Sunday 7 July 2013

Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth

A poster featuring a man riding a bucking horse on an open prairie field.  In each corner is a photograph of four different middle-aged well-dressed gentlemen.
It’s Stampede time in Calgary and for ten days the city parties. Most businesses will work at half speed and the employees are allowed to wear western clothing for the duration. The days start early with free pancake breakfasts at different locations throughout the city at many different venues and possibly a hangover from the night before. Most companies have smaller breakfasts or BBQ’s for their employees and the city sponsors large breakfasts feeding thousands every day. The bars all play country music and do an incredible business for the ten days of Stampede. Musicians can actually make some money, just so long as they can play western songs.
The Stampede is famous for the rodeo which has or did have the largest purse of all the rodeos in the country and perhaps North America. People come from all over the world and have a ball. The Stampede grounds are pretty much like any of a thousand fairs throughout the country, but ours has a western theme. The first Stampede was in 1912 and has entertained us for over 100 years. This year there was some doubt whether or not the Stampede would be a go, due to the flooding two weeks ago. The city and the Stampede board worked  24/7 to get the city ready. There have been a few cancelled concerts, but for the most part, Calgary is open for business. This time of year brings in many millions of tourist dollars to the city and the businesses need the cash to keep open for the slack times.

For the most part, I like the Stampede. I don’t wet my pants about it like some people do, but I will go to a Stampede breakfast and generally will go to the “grounds” to see what is happening. I worked with a guy that would take his holidays during Stampede every year and he would budget $400 dollars per day. That my friend is Stampede crazy! He came back to work exhausted but happy, looking to get a little rest in. I can’t understand that level of commitment, but I don’t tend to be that guy about anything.
Louise mentioned that since she has tomorrow off, maybe we should go down to the grounds. We have tickets that will get us in for free, but the moment she mentioned it I was trying to think of reasons not to go. I couldn’t think of one. I like to go through the “Dream House”, which is raffled off to some lucky dog each year. It isn’t always decorated to my taste and the layout is often just stupid, but I would be thrilled to death if I won it. Who wouldn’t like to win a million dollar house? The full name of the Stampede is The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, and I like to see the Exhibition part. There are amazing quilts, wood carvings, painting, sculptures, cakes, basketry and any number of other crafts. It is truly inspiring.

If you go early enough, and get there around ten o’clock, you can have about two or three hours when the crowds are tolerable. From one o’clock on, it just becomes a stampede of people all trying to have a good time. Mostly successfully. Maybe we will go tomorrow and help out the city by showing the rest of the world that we can get hit by a devastating flood and two weeks later throw the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”!

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