A friend of mine came to Estevan from Regina last weekend for some good vibes.
Her plan was to experience “busy” Estevan, see how it was doing hosting hockey teams and fans from all over Canada and make it to the Centennial Cup final. But for me, this visit turned into a unique opportunity to see the community from a different perspective.
My friend is not a big hockey fan, but she was curious to see what a professional junior tournament looks and feels like. And she definitely didn’t regret the experience. Her fresh look at everything happening in the community also helped me see the details.
After months of reading and writing about plans, preparations and aspirations for the big event, by the time the hockey teams made it to Estevan, I’d gone cross-eyed and wasn’t noticing many wonderful things happening around the community as much.
So paired with a person from outside the community, I also had a great and fresh experience. Several restaurants we stopped by Sunday afternoon for lunch were packed. It was awesome to feel this life, hear the noise and see the vibrancy of everything happening from a different perspective.
There was way more traffic on the streets and storefronts looked more attractive and welcoming than they usually do. And people were everywhere – walking, jogging, shopping, biking, eating on the patios and just sitting on the benches, which made Estevan look thriving and happy, if you can say that about the city.
But the biggest insight (which I definitely knew about, but wasn’t focusing on) happened at the final game.
We made it to the rink a bit early, and had a lot of time to cruise around and enjoy the atmosphere. There was even more life there. Hundreds of people, excited for the game, looking forward to good hockey and enjoying the night out were treating themselves to some snacks and drinks served all around the arena. And as we were making our way around the rink, I caught myself making remarks about what was happening at those little food kiosks:
-That’s the owner of Tim Hortons pouring some coffee for the customers;
-Here is the owner of The Tower Café plating pizza;
-There is the owner of KōN scooping up some ice cream, I was noting to my girlfriend.
I know there were many other local entrepreneurs that worked long hours throughout the entire tournament so that this event goes down into history as a success on all fronts. They did all they could to help guests feel welcome and satisfied. We all know about it, it's a common thing here, right?
But as I was pointing out the business owners working hands-on at the rink to ensure the best customer experience for the community and our guests that day, I realized how unique it actually was. Not for Estevan, but in general in comparison to my other experiences outside Estevan.
I knew before that there are a lot of business owners here in Estevan who work a lot doing all kinds of jobs for their business to excel, but I never really put one and one together to see what it actually means on the city scale. I don’t know if it’s something unique for Estevan, or if it is more of a common thing in smaller cities, but in most other places I’ve been to before, the approach to owning a business was very different.
An entrepreneur would start something, get it going and then delegate most of the work. In my previous life, business owners would try being at events as VIP guests rather than servers. Not in Estevan.
Here almost every business operator will be there for customers so that they feel welcome. And it wasn’t a show off during the Centennial Cup. That’s how this city operates. If you want something done well, you had best do it yourself. That’s the approach most people I know here use, and that’s something that does make this community so outstanding.
If you want to have a product or service, you start it. If you want to have fun and enjoy events, you organize it. If you want to have something bigger and better in the community, you fundraise for it. You start working and others come help, so that we all benefit from it.
People here are not afraid of work. People open businesses not out of vanity but out of care. Entrepreneurs care about what they do and they sincerely care about the customers, be it guests or locals. (Just think how many times business owners served you, checked on you or actually created the product you wanted to buy.) In Estevan it’s a common thing that we don’t even notice half of the times, but in most of the world that’s not how it works.
Of course I knew it before Sunday, but the experience with the Centennial Cup became an ultimate expression of Estevan's core. One thing that that this community definitely taught me throughout the years is that pretty much anything can be done by oneself, and done really well. And the 2022 Centennial Cup was another great proof of it.