” for a while, let the emotions cool down and take a rational look at what’s next. And since I am writing this “live” from our HAPPEN meeting at the Burlington Art Centre (and it’s coming up on our end time of 12 noon), I really think I should publish this for all of you and then get back to work.

Thanks for reading this, as well as yesterday’s entry. These are interesting days for the City of Hamilton, the Tiger Cats and the 2015 Pan Am Games. I wish everyone involved the very best, and like everyone else here in Hamilton and surrounding area I will continue to follow this with interest.

Until next time!!

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Hi everyone:

Today is D-Day. No, not the famous Allied landings on the beaches of Normany on June 6 1944 that many cite as the beginning of the end of World War 2. Here in Hamilton, August 10 2010 is Decision Day, when we learn where the proposed Pan Am Games stadium is to be built. The bulk of my entry today is based on something that I wrote this past weekend on the Hamilton Spectator Facebook page. After some further reflection, however, I thought it might be fun to share this with a wider audience. But before I do that, a brief “back-story” about this stadium issue

In November 2009, the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), meeting in Guadelajara, Mexico,  awarded the right to host the 2015 Pan American Games to Toronto. For those not familiar with this, you could say that these are very much like the Summer Olympic Games, but only for nations of the Western Hemisphere. As in North, Central and South America, along with the many Caribbean islands. Like the Olympics,  the Pan Ams are held every four years.

Although the Games were awarded to Toronto, the bid itself was structured so that cities and towns across the region could benefit by having many of the events placed in various locations throughout Southern Ontario. And as part of the bid, it was suggested that Hamilton serve as one of the key hosts of the Games. To the point where it was suggested that our city would host the track and field events, in a suitably designed stadium, which after the Games would then become the new home of the Hamilton Tiger Cats.  But that’s not all. It was also suggested that Hamilton could host other events, such as cycling at a new velodrome. Other athletic facilities would be built at McMaster University, which would allow other sports to be contested here.

At first, it seemed like a slam-dunk that the new stadium would be built at what is commonly known as the West Harbour, a piece of underdeveloped formerly industrial land on the waterfront. Right next door to Bayfront Park. If you read my last entry, then you will recognize it as the place where much of the Hamilton Mardi Gras Festival took place this past weekend. The plan was to build it as a 15,000 to 20,000 seat stadium to be used primarily for track and field, but with a design that would allow it to be expanded to something like 30,000 or more after the Games as the new home of the Tiger Cats. It appeared that it was all a done deal. It only needed approval of the 3 levels of government (federal, provincial and Hamilton City Council). What could possibly go wrong? Let’s call for tenders, have the groundbreaking, put the shovels in the ground and get the damned thing built.

But a few months later, problems began to appear. Some began to note that since the West Harbour was in fact an old industrial brownfields site, the land could contain potentially toxic materials that needed to be cleaned out. Others cited that the land required for the stadium, along with the velodrome planned to be built next door, was too small and that some nearby homes would need to be expropriated. People who in some cases had lived in their homes for 40, 50 or more years would suddenly be homeless. Not to mention the damage to the local community. Others noted the lack of major roads and highways in the immediate area, making it difficult to access the site.

Then the Tiger Cats, who originally appeared to be co-operative and supportive of the West Harbour site, suddenly did an about-face. Led by Bob Young, the team’s owner (or as he likes to call himself “the Caretaker”), the team began to point out negatives. The biggest one being that the site was not economically viable. Without some major changes, the Cats would be in serious financial trouble – to the point where the team might fold or move to another city.

It wasn’t long before we all began to realize that the Cats position was very different from the City of Hamilton, who were particularly bullish on the West Harbour site because it could serve as a catalyst for renewal and revival in the city’s downtown core. This is a critical issue, and if you live here or have visited Hamilton’s downtown,  you know that this has been a “hot-button” issue for many years.

By the spring of 2010, with time now becoming an issue and the Games organizers pressing for a decision, the City  and the Tiger Cats decided to appoint a Facilitator to help find a workable solution for all parties. And as part of that, a second possible location, now known as the East Mountain,  was suggested. The reactions could be seen a mile or more away. The City, and Mayor Fred Eisenberger in particular, rejected the whole thing out of hand. They really wanted the West Harbour, and pushed for it harder than ever. The Tiger Cats, led by Bob Young, absolutely loved it. They even offered to throw in some money to help pay for the stadium. And work to bring more events to it, such as a brand new professional sports franchise, a soccer team. Over time, it became a heated issue – with Hamiltonians arguing passionately for either location. As one might expected we ever had Web sites spring up in support of each side as follows:

West Harbour: Our City – Our Future

East Mountain: Go East Mountain

Two things finally brought things to a head – first, the Games organizing committee decided to move the track and field events to Toronto and instead bring the soccer games to Hamilton. Second, the same committee imposed a deadline of August 12 for the City and the Cats to decide. Not only was time getting tight, but it was destroying Hamilton’s reputation. Instead of many positive impressions, Hamilton was now being perceived by those near and far as a city in turmoil and conflict – a place that had trouble deciding and coming to a final answer.

