For fifty years, the Calgary Stampede Showband has been dazzling our city and the world with their world-class musical talent and choreography. The Showband’s story, though, is about much more than their impressive six-time world championships. Showband’s story is one of community spirit, and of developing life skills among its talented youth musicians.
Throughout 2020, we will be exploring Showband’s 50-year history, featuring stories that illuminate its unique role in our community and in the Stampede story.
Still today, 50 years after the fact, some people don’t know Greg Hawkwood’s first name. They only know him as “ching,” the sound that 13-year old Greg’s cymbals were supposed to be making. They weren’t, and the repeated encouragement of the Showband’s Marching Band Instructor to “ching,” earned Greg his lifelong nickname.
Greg was 13-years-old when he joined the Showband in 1970. From an established ranching and community-minded family, Greg was already heavily involved in 4-H, but he saw an advertisement in the Calgary Herald for the new Stampede Showband and decided to try-out. Auditions were held in the old Grandstand and Greg was selected. He stayed in the Showband until he aged-out, and over the course of his years with the band moved from cymbals to bass drummer.
Stampede Showband, 1975
The Showband immediately started to represent the Stampede across the country. During Greg’s time with the band, he attended the Grey Cup in Hamilton and marched in parades in Medicine Hat, Edmonton and Banff, and of course, the Calgary Stampede Parade. One of Greg’s lasting regrets is that the year after he aged-out, the Showband marched in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California for the very first time.
When asked about what he took away from the Showband—about why Showband has mattered to his life—Greg reflected on the life skills he had gained, namely teamwork and social skills. In Greg’s mind, the Showband got very good, very quickly, because they had dedication, passion, loyalty and the right people. He took away from that experience a lifelong learning about the importance of working well in a team to achieve mutual goals.
This year, Greg donated his original 1970 Showband uniform to the Calgary Stampede Collection & Archives. The white pants are still in pristine condition, which is amazing considering that during the first few days of their first Stampede, the Showband had to walk from their staging ground at the Elbow River all the way to the Infield, using the chutes as their access point to the Afternoon Show.
Greg Hawkwood’s Showband Uniform, 1970.
Greg’s pristine pants—and the rest of his 1970 uniform—will be on display during Stampede 2020 in Quirk Cabin, Weadickville, Stampede Park.
If you are interested in learning more about the work of the Calgary Stampede Foundation, or would like to donate to the Calgary Stampede Showband, please visit foundation.calgarystampede.com.