Stampede Strong

Bob Thompson and Vern Kimball discuss the viability and reality of a devastated city hosting a world class event. Credit: Dainya Sapergia

 

By Dainya Sapergia

So what do you do when the world you live in is picked up by angry water and floated away like it never existed? Well, if you live in Calgary during July 5th-14th, you stand up, put on your driest pair of boots and keep riding, ‘Come Hell or High Water’.

On June 24th, the Calgary Stampede hosted a press conference overlooking Stampede Park, a dramatic backdrop that is no longer home to a disobedient flood of water, but instead, hundreds of dedicated people, determined to bring Stampede 101 to fruition. President Bob Thomson and CEO Vern Kimball spoke to reassure a waiting city that the show must go on, you could say. It is the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth, after all.

The infield and racetrack, completely immersed in water only a few days ago, the hub for a crew of dedicated workers. Credit: Dainya Sapergia

Some are saying that the show just should not go on, with the legions of suffering people still homeless and lost within the city and beyond.

But possibly that’s not the message we need to send. We need hope. Just 30 minutes outside of the city limits, High River, Alberta is a ghost town. A small, western inspired gathering of local culture has been decimated. My hometown of Nanton, Alberta is now temporary home to hundreds, if not thousands of men, women and children who wander and wait, wondering what, if anything, will await their return – whenever that may happen. While our hearts our literally heavy with hurt for every one of these affected families, is the solution not in picking up and moving on? We are Canadian, after all, a country built on adversity and challenge, which we have conquered every time before. This time will be no different.

There are the arguments that the investment being put forward to clean and restore the Stampede grounds to a condition that is suitable for hosting millions of people and animals from around the world would be better put to use in our own backyards and that the immense purses handed out throughout the 10 days of rodeo and livestock competition should also be allocated locally. In response to this question, Bob Thompson responded, “Certainly there will be a massive cost associated with the restoration of the province and the city of Calgary that goes beyond the capacity of the Calgary Stampede to step in as an element of support.”  True, but every penny counts, doesn’t it?

But speak to every horse-owner, rancher, farmer and parent who dedicates their lives to enriching those of others, both human and creature, and they will tell you that more important than money is spirit. To see the worry lift from a child’s face when she walks though the barns and dreams of a world far from her own, or the little boy who can now get lost in his grandest imaginings of cowboys and heroes is worth more than anything. For those parents, the solace and normalcy that allowing yourself to smile in the midst of loss and worry, it is worth it. And maybe for the first responder who can take a few hours out of the day away from the hurt and loss that he or she has been shielding their community from, it is worth it.

Bob Thompson, president of the Calgary Stampede, inspires the press with the notions of an unstoppable Calgary Stampede. Credit: Dainya Sapergia

It is guaranteed that when people begin arriving on planes and trains to witness the spectacle that we are usually so proud to put on display for the world to see, they will not see the prettiest Calgary. And definitely not the cleanest. Our environment will bear witness the damage and trauma that it has endured for years to come. But what they will see might be the strongest Calgary. In ourselves, we should be proud, because we are not selfish, we are strong.

Perhaps Bob Thompson was correct yesterday when he spoke, “Even as we are challenged with the clean up, we are looking forward to providing our guests with a place to pause, to join family and friends to celebrate community pride.”

Really, that is exactly what we need right this moment in time.

– Dainya Sapergia

The city of Calgary, cleaning up and moving on. Credit: Dainya Sapergia.

 

Comments

  1. Kevin Williamson says

    I agree with this well written article….We all hurt for all the people affected by this tragedy. I believe money would be well spent in restoring the city back to its former glory. The best way to move forward is to move forward. In the big picture, I think money invested back into business will have a positive, long lasting ripple effect on the local economy. Sending positive healing energy to the people and city of Calgary.

  2. Debbie Scott says

    I live in small town Peachland BC, born and raised in this lovely Valley, lucky enough to live in the Greatest City in Canada, Calgary Alberta. For a few short years when I went to University there and your city has a piece of my heart. The flooding was horrific to watch, The Saddle Dome under water brought tears down my cheeks. But as they say the show must go on, The people of Calgary are strong and proud, The Stampede is Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, it will bring joy and smiles to the ravaged town.

    Come Hell or High Water, bring it on Calgary, make dreams come true.
    Love to all
    Debbie Scott

  3. The bottom line is that Calgary must do whatever it takes to ensure the Greatest Show on Earth goes off without a hitch. Yes its tragic that many are homeless and my heart goes out to everyone in the beautiful town of High River. But the fact is the Stampede brings in an estimate 4 million dollar in tourist revenue, if the Stampede was canceled there would serious tourist and thus financial implications for many years to come. The city that welcomes the world for 10 days in July should focus on restoring the services necessary to promote tourism and keep the income coming. If we don’t we will be adding unemployment to an already horrible set of circumstances. There will be serious challenges for everyone in the very near future coping with financial and personal losses. Keeping a positive attitude and going forward will make the difference in how fast this horrible nightmare will end.

  4. Lillian Burchill says

    As a child, I remember visiting the Calgary Stampede for the first and only time. I was with my brother and father, we had traveled hours to get there as we lived in Northern Alberta. I will never forget the spectacle of it all as long as I live. Its impact on me lives to this day. I now own horses and live on an acreage, living the dream you might say.

    This is what the Calgary Stampede means to me…dreams, big dreams that can be attained by hard work. From the corner to corner in this province, we have all been touched by the devastation created due to the flooding in Alberta. Its a brave thing to do, to pick yourself off the ground and go on. We as Albertan’s are ready for this challenge. Thank you Calgary for your inspiration, courage, and heart.

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