And so we come to today. To a debate that is going on ever now as I write these words (ca. 11:15). I am actually writing this at our regular Tuesday morning HAPPEN meeting in Mississauga. When you look at the timing, such as finishing off the meeting, moving things to our on-site storage locker, having lunch and then taking a GO Transit bus back home, I likely will not be home until mid to late afternoon. Let’s say 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. I would almost lay odds that the discussion will still be going on, and the final vote will be sometime tonight. No matter what site is chosen, Hamilton will never be the same.

Now, let me offer you all those Facebook comments, and then close off with some brief comments after that:

I think the East Mountain is a much better location than WH, if only for one very important reason. Highways. The East Mountain site is roughly at the intersection of the Linc and Red Hill Valley Expwys. The only major highways even close to West Harbour are the 403 and the QEW going over the Skyway. Even Ivor Wynne has better highway access.

We can talk all we want about public transit, a new GO station in the area (perhaps at LIUNA Station) and/or other infrastructure improvements as part of the West Harbour redevelopment. And I suspect all that will happen in any event. But let’s not fool ourselves here. We are a “car-oriented” culture. People would rather drive to a stadium rather than use public transit. That is until the price of gas gets to something like $10 a litre. But in the meantime, the East Mountain site already has many of the highway and other road services you need, and that plays a key role in making the new stadium economically viable.

And for people like me who don’t own a car? Simple. HSR already runs shuttle buses to Ivor Wynne on game days. No doubt they will continue to do that in future, regardless of where the stadium goes. Maybe GO Transit, Burlington Transit and other regional public transit providers will do the same.

What would I do with the West Harbour? Redevelop it in tandem with Bayfront Park next door. Tie the 2 properties together. Put in walking trials and other low-density development. Perhaps a concert amphitheatre that could be used for outdoor concerts in the summer. Like many people I still miss the “Forum” at Ontario Place. That was so well designed, complete with the revolving stage and the grassy hillsides overlooking it. Why not recreate the Forum at the West Harbour. Would make a great home for events like the Brott Summer Music Festival.

That’s all for now. Like all of Hamilton, I am watching this debate with great interest, and tomorrow’s Council vote should be fascinating. I wish Council the very best, and regardless of which site is chosen, may the decision reflect whatever is truly in our City’s best interests.

By the time you read this, especially if it’s anytime after tomorrow (August 11), a decision will have been made. We’ll know where the new stadium will go. Or the City may decide not to bother at all. Let’s all hope that the decision made is the right one and that we can move forward to what everyone really wants – a “win-win” that makes Hamilton proud, and the Tiger Cats a strong and vital football team that will be part of Hamilton’s fabric for generations to come.

Until next time 🙂

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I first wrote this entry on August 7 2010 – after watching the Hamilton Mardi Gras Festival Parade. Stay tuned for a one year “postscript” after this text!

Hi everyone:

It’s funny what happens sometimes when you decide to re-start your computer. Such was the case just before 12 noon today when I noticed this machine seemed a bit sluggish and things were not as smooth as they should be.  I figured that a re-start might be the cure for what was ailing it. But like many Windows-based computers, especially an older model like this one that has a slower CPU and less RAM that newer models, it always takes a while for my computer to complete the Start routines and be ready to do my bidding. In fact, I have long been in the habit that when I re-start my computer, I don’t even think about using this machine for at least 15 or 20 minutes in order to let all the various start-up sequences do their thing.

Since it was a Saturday morning and I didn’t have any urgent tasks to do, I thought it might be fun to go out and enjoy the day . And as noted above, it was going to be a while before my computer was ready to go, and that was fine with me. I had already been down to Jackson Square (downtown Hamilton’s major shopping mall) earlier in the day for a coffee and muffin – along with a look through today’s edition of our local paper (the Hamilton Spectator), so I knew that it was a perfect summer day. Sunny and warm, but not “hot”. Almost no humidity and a nice breeze that made it very comfortable and refreshing.  If you follow my blog on a regular basis, you know that I normally don’t like the summer. But my morning walk had taught me that this was looking like a nice day that even I could enjoy.  Why not take advantage of the opportunity, go for a walk around downtown Hamilton and see what was happening?

