Friday, July 07, 2006

Today was the opening day of the “greatest outdoor show on earth,” the Calgary Stampede. I live a few short blocks from the grounds, and you can feel the excitement in the air here and throughout the city.

My first stampede experience was in 1988 when my family was in Calgary for the meeting of the Canadian Baptist Federation. I don’t think we made it to the grounds, but I do recall experiencing a few stampede breakfasts. The most prominent memory is seeing pancakes with strips of bacon baked into them for the first time.

The first summer I lived here, 1999, I watched the parade on television in my apartment. At night I could see the spotlights at Cowboys piercing the night sky, and I could hear the fireworks that closed the grandstand show every night. Despite the buzz in the city around the stampede, it would be a few years before I ventured to the grounds.

Once I started working downtown, stampede breakfasts, lunches and soirees became quite common for me. Finally, after years of being in the city, I decided to venture to the grounds with a few friends. The plan was to see the band Collective Soul, who were playing the Coca-Cola stage that year. After paying our gate admission and setting foot on the sacred grounds for the first time ever, my friends and I were severely disappointed to discover that we were one night off, and instead of being treated to the new rock stylings of Collective Soul, we were instead going to spend an evening with the more geriatric stylings of Chilliwak (the only song I recognized was “been gone, gone, gone so long, long, long…). This disappointment was quickly erased by a few rounds of Caesars, and we ended up having a good time despite the band.

Last year I took it one step further and checked myself into Nashville North on a Friday afternoon. This time it was with a crew from the office, and we even had the line-up right! We all had such a ball being entertained by the likes of Shania Twin and Aaron Lines while consuming more Budweiser than any human should in a lifetime. It was a fun night and I will always remember the good times with good friends.

I am beginning to realize that this is what the stampede is all about. In the beginning, I was an outsider and like many, I thought the stampede was “redneck” and garish. Over the years I have discovered that all the breakfasts, the rodeo, the people dressed as cowboys, everything about the stampede is about real people having real fun together. It is 10 days where everyone can relax and live the country lifestyle.

This year Joan will be coming into town for the last half of the stampede and we will be enjoying the experience together. Every year I have gone, I have taken it one step further, and this year will be no exception. In addition to evenings at Nashville North and the Coca-Cola stage, I will be taking in the grandstand show for the first time ever. This year, I am looking forward to more good fun, more happy memories, and if I’m really lucky, mastering the two-step with Joan.


Michelle said...

AWW!! I wanna Go Too!!!!

Take me with you, I'll be good!
I'd even bring you a case of "something".


8:36 AM, July 07, 2006  
Joan said...

I'd love you to join the fun Michelle - get on the next flight to Calgary :)

Andrew - I will miss Shania Twin this year!

9:53 AM, July 07, 2006  
Andrew Baxter said...

as long as it's not a case of the flu...

12:27 PM, July 07, 2006  
Michelle said...

A Case of the Flu?

What fun would THAT be?

3:46 PM, July 07, 2006  

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