Calgary Alberta stands at the point where the vast Canadian prairie meets the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Its young, glittering skyscrapers rise out of older suburban neighbourhoods and seem oddly superimposed on this breathtakingly diverse western landscape, as though dropped from the sky onto the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers. Accordingly, the land is never far from the minds of the people of Calgary.
Many have likened the Calgary Alberta of today to a Canadian Dallas, a comparison that is not without merit. Like Dallas, Calgary is a confident, often-brash cowboy town that grew wealthy on oil, where they play country and western music in noisy taverns and eat thick and juicy steaks in the restaurants. As an image, however, this captures only a small part of what the city and its people are actually like. Calgary is also a city of diverse and vibrant neighbourhoods, where its citizens relax in cafés, stroll the scenic streets or take in the opera, although they are just as likely to head off to the great outdoors. Its technology industries have grown immensely, diversifying the economy and making it less of a one-horse cowboy town and more of a 21st-century city.
Before Calgary was settled by white Europeans, it was the domain of the Blackfoot natives, whose presence has been traced back 11,000 years. The first recorded European presence in the region around Calgary took place in 1787 and by 1860 settlers began arriving to hunt buffalo and sell illegal whisky. In response, Canadas first Prime Minister sent a troop of Mounties to impose the law and make the prairie suitable for immigration. As a result of this, the sleepy little trading post of Fort Calgary was born (it was named by Colonel James Macleod after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland). The settlement did not experience much in the way of population growth until the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883 and it was not until 1894 that Calgary became a city.
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Calgary is well-known as a destination for winter sports and ecotourism with a number of major mountain resorts near the city and metropolitan area. Economic activity in Calgary is mostly centred on the petroleum industry; however, agriculture, tourism, and high-tech industries also contribute to the city's fast economic growth. Calgary holds many major annual festivals which include the Calgary Stampede, the Folk Music Festival, the Lilac Festival, Wordfest: Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival, One World Festival (GlobalFest), and the second largest Caribbean festival in the country (Carifest). In 1988, Calgary became the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Winter Games, and one of the fastest ice skating rinks in the world was built at the University of Calgary to accommodate these games.