From Mexico to Calgary

The Calgary Stampede has always held a special place in our family and is inextricably linked to me in a unique manner.

My parents moved to Calgary from Saskatchewan in 1958. They attended their first Stampede that year with my mother 2 weeks overdue at the time with her first child (my older sister). Now, over 50 years later, my Dad proudly states he has never missed attending the Stampede. Mom has only missed attending a handful during the same period.

As a native Calgarian I always enjoyed attending the Stampede. As the years passed, my interest and involvement in the Stampede has taken a variety of twists and turns. The catalyst, however, that led to me becoming a Stampede volunteer began in a rather peculiar way - on the beaches of Cancun, Mexico.

I was on vacation there and like most visitors, was enjoying the beach and refreshments with other tourists. The talk naturally led to where each of us was from. When I told the group I was from Calgary, the reaction was typical: “Oh yes, the Calgary Stampede.” One of the individuals in the group, who was from Ohio, had heard of the Stampede and stated “The Stampede couldn’t possibly be as good as the Houston rodeo.”

She hadn’t been to Calgary nor me to Houston, so I suggested that the only way to make a comparison was to come to Calgary and experience the Stampede firsthand. Several in the group agreed to exchange contact information as they all thought it was a good idea. Like most conversations of this nature, I thought it ended there.

Imagine my surprise, several months later, when the lady from Ohio called me only a few days before the Stampede stating “my flight arrives on Thursday afternoon.” I quickly dug out the contact info of the others and a fellow from Vancouver decided on the spot to fly to Calgary. I was fortunate to land some front row infield seats for the Rodeo and then took them to enjoy the Stampede’s world class nightlife. They were hooked. I decided that if I could promote the Stampede while on a beach in a foreign country, maybe I should become a volunteer! I joined the Promotion Committee in 1998.

My Stampede story doesn’t end there.

Stampede 1998 was also special in other ways. I had volunteered the morning of July 7, 1998 and then attended a company Stampede party later that day. Unbeknownst to me, my future wife also had her company function at the same watering hole later that day. A simple request for a dance changed my life forever.

The Stampede is also connected to other significant life events. Our first daughter was born on Parade Day, 2002, when the fireworks were going off. Every birthday I tell her the whole city threw a party in her honour! She attended her first Stampede when she was 9 days old. She will be 10 on July 5 - the day before the Stampede turns 100. It is my hope that both my daughters reflect fondly on this Centennial year as the years pass, just as I do with my parents.

Now here we are in 2012, with our Centennial Stampede just a few short months away. I now have the privilege of chairing the committee I joined 14 years ago. It is an honour to be associated with a remarkable and dedicated group of volunteers, some of which have been involved with the Stampede for more than 50 years. We are all very excited and proud to be promoting the Stampede during our Centennial.

Craig McClelland
Calgary Stampede
Promotion Committee Chair