Each town, every village, hosts some annual event that identifies it – this city is no different. Scale, hoopla and horse manure and 10 days of party-hearty.
To see, or not see, may have little connection to what we remember and treasure the most.
Do you remember your first Stampede, your last, every one of them?
Easy to say – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Riding the train (SB and I went Stampeding last evening – a short midway stroll, fantastic ribs at Mavericks in the Big-4, Western Showcase Art Show – loudness, walkers, gawkers, hawkers and people watching people, the young, the very young and the old) to the greatest outdoor show on earth, makes one wonder what it is anymore, why we do it?
No question, Calgary does Stampede like no other city does anything.
The show – event, collage of commerce and corn dogs, wild rides and western-wear sales, summer festival of rodeo and stomping, hootin’, hollerin’, much yahoo (not the company), and yippee bring citizens together. I didn’t buy my dream-home ticket this year. How could I buy a ticket on something that looks like a hideous hung-over draftsman’s nightmare?
Some lucky person will win a truly ugly house.
Ritual walks in old ostrich boots (my arthritic big toe makes them less comfortable now) down a midway Guy Weadick could never have imagined, makes a summer scene setting of habit, animals (still the mainstay of this show), animal rights activists, commerce (10 days every hotel operator and restaurateur can’t live without), a city of expectations, spectacle the world comes to watch once a year. Without it we could be just another prairie town of 1.3 million, beautiful foothills, enviable mountain views.
There is a plaque - several, honouring hall-of- famers; one describes career and memory of my late friend Dale Auger. It describes his art, but makes no mention of his Ph.D in education, makes no mention of his work as an entertainer, makes no mention of his remarkable stand-up comedy. What a shame, distortion of history. Each year since his death I walk through that place and find nothing like him, nothing like his art, to stir me or take me back in time. But that inadequate plaque took me down memory lanes.
I’m sure when AK reads this, he’ll recall that Saturday afternoon when he and I and Dale climbed a mountain. That was the Stampede week when I sold a mountain for an Indian to some cowboys. There was no art involved in the deal, but there was irony and laughter and an afternoon we’ll never forget.
I didn’t see his art there, but I saw him – not just a picture on a plaque, but as a memory I could reach out to touch, a man to hug, laughter to embrace.
Everybody has their own memories of Stampede.
Little kid on the train with a man-sized hat-brim shading his tiny body – or strange trio of women all wearing something leopard-like, conversation with an artist in his wheelchair (didn’t like his art, but I liked our conversation), everyone takes home a memory.
Or makes one.
I visit my old friend, as if he was still there, laughing at me, with me – and I with him.
Unforgettable, these Stampede memories.
column written/ published from Calgary
morning walk: 13C / 55F, clear/a bit hazy, swirling wind and more lovely sunshine ahead; Gusta is getting shaggy/shedding, in need of a haircut. Our walk was peaceful, uneventful. No critter sightings.
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