Okay so I’ll admit it, I haven’t always loved the Stampede. It’s easy to point to the drunken idiots, the ridiculous amount of hay bales everywhere and old school ways of thinking that seem destined never to change when describing the ten days of Stampede. But over my time living in Calgary I have begun to appreciate the changes I have seen the Stampede make and the positive stories I have found. It’s important to remember for all those eager to dismiss the Stampede that as a non-profit organization it generates nearly a quarter of Alberta’s tourism economy, $345 million last year. The Stampede Foundation also invests $2.7 million annually into youth programs including the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, the Calgary Stampede Showband and the Stampede School which increases agricultural awareness. But beyond those economic points, here’s five reasons we can be proud of Stampede 2015.
1. Horses & Leadership
Although four horses did have to be euthanized this year at the Calgary Stampede there were also amazing initiatives being done with horses. To learn about some interesting solutions to address recurring deaths in chuckwagon races check out researcher and animal-welfare auditor Temple Grandin’s video.
This year I had the privilege of volunteering with Nancy Lowery of “The Natural Leader.” With Nancy’s help I was able to work with a horse in the corral to learn how I could be a better leader. For the past 15 years, Lowery has been managing projects for clients such as Mercedes-Benz, Procter & Gamble, Nokia, Disney and Parks Canada. By working with horses, participants are able to discover how they can improve their non-verbal communication, build better relationships and translate their goals to their teams.
2. A True Musical Cowboy
A knife fight at the midway Thursday morning left three people with stab wounds, not exactly reflective of a wholesome cowboy reputation Calgary would like to instill in its attendees. However, it is worth pointing out that this incident is considered to be the most serious crime Stampede has faced in more than a decade. Considering that 1.2 million people attended Stampede this year, making it Alberta’s third largest city during the ten day event, the safety record is quite impressive.
CEO Warren Connell stated “When you put on your cowboy hat, you’re elevating your behaviour, and we believe that coming to Stampede Park and showing the rest of the world western heritage and values is really what the Stampede is all about.” Christian Hudson took the idea of ‘elevating your behaviour’ to heart. Hudson, the winner of the Calgary Stampede Talent Search chose to donate his total winnings of $10 000 to the local homeless shelter, the Drop In Centre.
3. Greening Stampede
Last year at the Calgary Stampede many were critical of the apparent lack of bike stands anywhere on the grounds. I struggled myself to find somewhere to lock up my ‘steel pony’ so I was excited to see that the Stampede made it much easier this year! Do It Green or DIG volunteers were on hand throughout the ten days of stampede to offer a daily bike valet service. DIG was able to welcome 1600 cyclists in their first year of bike valet operations. DIG also participated in composting over 12,000 kg of food waste making Stampede more environmentally friendly. Click here to see CBC’s video.
4. Sex & The Stampede
Although one bystander during the stampede chose to take an inappropriate video of a public sex act, overall Calgary has taken a new stance towards unwanted sexual advances. The Calgary Sexual Health Centre launched #SafeStampede and www.safestampede.ca which was quickly adopted by both Mayor Naheed Nenshi and the Calgary Stampede itself. Safe Stampede was launched to encourage respect and share information about consent and was able to engage many Calgarians in it’s first year. To see CTV’s interview with Pam Krause from the Calgary Sexual Health Centre click here.
This year I had the pleasure of attending a unique Stampede Breakfast – unique because it took place at sunset! “There are very few places in the world where we could wear our religious observance on our sleeve and marry it with a tradition that is over 100 years old, and not only be accepted in the city, but be embraced,” said Zain Velji a member of the Ismali Jamatkhana who have been hosting Stampede Breakfasts for 19 years. Dressed in western wear, the Ismali Muslims of Calgary broke the Ramadan fast by serving pancakes, fresh farm eggs, bharazi and of course chai. The sunset version is new with this being only the second one to take place during Ramadan and represents as Mayor Naheed Nenshi stated “a beautiful example of bringing different cultures together.”
Along with the new comes the old. First Nations who have been part of Stampede traditions since 1912 marked an important year this year at Stampede as well. Next year a new site will open on Stampede grounds that will be two and half times the size of the existing village which will also allow for a traditional circle to be used in the ceremonies and performances.
Some believe the name “Indian Village” is outdated but others feel differently “That name was given at the beginning when Guy Weadick acknowledged that relationship at a time when our own people were not considered citizens of this country,” said Piikani Nation member Anita Crowshoe. “I validate and respect what Mr. Guy Weadick created here.” Stampede spokesperson Sarah Rivest responded by saying “Because we’ll be on a new site, I could see change happening. It really has to be consultative and we definitely have to have that feeling from our teepee owners.” To mark the end of an era, teepee owners and elders held a smudge and a camp moving ceremony.
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