Shop and awe: Looking back 40 years to the opening of West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall turns 40 this week; it’s among dozens of local ribbon-cuttings and openings being featured in a special edition of CBC TV’s Our Edmonton.

WEM event one of dozens of Edmonton ribbon-cuttings to remember

Edmonton Mayor Cecil Purves, centre, flanked by Nader and Eskander Ghermezian at the official ribbon cutting opening for West Edmonton Mall. (CBC)

West Edmonton Mall turned 40 this week. 

The opening-day ribbon was snipped on Sept. 15, 1981, by Edmonton Mayor Cecil Purves.

Purves was flanked by Nader and Eskander Ghermezian, two members of the local family whose company, the Triple Five Group, still owns the property four decades later.

Edmonton ribbon cuttings to remember

3 months ago
Check out these five 'openings of old' we dug out of the CBC Edmonton archive vault. 2:02

Our Edmonton, The Ribbon Cutting Edition, is on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC-TV and CBC GEM.

"It's a huge milestone for the mall," says Matthew Dutczak, a WEM fan and historian who operates the YouTube channel Best Edmonton Mall.

"For me, it just kind of puts an exclamation point on all those great memories I had growing up and how much it meant to me going to the mall."

Dutczak told Edmonton AM host Mark Connolly he's now reliving those memories with his kids at the mall but he believes locals take the middle-aged landmark for granted.

"It used to be a spectacle, it was new, it was unique, it was the only megamall in the world. Now I think people don't realize how special it is to have something like this in our own backyard." 
Ryan Lee and his friends Paul Holtom, Daniel Bosc, Nathan Zelyas and Nicholas Hoang dressed up as Nintendo characters to take part in the 2004 Halloween costume contest. (Supplied Ryan Lee)

Everyone who has ever visited the mall has memories, from wedding proposals at the Fantasyland Hotel to Halloween costume competitions, to getting lost as children in the vast space and, of course, the 1986 Mindbender roller coaster accident that killed three people and injured 20 others. 

The WEM ribbon isn't the only opening of old we've dug out of the CBC Edmonton archive vault. 

More than two dozen landmarks like the Telus World of Science, the Art Gallery of Alberta and the LRT, along with a celebration of the local history of Al Rashid Mosque, amiskwaciy Academy and the Edmonton Chinese Garden will be featured in this special broadcast.
A shot of the scissor wielding dignitaries at the ribbon cutting for the 2010 opening of the Art Gallery of Alberta. (CBC)


Adrienne Lamb is an award-winning journalist based in Edmonton. She's the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. Adrienne has spent the last couple of decades telling stories across Canada.


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