Story by Jody Robbins
CALGARY, ALBERTA — With the devastating flood that raged through southern Alberta and parts of Calgary including Stampede Park last week, observers are wondering about the fate of the 2013 Calgary Stampede. On Monday morning, a press conference will be held to outline updated plans for the annual event that is scheduled for July 5-14.
When asked by reporters on Friday morning if the show would go on, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi replied, “You know what? We’re Calgarians, we’ll make it work.”
This get’er done attitude has pervaded the Stampede since its inauguration 101 years ago. Back then it was a close-knit community celebration, and though more than 1 million spectators flock to the cowboy extravaganza each year, the essence of the event remains unchanged. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth has and always will be a celebration of community.
Keen to pull up their (cowboy) boots, more than 2,500 Calgarians signed on as volunteers to provide relief efforts at Stampede Park since the floods. Currently, the infield, where the famous chuckwagon races take place, resembles a lake. On Sunday, crews pumped out the water, sending it back into the river that had deluged the park only days earlier.
The majority of buildings at Stampede Park experienced significant flooding, including the Scotiabank Saddledome, where water levels reached 15-feet at the event level. While floors seats would currently need to be inner-tubes, events like the Stampede’s agricultural show have not been cancelled.
“That’s a move-in that’s nine days from now,” said Ken King, Calgary Flames president, expressing the determination organizers have to ensure the Stampede goes off on time. “That may seem ludicrously ambitious, but this is Calgary.”
Evacuation Alerts Lifted in Parts of Calgary
More than 75,000 individuals were evacuated from their homes on June 20 and 21 as the Bow and Elbow rivers burst over their banks and caused a historic level of flooding. Yet only 1,500 evacuees required the use of emergency shelters — unheard of for an evacuation of this magnitude. By Sunday, 65,000 residents were allowed to return home, and they remain knee deep in clean-up efforts.
Schools will stay closed on Monday, and many in the communities are predicting the flooding will mean an early start to summer holidays for kids. Parts of downtown Calgary are not expected to return to normal for weeks, and many companies are telling employees to stay out of the core until mid-week.
Praise for the city’s mayor and public servants was overflowing as Nenshi, his alderman, city workers and emergency services personnel worked dutifully around the clock to comfort and update citizens on the situation. After being on the job for 40 hours without sleep, the mayor finally succumbed to a rest, as #nap4nenshi trended on Twitter.
Several local food trucks and restaurants such as Downtown Food, Anju and Notable stepped up to the plate, offering free hot meals to emergency workers and victims. Additionally, Model Milk, Clive Burger and National on 17th fed those in need throughout the tragedy, and banded together for a community BBQ on Sunday, dispensing relief items to those affected in the Beltline/Mission neighbourhoods.
Prior to the flood, the big question on everyone’s mind was: Is the city still hungover from the centennial celebrations of last year? While Calgary won’t be fully dried out, Calgarians are expected to be back in their homes and businesses, and ready to demonstrate that famous western hospitality once again.
How You Can Help Alberta Flood Victims
Donations can be made to the Red Cross Alberta Floods Fund.
Those who want to help get the Stampede up and running should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the rest of the city, volunteers are asked to register online at YYCHelps to receive marching orders once officials declare it safe to do so.
The Alberta government has set up a webpage where you can see all of the ways to donate your time or money.
Of special note, the aboriginal Siksika Nation one hour north of Calgary has been particularly hard hit. Its community leaders say they need the following items: games and entertainment for children; bug repellent; underwear for all ages; men’s and women’s shoes. Items can be dropped off at the office of MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) Jeff Wilson, #328 Midlake Blvd. SE, Calgary, AB, or at the YWCA of Calgary.
If visiting the Stampede, please make an effort to support local businesses. Surrounding Stampede Park, hipster neighbourhoods such as Inglewood, Mission and the Beltline were some of the hardest hit. Large chains can survive the flood, but many independent shops and restaurants will struggle after losing days — perhaps weeks — of business, while facing significant clean-up bills.
More Vacay.ca Coverage of Alberta Floods