As a born and raised Calgarian, I was also raised on a 10-day event called the Calgary Stampede. It’s a tradition I’ve enjoyed since my first stroller visit to the grounds, where I couldn’t wait to be tall enough to ride the carousel, or muster up the courage to go through the haunted house (I still can’t handle that one).
I could take or leave most of the midway sweets, but take me to the rodeo or lead me to the barns to get up close to the Belgians and Tennessee Walkers – I was hooked.
As a teen, beyond enjoying trips to the midway with friends, daring each other to take on the biggest, upside-down, twisting rides, the Calgary Stampede also became my first employer. The summer I turned 16, I earned my first paycheque working as an usher at the pig and duck races, working my way up to ticket taker at the gates the following year.
Being on the grounds every day was exciting, and taught me some great skills in terms of work ethic, hospitality, and putting in long days on your feet!
Even in my twenties, when I moved away to Toronto for several years, I made a point of “getting home” during Stampede whenever I could to enjoy the traditions of the event with friends and family. Even today, I know of many friends who no longer live in Calgary but make the pilgrimage home for Stampede every year.
Stampede and the city of Calgary itself has grown and changed over the years. For many, Stampede is simply a reason to put on a cowboy hat and raise a glass. To me, Stampede is also about the values it was built on – community, western hospitality and the attributes that continue to make Calgary the great place it is today.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the hardworking cowboys who compete at the Stampede every year, and they’re some of the most polite, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth people around. Add a few more cowboys to any organization and you’d likely see efficiency levels skyrocket. Behind the scenes, Stampede is about family, a compassionate way of life and taking care of each other.
We can learn a lot from the cowboy way of life.
Sure it’s fun to raise a glass in one of the many tents across the city, but let’s not forget the true roots of Stampede – to meet your neighbour, flip a pancake, celebrate your Western roots (in your Western boots) and remembering what makes our special corner of the wild west so special. Thanks, Stampede, for continuing to be an important summer tradition for Calgarians and visitors alike.