The changing face of High River's downtown

High River resident Angela Piovesana blogged for the CBC last summer about her experiences during and after the floods that hit southern Alberta. Today we check back in with her to see how the community is coping a year later.

Many businesses have shut down, and still some wait to reopen

Angela Piovesana's son and business partner, Derek Adduono, plays "sad songs on our destroyed piano on the sidewalk after a long day of clearing out the damaged goods," writes Piovesana. (Angela Piovesana)

High River resident Angela Piovesana blogged for the CBC last summer about her experiences during and after the floods that hit southern Alberta.

As I approach the anniversary of the day that changed everyone’s life in High River, I have moments when I can hardly believe this much time has gone by. 

But this week, with the “reminiscent rains,” as community member Karla Adolphe beautifully expressed in a social media status update, the anxiety comes to all of us. The pounding of rain on the roof, turns my stomach into knots. Yet, despite the apprehension, I am grateful for so much that has transpired and so proud of the spirit of this town.

I was fortunate to have been able to re-open my business, a clothing store, in the original location in November. The Christmas season was even a record year for us. The support from local residents and the surrounding communities was overwhelming. And it didn’t stop. Following the Christmas season, the support has continued through the winter and into this spring.   

During the past 12 months we have experienced random acts of kindness and a showing of support and appreciation.  From gifts to kind words, there are too many stories to mention, but each one has felt like the best heartfelt hug a person could ever receive.

The town is alive now with more events and activities than this town has ever seen. Grand re-openings, artistic and cultural events, new initiatives and celebrations are increasing in frequency. We have even been given the opportunity to host the Snow Birds this summer!

Friday, however, was a reminder of how much has changed and what has been lost. I walked around the downtown with my mother who was visiting High River from Ontario for the first time since the flood.  

Celebrating success 

A few restaurants where we had dined in the past are still not open for business. The streets are speckled with hope where businesses are open and bustling or in the process of a rebuild. On our block, the Wales Theatre is nearing completion, Domino’s Pizza opened shortly after we did and the Framing Gallery had opened previously.  Sadly our much loved local book store Pixie Hollow will have to be torn down and rebuilt but they are persevering through the process. 

Statistics on the percentage of businesses that have not reopened will soon be made available to the media by the Town of High River but many businesses, by choice or circumstance, will not return. Around the corner from us, Gitters Pub used to bring life to the downtown after hours and hosted many talented Canadian musicians but made the decision to close its doors permanently.

 Alta Vita, previously an Italian restaurant, has stepped up in its place and recreated their original space into a pub and restaurant and now hosts jam sessions and other events. Even in the temporary structure, they provided a venue for local musicians and residents to unwind. Cottonwood Bridal has relocated from their original location on 3rd Avenue to the old Gitters location. 

Third Avenue used to be “the hub” of the downtown core. It features the Heartland set for Maggie’s Diner, which remarkably saw filming in the fall, and many other buildings that were known as prime retail locations. The street is currently blocked off as the road is torn up and undergoing necessary repair and transformation. Many of the buildings are close to complete or available now for lease. By the end of summer, the street which had roared with flood water and smashed out windows will be transformed and bustling with activity once again. It will be sad that not all of our businesses will return, but it reminds us all to be grateful and celebrate each success.

One year later, I applaud the patience and perseverance of each individual, family and business and I am confident life in High River will evolve into a community rich with pride and gratitude.

About the Author

Angela Piovesana

Angela Piovesana has been a resident of High River, Alta. for 18 years. Piovesana owns and operates Red Bag, a clothing store in downtown High River, with her son. Piovesana says creativity and inspiration are key to her life and her business.


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