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.
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.
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