It didn’t take long for me to find out. As I walked down James Street from my apartment, past the Hamilton GO Centre towards the downtown core, I started hearing music off in the distance. At first, I thought it was a lunch-hour concert at Gore Park, something which often happens during the summer months. But I dismissed that thought because I realized that the direction wasn’t right.  I soon realized that the music was in fact coming from the large parking lot behind City Hall. As I stood at the corner of James and Jackson waiting for the traffic light to change, I glanced over that way. Sure enough, that’s exactly where the music was coming from. But that wasn’t all. I caught a glimpse of an amazing visual explosion. People clad in festival costumes, and some incredibly colourful floats. And it was starting to come my way. My guess was that this had to be some sort of parade or similar event. I was curious and decided to stick around to see what all this was about.

Oh – it was a parade all right. What I was seeing was the start of the 2010 edition of the Hamilton Mardi Gras Festival parade.  And then I remembered during the past couple of weeks seeing large orange signs indicating that James Street would be closed through the downtown core on August 7 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on account of the parade. That time had now arrived. Since I had no specific “agenda” and didn’t really care what time I walked back home, I thought it might be fun to find a space somewhere along James and watch the proceedings. In the end I couldn’t settle on just one – but my favourite spot wound up being from the Jackson Square Plaza, an open-air courtyard located above the mall itself, overlooking the corner of James and King. It turned out to be a great location for what turned out to be quite a spectacle that lasted for some time.

For my readers who haven’t been exposed to this sort of thing before, how would I describe the Hamilton Mardi Gras Parade? Very much like Caribana, Toronto’s world famous festival of Caribbean (aka the West Indies) culture that has taken place over a 2 week period in late July and early August every year since 1967.  The climax of Caribana is the incredible parade that takes place every year on the first Saturday in August – and which draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over North America and beyond. Not only is it a great party, but the visitors to Toronto contribute millions of dollars to the local economy. Although I have never been to a Caribana parade in person, I have often seen it on television and also know many people who have attended and participated in the parade. It’s an amazing display of colour, celebration, lively music and just plain fun. While it’s aimed primarily at those from the Caribbean or those who have some kind of connection to the islands – everyone is welcome and encouraged to get involved. It really is diversity at its best.

Today was not the first time I had encountered the Hamilton festival. I have now lived here since September 2002 and over the years I had seen various signs and other promotional material telling us about the festival. I also knew that the Hamilton Mardi Gras was started in 2001, not as competition for Caribana, but rather to enhance and follow-up on the Toronto event. Seems that many members of Hamilton’s Caribbean community wanted their own festival and what I and many thousands of people witnessed today was merely the 2010 edition of the most public event of Hamilton’s Mardi Gras.

What I witnessed from the Jackson Square Plaza was an amazing kaleidescope of sights and sounds. Men and women dressed in colourful costumes that in many cases were much bigger than the people carrying them, dancing to a variety of Caribbean music – calypso, soca and other “island” sounds.  Lots of wonderfully decorated floats – some of which doubled as giant sound stages, from which all the music was coming.  To sum up the big picture, it was just a great party atmosphere. Or what many folks from the islands like to call a “jump-up”.

Now before we go further, let me clarify something here. I know that some of you may tell me that the term “jump-up” most often refers to various forms of street-dancing, in particular those associated with Caribbean, African-American and related cultures. It’s also a big part of today’s “hip-hop” music scene.  But many of my Caribbean friends have told me that it can also refer to a party, festival or other celebration – especially when that type of “jump-up” dancing plays a key role in the proceedings.  And that party/festival reference is  the context in which I am using the term “jump-up”. I have also heard it used in that same way by the media. To cite some examples,  have a look at a few articles about the 2010 Caribana Festival, some of them referring to a “jump-up” the same way I do:

http://www.metronews.ca/toronto/local/article/580103–everybody-jump-up-it-s-caribana-time-again

http://www.caribanafestival.com/

http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/07/31/14888671.html

http://www.caribana.com/

http://www.thestar.com/topic/caribana

And as I watched everyone pass by from my vantage point high above the corner of James and King in the heart of downtown Hamilton, it soon became apparent that’s exactly what this was turning into. A “jump-up” of epic proportions. Float after float and dancer after dancer,  they just kept coming in waves of sound and celebration. If I didn’t know better, I could have sworn that I wasn’t in Hamilton – but perhaps down in the Caribbean itself. Kingston, Jamaica? Port of Spain, Trinidad? Bridgetown, Barbados?  Maybe Hamilton, Bermuda? But this was not the Caribbean – I was in Canada. The atmosphere sure felt Caribbean, that’s for sure.

