Right now, we should be shining our boots and dusting off our hats, but instead, we’re missing the Calgary Stampede.
You could hear the air come out of the city the day the Calgary Stampede Chairperson announced what we all assumed would happen, even as we hoped otherwise. Stampede 2020 will not go ahead as planned. While I wasn’t privy to the decision, I can empathize with the agony of having to make it. Hard times call for hard choices.
We’ve heard Stampede officials talk about community events and ensuring the Stampede spirit remains. That’s just it. The Calgary Stampede is not just 10 days in July where the pavement gets hot on the grounds, the smell of mini-donuts entices us, and we cheer on Ty and Straws in the infield, and Sutherlands and Glasses at the Rangeland Derby. The Calgary Stampede is bigger than what is undoubtedly the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. The Stampede is a spirit, a feeling and it lives in Calgarians. It comes to life with hats on heads, boots on feet and pride in western heritage roots a country mile long. The world looks different this year; unfortunately, the Stampede has to look different as well.
With the easing of restrictions, we could, in theory, get together in physically distant, appropriate numbers to eat pancakes and don our duds. Calgary is a city filled with volunteerism like nowhere else, and Stampede sees thousands of volunteers put in hundreds of thousands of hours to make it work well for everyone. Those volunteers are missing their work. Many of Calgary’s best and brightest get their first jobs with the Calgary Stampede. Much experience is gained from the on-the-job training, and the Stampede also brings friendships, life skills and let’s not forget the pay cheques – those will be missed too, by both our young people and their parents.
It’s been a hard couple of years in the world of Stampede commerce. While parties have slowed, businesses small and large still take part in a myriad of ways – business development with clients goes hand-in-hand with the call of the chuckwagon races, the 8-second bell and the Young Canadians singing in the evening show. All of that will be missed this year.
Not to be forgotten are hotels, surrounding restaurants and even homeowners who open their homes for hospitality or yards for parking.
As we recover and reopen, we need to help those who have lost so much. The world looks different; Stampede looks different; we have an opportunity to innovate because our summer vacations likely look different too. Treat your kids to a hotel staycation, your spouse to a night away, and order in from your favourite local restaurant. Ask your Stampede volunteer friends to tell you why they volunteer and what keeps them going back. Pay the neighbour kid $20 to cut your lawn, and chat with them about resiliency and innovation. Embody the Stampede spirit, with your boots and your hats on, or just your regular 355 day-a-year clothes.
As a city, as a community, we need to work towards next year’s Stampede and make sure it returns to its regularly scheduled programming, with whatever adaptations the new world brings. Calgary needs the Stampede – and the Stampede is going to need all of us.