Converting a Calgarian

By Ryan Jespersen

The number 99 haunted me growing up. Unlike most present-day Edmontonians, I grew up wearing red and yellow hockey sweaters - not orange and blue. Wayne Gretzky didn't make my childhood hockey dreams come true...he killed them. To this day, it frustrates me to no end, knowing there's no rebuttal for "Five Cups."

That said, when it came to my connection with Edmonton, I was never truly an enemy of the state. In fact, my Calgary roots were always a bit of a rogue branch off our family tree. For five generations, the greater Jespersen clan has proudly called the Capital region home.

So I considered it somewhat of a homecoming when I joined the Citytv Edmonton team in 2005. As host of Breakfast Television, I have an incredible opportunity (and obligation) to connect with great Edmontonians on a daily basis. We hear stories of cultural significance, artistic achievement and social change. Volunteers, politicians, impassioned community members - all serving as evidence of Edmonton's special attributes.

It's one thing to profess affection for a city in the line of duty; it's entirely another to make your new city your own away from work. If there's such a thing as formative years in adulthood, a good chunk of mine have come since moving to Alberta's capital city. The storied Legislature building will forever stick in my memory as the spot where I asked my soul mate, 96.3 Capital FM's Kari Skelton, to marry me. The winding river valley serves as my guaranteed getaway 12 months a year, just two blocks from our downtown condo. Edmonton's skyline has stood (and will continue to stand) as the backdrop for patio BBQs with new friends - elongated evenings where the beef hits the grill at a couple of hours 'til midnight, the expansive sky still lit by a slow-setting sun.

Much like the stereotypical shy small town beauty thrust into a big city spotlight, much of Edmonton's charm comes from an innocent failure to fully recognize its assets. Those who make a habit of taking in the Folk Festival might not realize the degree to which it's known around the world. By the tenth Fringe Festival, locals might forget the fact that just a handful of cities on the planet can boast such a celebration. Long-time Edmontonians might take the city's plethora of ethnic restaurants, arts venues and sports teams for granted because the entertainment options have always been there.

The "Go Big or Go Home" t-shirt hasn't sold much since the early 1990s, but the mantra still holds true. Hosting three hours of live television every weekday takes work. You find yourself rappelling down buildings, fighting MMA warriors and braving ice slides to make mornings memorable for Breakfast Television viewers. With every step outside the comfort zone, there's a reason why a guy who wore the flaming C growing up now wholeheartedly embraces the "780" - it's the obvious, undeniable fact that Edmonton has something special about it. An appreciation of history. An awareness of potential. And excitement for its future. It's a city that's easy to fall in love with - and a future I'm proud to be a part of.

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