High River residents Angela Piovesana and Amanda Pawlitzki will be blogging over the summer about their experiences during and after the floods that hit southern Alberta.
They'll tell stories of the recovery through the eyes of people who live there.
One of the aspects of High River, Alta. life that has changed since the flood is the lack of entertainment and social activity.
At night, the streets are quiet and eerie, where they once twinkled with the lights of the restaurants, pubs and galleries. Laughter and voices of patrons wafted out into the night air, now those venues are surrounded by vehicles for construction and debris collection.
Sensing a community in need of a gathering, the Underground Supper Club rented a hall that had been untouched by the flood. The club is a unique and special aspect of High River life that has built a following since Paula and Doug Elliot started it in 2010 by setting up a room with a restaurant atmosphere in their basement.
“I started it because I have always loved going to potlucks although here I do all the cooking. And because I love cooking," said Paula.
People reserve their seats online when Paula posts the upcoming, all-vegetarian menus on their website. Patrons pay what they want and bring their own beverage. Paula began having local artists sing for their supper, which seems to have only enhanced the club’s charm.
The popularity of the events has completely surprised Paula, she says.
“They weave a tapestry of magic and bring people together."
The seating arrangements are also carefully planned out to support connections and conversations.
And the relationships go beyond a conversation over a bowl of delicious soup. I have had dinner with wonderful people that I didn’t know previously, only to have them stop by my store later.
It started with the Elliot's friends but has grown to friends of friends of friends, and there's a core group that regularly attends.
“My circle of friends has grown exponentially and it has become a place to celebrate,” says Paula.
Their basement seats approximately 30 people, which fills almost every time. With their basement stripped bare after the flood, the hall was a great alternative.
Approximately 90 people came out to the event, where five local artists performed over dinner. Karla Adolphe, Leslie Alexander, Tyler Muir, Faye Mascher and Chuck Shifflet performed and the pair's daughter Rachel Elliot did some spoken word. Amy Muir emceed the evening. Each of the artists shared and connected in a way that made the audience feel a profound sense of love, support, hope and confidence.
“I was filled with gratitude and a crazy kind of joy that would not stop,” said Paula after the event.
Adolphe, one of the performers, says she loved the event.
"Sometimes you have a moment where life stops and everything is magical, you peek behind the veil into heaven for just a tiny second.”