Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lois and Lieutenant Governor Bid Farewell

Calgary’s Salute to Excellence

At the gates to Stampede Park, guests were asked, “Who sent ‘ya?” Upon replying, “Al Capone” they were shown a parking space and guided to the entrance of BMO Centre. A Calgary Flames hockey game was in full force in the Saddledome next door, and guests passed through the
twisting hallways of BMO Centre, past an adjacent RV Show on their way. Though unintentional, the scene did feel reminiscent of a hidden speakeasy. Who would suspect a swinging black-tie function would be right around that motor home?

At the entrance to the main hall, actors dressed as Al Capone, his cronies, and a picketing temperance society mingled. Faux cops with billy clubs and moustaches roamed through the hall. Guests arrived in flapper outfits: headbands, layered, straight-line dresses, and top
hats. It was all part of the Chamber of Commerce’s annual theme gala. This year, it was called Prohibit This! Last year’s theme was disco.

Despite the levity of the evening, it was an emotional affair. The annual ‘Salute to Excellence’ is also a time for the chair of the Chamber to pass the gavel to a successor. In this case, the vivacious and popular Lois Mitchell stepped aside to welcome Simon Vincent. It was also the final gala for Lt. Gov. Normal Kwong, who is retiring this year. Heather Douglas, the president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, also spoke.

Noting the 1930's theme, all three made mention of the past year's accomplishments. For Kwong, 1929 holds a special significant because it was his birth year. For Douglas, this has been a year to overcome the challenges of a serious spinal surgery and a rocky financial foundation for small business. She also mentioned sponsoring George W. Bush's trip to the city as one of the Chamber's highlights - love him or hate him. For Mitchell, it was an emotional event because she was stepping down as chair, and received special congratulations from her husband, Doug Mitchell, who is also a past Chair of the Chamber.

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