After what seemed like about 45 minutes but might have been longer, I decided it was time to take a break.  Yes, it was a lot of fun to watch the parade, and the weather conditions were ideal,  but my primary concern was being out in the sunshine for too long. I wanted to be careful that I didn’t get too much exposure. Especially for someone like me who has a low tolerance and can get not just a suntan but a sunburn rather quickly. And I must confess that while I was enjoying the music and celebration, my ears needed a break from the high decibels being pumped out from the speakers on those floats. So I left my spot high above the parade, walked down a nearby stairway back to street level, and went into Jackson Square. I’m one of those strange guys who actually enjoys browsing through shopping malls. That’s something women tend to be better at than men, but I don’t mind admitting that it can be a fun past-time. But remember, you’re just looking – don’t buy anything!

I didn’t keep track of how long I spent wandering around Jackson Square, but after a while I decided to head out again and see how the parade was going. After all, the Caribana parade usually goes for hours and hours and hours… you get the idea. Why should the Hamilton edition be any different? But when I returned to the corner of James and King, I got a surprise. Nothing. In fact, the corner didn’t look all that different from a typical Saturday. People coming and going in and out of the mall. Traffic passing by. But I knew the parade was still in the area because I could hear the music bouncing off the nearby buildings. Sure enough, I looked down James Street, and there they were.  A couple of blocks away what appeared to be the end of the parade had just passed the Lister Block and was nearing York Boulevard.

So I decided to follow the parade and really soak up the “island” atmosphere. After crossing with the light at the James-King intersection, I turned left and started walking north towards the parade. It didn’t take long for me to reach the final group. And in fact, as I continued down James, it also didn’t take long to cover the entire distance.  By the time I reached Barton Street I recognized the floats and many of the dancers I had seen back when I was high above them at the Jackson Square Plaza. I kept walking, and a few minutes later reached LIUNA Station (the former Hamilton CN railway station which now serves as a banquet hall and convention centre). I had not only reached the front of the parade, but was now slightly ahead of it. If I felt like it, and I did, I could watch the whole thing a second time – this time from street level, up close and personal. I had thought about staying at LIUNA Station, but instead decided to keep walking down James Street and soon found a spot next to the curb just a block or so away.

The fact that this parade was not exactly setting speed records and that I had walked from the final float all the way up to the beginning fairly quickly wasn’t really too surprising. Down in the Caribbean, life tends to go at a different pace from what we would be used to here in Canada. It’s what many people  like to call “island time”.  I don’t know much about the concept – except that it’s just part of the Caribbean way of life.  Maybe it’s the tropical climate and the more relaxed lifestyle.  Perhaps that same tropical sun just zaps you of energy and you want to just slow down and take your time. I can certainly relate to that one. During our warm Canadian summer months, I often feel very drained and don’t have nearly the energy level that I have the rest of the year.

But whatever the reason, standing here in downtown Hamilton, joined by thousands of other spectators and participants, it seemed that this parade was running on “island time”.  I wasn’t sure of the parade’s ultimate destination – but I knew one thing for sure. This thing would arrive at that destination not according to a set time or agenda, but when it was damned well good and ready to do so. It might take an hour to get there or it might take 3 hours. Who cares? If you’re having fun and just soaking up the party atmosphere, when you reach the end doesn’t really matter.

So where exactly was that destination? I had no idea. But I guess someone in the parade must have heard me thinking that. By this time, a massive red and black series of floats and dancers from Trinidad and Tobago that served as the lead group had reached me. And just as they did, the music coming from one of their floats stopped. The DJ announced to the crowd that at the next intersection, they would be turning off James Street and the parade would now head for Bayfront Park, only a couple of blocks west. Time for one more song before they got there. After a few seconds, the music and dancing started up again, and the float did indeed make a left turn off James a couple of minutes later.

