From Cleaning Tables to Chairing Committees

For me, Stampede really started around 1962. Or at least that is my first recollection of it.

That year Roy Rogers and Dale Evens were here performing.  At that time you had to enter through the main gate, which was the fort, where Weadickville now stands.  Indian Village was where the BMO Center is and Roy and Dale performed outside of the Corral.  Wow, what a show !!!  I loved the Calgary Stampede then and continue to make it a major part of my life.  My first real job, other than shoveling snow or mowing lawns for the neighbors, was at the Stampede in 1969. I was 14 years old. I got a job bussing tables in the Food Fair, which was located on the lower floor of the Big 4 Building.  I worked all 10 days and I was rich beyond my wildest dreams, with the $104 that I earned.  After taxes of course. As part of my employment, I had free access to the park.  I would either go early or stay late, depending on my shift, and see everything on the park.  Royal American Shows used to bring the midway to the park on its private train, which they parked on the railroad tracks at the south end of the park.  I loved it all.  So much so that I worked the Food Fair again the next year. 
 
The year 1983 saw me working for the Calgary Police, in the Traffic Section.  Part of our duties were to escort the Caravan Committee vehicles and volunteers on our police motorcycles.  We would take them from the shopping center they were at, down to Inglewood, where they stored all their equipment.  They would invite us to join them for lunch where I had the opportunity to meet our 2012 President and Chairman of the Board, Mike Casey.  Mike was the Chairman of the Caravan Committee.  I got to know most of the committee and thought that what they were doing was wonderful. Taking Stampede out to the communities.  At last I had found something that would allow me to become involved, directly, with the Stampede again.  I volunteered to help with a couple breakfasts at the end of the week, which were on my days off.  In the spring of 1984, the committee asked me to join their ranks.  I jumped at the chance. 
 
With the support of my family and the Police Service, I took a week of vacation every year to work for the Stampede.  Over the next 10 years I worked my way up to become the Chairman.  After my tenure as Chair and then Past Chair, I was asked to join the Rodeo Committee, where I have been ever since.
 
Little did I know that a 10 day job, cleaning tables, would turn into 27 years of volunteering.  Both my son and daughter followed my footsteps into employment with the Stampede.  Growing up south of Calgary and involved in 4-H, they chose to work cleaning up around the Ag Building and Infield, rather than cleaning tables.  My son, Sean drove our cowboy shuttle for a couple of years and then joined the Rodeo Committee this year.  
 
Alas, I am rich beyond my wildest dreams !!!

Mike O’Conner