The 100th Anniversary of the Calgary Stampede opens today with one of the most exciting parades in the world beginning in about three hours. Over 350,000 people are expected to watch the parade. I was in Calgary yesterday afternoon at a meeting and people were already staking out their spots by putting chairs along the parade route. Over one million visitors are expected during the next ten days.
I think you have to live here to understand the depth of commitment the city, the businesses and the people make to this unique event. I have procrastinated in getting tickets to the Grandstand Show and the Chuckwagon races so when I called on Monday I was told that every single ticket was SOLD OUT for the entire 10 days, with the exception of four seats for tonight’s show.
The lead-up to this week has been exceptional and as I read the history of this fantastic event it has been a lesson in Canadian history. The people, the personalities and the events that have driven this celebration over the years make you proud to be a Canadian. Calgary is not just a ‘cow town’, it has become a world class cosmopolitan city. I noted that one of the most well attended and entertaining ‘pancake breakfasts’ of the entire week (there are hundreds) is put on by a group in the Muslim ethnic community.
As with any event of this magnitude it comes under attack from various factions. In this case the animal rights groups take issue with the dangers associated with a number of the rodeo events, specifically the chuckwagon races because of their high profile. In my waste management experience over the years I have watched the tactics and pressures put on politicians and proponents and I have a very high regard for the Stampede managers and how they have handled these issues. First, they have been totally open. Rodeo is a dangerous sport for the riders and the animals but they have listened; they have incorporated positive suggestions to make events safer for the animals and the riders. They have encouraged and participated in any study that would provide new information.
As a result there have been changes, both for the safety of the animals and the cowboys. Last year they cut back on the number of ‘out-riders’ in the chuckwagon races and, to the consternation of the old-timers, some are wearing helmets when they ride!!
However, the Calgary Stampede’s riders, animal owners and trainers have not bowed to any outside pressure tactics geared to changing the basic nature of the Stampede or its events. Yes, there are injuries to riders, horses and other animals and yes, even some deaths. However, it has been 100 years and the Stampede is basically the same. In this day of wishy-washy political pressure from all sides, I think the Stampede stands alone. It is a world class experience and a Canadian tradition. I hope it is the same for the next 100 years.
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