Story by Jody Robbins
CALGARY, ALBERTA — As Friday morning dawned, so did a new century in Calgary Stampede history. Despite a devastating flood last month that rocked much of southern Alberta, including Stampede Park, the annual event is off to the races. On Thursday, the day the city’s state of emergency was lifted, 26,886 flocked to the Stampede grounds to check out the action during Sneak-a-Peak night, and thousands more headed downtown Friday morning for the inaugural parade. Recently retired astronaut Chris Hadfield was the parade marshal and was joined by mayor Naheed Nenshi, quite likely the most beloved politician in Canada at the moment.
In the past two weeks, crews have worked 24/7 remediating the grounds and even finding time to replant 900 flowers. A whopping 63 buildings (or parts of buildings) were emptied, repaired, cleaned, sanitized, dried, inspected, and declared fit for the general public. Fencing along the rodeo track and infield was repaired at Stampede Park, the primary venue for the 10-day festival, and the site received 30,000 cubic metres of new gravel, sand, and clay to repair its rodeo grounds.
Despite flooding in the agricultural tents and chuckwagon barns, practice time for rodeo contestants was not affected. Livestock were delayed entry to Stampede Park by only two days, and none of the estimated 120 contestants have cancelled their appearance, according to the Stampede’s rodeo director Keith Merrington. “If anything, these cowboys are even more enthusiastic to put on a good show,” he says.
Even Calgary’s light rail transit (LRT) system is up and running as normal after repairs to a flooded tunnel and mangled track at the nearby Erlton-Stampede Station.
Space Cowboy Leads the Charge
Colonel Hadfield rode a white steed named Jag as he led the Stampede Parade through the flood-assaulted downtown core. The social media maven tweeted a picture with the caption: “One horsepower – Jag and I are ready to ride!”
Two-and-a-half miles of marching bands, floats, and western riders kicked off Stampede week, as banners thanked volunteers and proclaimed, “The spirit of our city and province cannot be washed away.” Those sentiments brought several in the crowd to tears as the event dubbed Stampede 101, in recognition of the start of the festival’s second century, began despite long odds.
“There’s an air of defiance, like we’re here to show you just how strong we are. Just as the parade sign said, our spirit won’t be broken,” says Calgarian Erin Chrusch.
Saddledome Sinks Events
In spite of the Herculean efforts of staff and volunteers, there are some casualties to the cowboy extravaganza. The delicate state of the flooring inside the Scotiabank Saddledome (where flood water reached as high as the eighth row) won’t allow for heavy machinery and tons of dirt to be on it. Events such as the vintage tractor pull and horse cutting have been completely cancelled as has the concert series featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, KISS, the Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw. A massive loss, considering those headline concerts were counted on to fill seats and attract many tourists. Last year’s centennial Stampede drew a record 1.5 million visitors and created $340 million in economic activity.
The penning competition, in which teams of riders separate three cattle from a herd, was moved from the ‘Dome to the town of Okotoks, and the heavy horse show, featuring Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron and Shire breeds trotting to music of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, is now inside The Big Top tent on the grounds.
Lookin’ Stylish While Supporting Flood Victims
Capitalizing on the true grit spirit of the Stampede, snazzy “Hell or High Water” T-shirts ($19.95) are available for purchase online. Net proceeds raised are being donated to the Canadian Red Cross to help flood victims. More than 10,000 orders are received daily by 80 volunteers and over $500,000 has been raised to date.
More About the Calgary Stampede 2013
Dates: July 5-14
Ticket Packages: Stampede-goers can purchase packages online for rodeo and Grandstand events.
Rodeo Events: No rodeo events have been cancelled. Each of the 10 days of the Stampede will feature rodeo and chuckwagon events, with 120 competitors in six main rodeo competitions.
More Info: Visit the Calgary Stampede’s website for more on pricing and event schedules.
2012 Coverage: See photos, videos and articles about the 2012 Calgary Stampede on Vacay.ca.
Facts About the Alberta Floods
- Alberta premier Alison Redford says clean-up efforts could take a 10 years and cost $1 billion.
- The Bank of Montreal estimates the total losses from the Calgary floods will be in the range of $3 billion to $5 billion.
- A record 45 millimetres of rain fell on Calgary on June 20, beating the previous mark for single-day rainfall by 10 mm. The heavy rain is the primary reason why the Bow and Elbow rivers overflowed their banks.
More Alberta Flood Coverage on Vacay.ca
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