And in that message I found out what I wanted to know. Bayfront Park was the parade’s final destination. Of course. It was so obvious, why didn’t I think of that? Everyone in Hamilton knows Bayfront Park. It’s a huge tract of land down by the waterfront. Lots of walking trails, green grass, picnic places and so on. Even some boat-launching facilities that can be put to good use by members of  the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club and similar clubs based nearby. Or just your average boater who wants to spend the day out on the water.  What better place for the Hamilton Mardi Gras parade to end – followed by a giant celebration of all things Caribbean that is likely still going even as I write this at about 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night, about 4 hours after I came back here? And will continue well into the night. Followed by a similar party at the same location all day tomorrow (Sunday August 8). Holding the celebrations there would be a no-brainer for the organizers.

Just as the parade was now heading for Bayfront Park, I decided to do the same. And in keeping with “island time”, I made it a fair distance ahead of the parade. Seems that a lot of other people had the same idea, because the place was rapidly filling up with folks, all intent on having a great time on a perfect summer day. It was indeed time for a “jump-up”.  As for the parade and its impending arrival, it was one of those situations where you heard the music and the revellers long before you saw it. It seemed to take a long time but finally that Trinidadian float that I had seen back on James came into view. I stood at the entrance to the park and watched them arrive, an explosion of their red and black national colours with a celebration of Trinidadian culture to match. It was quite a sight to behold. Followed in their own good time by many other floats who made their presence known with their own music, dancing and other celebrations. Add them all together and it was quite an amazing atmosphere.

But what I didn’t realize at the time was that the parade had actually ceased to be one long celebration and had turned into smaller groups that came at you like the ocean waves that endlessly lap at the shores of those many Caribbean islands.  In other words, not only was this thing running on “island time”, but it was also turning into “organized chaos”.  Like all events, this one had some organization and structure to it, but in this particular case you had to look pretty hard to find it.  Then again, isn’t that one part of the whole “island time” thing? Things get done in their own good time. I’ll bet anyone who has “agenda anxiety”, someone who believes in doing things according to a set time and schedule, would have trouble with “island time”. But that’s OK. It would be a pretty dull world if we all did things the same way, right?

I first began to realize what this parade had turned into quite some time after the lead floats and dancers had arrived at Bayfront and settled into the section of the parking lot designated as a staging area. As I watched them disperse and head off into the park itself for the next phase of the Mardi Gras celebrations, it suddenly dawned on me that most of the parade had still not arrived. Hmm – what was that all about?  But then, just as I had wondered earlier where all this was eventually heading, an answer suddenly appeared. I could hear music coming from off in the distance, but gradually getting closer.

By this time I was standing at Bayfront’s large “lookout” area, gazing out over what was turning into quite the spectacle – a combination of the various floats and dancers reaching the end of the line, and a parking lot just below that reminded me of the tailgate parties you often see at football games.  Not only was the parking lot full of cars, trucks, SUV’s and other vehicles, but many of their passengers had set up tables and chairs. Didn’t see any barbecues, but obviously folks had prepared food ahead of time. No one would walk away hungry from this party, and of course Caribbean food and drink was the dominant fare.

Did I mention the music from a distance getting closer? It was still coming, albeit at that slow “island time” pace,  so I decided to leave the “lookout” area and walked back towards the entrance.  Sure enough, it was indeed another section of the parade that I recognized from earlier that day. I guess these folks had taken “island time” to a whole new level and really decided to take their time arriving.  But they were here at last and I decided to watch them enter the park.  Just as before, it was quite the spectacle. An intoxicating mixture of sound and vision. I thought that was it, but then another “wave” of floats that I didn’t recognize came in a few minutes later. As it turned it, that really was the end of the parade.

Now everyone had reached the final destination. I decided to return to the “lookout” and just watched the whole thing. Between the massive tailgate party in the parking lot and the many revellers walking through the rest of the park and settling in for a day of partying and celebration, it really was quite the sight to behold.

I know this thing is getting long – not too surprising given that this often happens with my blog entries, but I really can’t wrap this up before talking about all the people I saw. They were thousands strong and seemed to represent a wide variety of ethnic origins. As one might expect, the dominant groups were those from the Caribbean. It started with the red and black of Trinidad and Tobago, and while there were a lot of “Trinis” there, they were far from the only nation represented. Also much in evidence were those wearing the yellow, green and black of Jamaica. Did I mention Barbados and their yellow and blue-clad supporters? Some of them waving their “trident” flag?  Or the folks from Grenada or the Guyanese dressed in their common colours of red, gold and green?

And speaking of those colours, yes the Rastafarians were in evidence too. Granted, I didn’t hear any of the reggae music so closely identified with the Rastas, and popularized here thanks to artists such as Peter Tosh and of course the legendary Bob Marley. And I didn’t see a lot of them in attendance.  But you knew they were there, especially when you saw an occasion Ethiopian flag in the air and photos of the late Emperor Haile Selassie, worshipped by Rastas as the long promised Messiah.

