Wednesday, 8 July 2015

It's Stampede time again

Yipee-ki-yay! This is not my usual sort of greeting, but the Calgary Stampede ("The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth") is underway and all Calgarians are expected to get into the spirit. Perhaps if I do not, an old Calgary law might be invoked and I will be given a horse and a Winchester and escorted to the edge of town by the sheriff.

I thought about going to the parade that kicked everything off and getting some photographs for this blog, but I have settled for a couple of recycled Stampede Rodeo photos I took few years ago. I have been past the Stampede grounds four times since it started, on the train (standing room only) buying a pack for my coydog Tristan, and then returning it for a refund when it did not fit (it also looked uncomfortable for the dog). A couple of tourists took his photo when we were on the train.

In recent years, Calgary has been trying to get away from its "cow-town" image and has been stressing the city's business importance. But "oil town" did not go over too well when the politicians started siding more with the big oil and gas companies than the public who had some problems with them. The Conservative Party in Alberta split into two factions creating a new party. So there was now a right wing party and an extreme right wing party. Perhaps they thought that the Liberals would never get elected in Alberta, and never even considered the socialist New Democratic Party. Not too bright of them. Strange things can happen when you split votes like that. The NDP got elected and no one was more surprised than themselves. Only one or two of them expected to get a seat in parliament.
Calgary is still cow-town, it's in our blood. Mess with us and we will put together the lynch mob. The conservative party swings silently from the spruce trees.

Years ago, Royal American Shows operated the Midway. Now it is the Canadian Conklin Shows (read all about it here). I preferred the former. There is no place for respectability at a carnival. There has to be burlesque in the western theme; there has to be "the giant Parisian sewer rat" that turns out to be a coypu; there has to be freaks. It's a carnival. Take all of that away and you have only a show that gives you rides and takes your money in various sorts of gambling games where you pay more for the tickets than you get in the prizes even if you are the champ. That part was always about impressing your date with the cheap giant stuffed toy that just cost you $80 by trading up on the smaller prizes.

The Calgary Stampede Board, greedy as ever, decided to eliminate the private area for the carnies that was hidden in the middle of all of the power generators. It was a social place for them where they could get a nutritious home-cooked meal (can you imagine carnies having to survive on midway food for a whole touring season?). The Stampede Board saw no profit in that. Many of the carnies left at that point, including my old friend Scott and the Stampede had already moved the sideshows to less busy parts of the midway.

For north American rodeo, though, the Calgary Stampede is still Carnegie Hall; the Oscars; the Nobel Prize.

If I do relent and visit the grounds this year, I will get you some more recent pictures.


  1. Hi John:

    Sorry, but this was too good to miss:-

    You wrote; "There has to be "the giant Parisian sewer rat" that turns out to be a coypu; there has to be freaks."

    What about the giant Warsaw sewer rat? Does such a rodent exist? Is such a beast a freak?

    Cheap comment, I know, but I'm bargain basement. Hahahahah!

    John Howland

  2. Hi John,

    I'll ask Scott if he needs another exhibit for one his sideshows ;-)