“A dusty crossroads.”
“A charmless strip of hotels.”
“A depressingly workaday town.”
“An old downtown area with little charm (and some less charming lowlifes). Skip it and head on to either Kimberly or Creston.”
Those are some of the phrases Lonely Planet, the popular international travel guide, has used to describe Cranbrook.
And Lee Tengum isn’t going to take it any more.
“We’re quite known locally for all of the mountain biking and skiing and snowmobiling, and there’s a great arts scene in town,” says Tengum, a software developer who was born and raised in Cranbrook.
Tengum and a friend decided to create coffee mugs emblazoned with “A depressingly workaday town” to try and convince Lonely Planet to have a more positive portrayal of their city – the largest in the Kootenays with over 19,000 people – in future editions.
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He has put further information about his mugs on CranbrookCity.com, a website he created with his friend Nathan Siemens to highlight positive stories about the city.
“It’s pretty easy for people to get down on Cranbrook, but since we’re stuck here we want to celebrate it,” he says.
“For Christmas gifts, I’m setting it up so I can buy our entire mayor and council a mug each,” says city councillor Isaac Hockley.
But while Hockley laughed at the Lonely Planet’s description of the town, he says the city has plenty going for it. In the past week, a turkey fundraiser raised $47,000 for families in need this Christmas, while business leaders, clad only in boxers, raised over $55,000 for the city’s Salvation Army homeless shelter.
“I don’t see lowlifes here,” says Hockley.
“We’re basically at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and I’m in an airport right now looking at one of the best views I’ve seen, and I’ve been all over the world.”