In addition to the above, I saw national flags and colours from many of the other Caribbean islands, including Dominica, Cuba, Antigua, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  It was quite a mixture of cultures and backgrounds. And everyone was welcome and encouraged to get involved.

As one might expect, many people wore clothing that showed off their national origins, or the place they most identified with. One T shirt worn by several people particularly caught my eye.  I don’t remember the exact wording, but it went something like this: “When I die, if I don’t go to heaven, please send me to [place name]”. The 2 most popular choices on the T shirts named Guyana,  along with St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if that shirt is available with some other Caribbean nations too. The other piece of clothing that really stood out was a T shirt with the red and black Trinidadian flag on it. And below it was the phrase “I may live in another country, but I am still Trini!”.

In the end, I stayed at the “lookout” for some time and just took it all in. I had merely been a spectator all day, and that was really all I had ever wanted. By about 5:00 p.m., some 5 hours after I had first heard the parade getting started at the parking lot behind City Hall, I figured it was time to go home. I’d seen everything I wanted to see.

Time for some closing comments. My sincere and warmest congratulations to everyone associated with the Hamilton Mardi Gras 2010 Parade. I think the organizers did a first rate job, but of course the real stars of the show were the thousands of participants. The dancers in their incredible costumes. The DJ’s and others responsible for the music coming from those colourful floats. Yes, it was ear-splittingly loud and I suspect many people may wake up tomorrow morning with their ears still ringing. But it was fun to listen to and really lent itself to the mood of the day.

I didn’t talk to a lot of people today, but the ones I did speak to were very kind and friendly. I especially enjoyed the little kid I talked to for a couple of minutes while at the Bayfront Park lookout. He couldn’t have been any more than about 4 or 5 years old, but he was great. He kept waving at me and others nearby, and when I knelt beside him, said hello and asked him if he was having fun, he said “yes”. And he was pretty smart too. As we looked out over the parking lot and the tailgate parties, he kept saying “truck”, and when I asked him to point out some trucks to me, he did so right away.

Finally, I wish everyone associated with the Hamilton Mardi Gras Festival the very best of everthing in future. I’ll wager they are already starting to plan next year’s Festival and no doubt it will be bigger and better than ever. Will I be back in August 2011 to watch the parade again? Who knows? A lot can happen in one year, but right now I would say the odds are pretty good.

And in closing, I encourage everyone reading this – especially those of you living here in Hamilton or within a reasonable distance to get involved. If you’re coming to Toronto next year or in future years for Caribana, I hope you’ll stick around for our Mardi Gras celebrations here as well. You won’t be sorry. No, it’s not Caribana – but it’s pretty close. And just like the bigger show down the road in Toronto, it’s a wonderful celebration of Caribbean culture, as well as the diversity we can all appreciate, celebrate and enjoy.

If you want to know more about the Festival, why not visit them online at: http://www.hamiltoncarnival.com/ See you next year!

Oops – I almost forgot. My computer? Working just fine. Purring like a kitten and running faster than it has for a while. I guess re-starting it this morning was the right thing to do after all. Little did I realize what one simple action would lead to. And that takes me back to where we started this entry.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s now August 4 2011 and almost one year to the day since I wrote this entry. And the 2011 edition of that Mardi Gras parade will fire up the streets of downtown Hamilton this coming Saturday (August 6). If you’re from Hamilton and surrounding area, or plan to be here this weekend, why not join in the fun? After what I saw last year (2010) which prompted me to write the blog entry above, I just might have another run at it myself. And if I do, rather than a long update to this entry I will probably write a sequel instead.

The weather forecast for Saturday, however, looks a bit iffy. Which is unfortunate for those who plan to participate – but is actually good news. The summer of 2011 has been a long, hot and very sticky one. Perhaps very much like Caribbean weather. But also very dry. Almost no rain on a consistent basis since June or maybe earlier. So if you are planning to join in the parade and/or the celebrations down at Bayfront Park that will likely follow it all (I assume this will follow the same pattern as what I wrote about last year), be sure to bring an umbrella and/or other rainwear. Until next time!

This just in – it’s now the evening of Saturday August 6 and I suppose what our friends at CNN and other media outlets describe as “Breaking News”. I did indeed write a blog entry about the 2011 Parade. You can find it at: The 2011 Hamilton Mardi Gras Parade Hope you enjoy it!

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