There was a certain buzz in the air if you happened to be near Fort Calgary on Friday! The smell of pancakes was on the wind and the sound of marching bands could be heard in East Village. Its parade day and the official kick off to Stampede. It was fun to get a little behind the scenes look at the Parade and the work that goes into staging it. The Stampede Parade Committee is a group of over 125 volunteers who start planning the Parade in September, and every year they deliver one of the greatest western –themed parades that is watched by almost 400,000 people in person and nearly 2,000,000 people on TV. This year was no exception. With over a 160 entries there are close to 3000 people and more that 700 horses. With all those animals meandering their way down the 5 km route of Calgary’s downtown, that always means almost 2 tons of horse poop and some very special street sweepers to help keep the route clean for the close to 30 marching bands.
This year was very special for me; it was my very first Stampede Parade! One of the things that I loved the most was seeing so many people from all over the world and Calgary together in one place, I could feel the excitement. I spent quite a bit of time behind the scenes with a longtime family friend Justin Davis prior to the parade beginning. Justin has a beautiful team of black horses, Randy and Rodney, and they participate with the Shriners. “They are the best friends a guy could ask for,” according to Justin, reliable, strong, always willing to listen, and go out and play whenever he wants. It was fun to watch him hook up the team and get ready to go.
The Shriners’ are always a highlight, of any parade, for me. I love the little planes and cars. While spending time here I also got to meet a 23 year veteran of the Stampede Parade, Bruce, a member of the Tin Lizzie Corps. His little car is a fully functioning tow truck that, when needed, tows broken down Tin Lizzies on the parade route. Bruce has seen it all in terms of weather at the Parade; snow, rain, hail, sleet and sun.
I also got to sneak some picture of some of our very own Stampede VIP’s pre parade. CEO Warren Connell expressed his excitement and you could actually see Premier Rachel Notley’s excitement as she bonded with her horse Woody
Having only ever watched the parade on TV, I used to think that the parade was for tourists, something that they could come and see before they took in the Stampede at Stampede Park. Now I think that the parade is really about showcasing the pride that we have for our community. I felt proud to be a local and see all the organizations of our city, province, and country in the parade. Whether you are participating in the parade with a float or watching as spectator, the parade really is about being together as a community. To me it was an experience that I’m looking forward to for next year, I only have to wait 357 days!