"Stampede Spirit" - Special Feelings, 100 Years Strong
When, as a 10-year-old child from Winnipeg, my dad went to the Stampede, he was overwhelmed of course, and returned from the holiday with big memories and a leather belt - a belt which I inherited (and still have - though it doesn't fit!).
Little did I know as a kid growing up that some 40 years later I would find myself on Valentine's Day 1977, walking past the old Union 76 Clock Tower, at 8 a.m., listening to the song Happy Trails being played on the carillon contained inside it. I was headed towards the old Agriculture Building admin offices for the first day of my new job at the Stampede and had recently moved from Winnipeg. That first day got off to a tough start (remember it was Valentine's Day) when I realized, three hours into my "around the Park tour" and introduction to the office staff that my fly was open… regardless, I "cowboyed-up" and, 31 great years later, retired, having had a career that I couldn't have enjoyed more.
I loved contributing to and being a part of, the energy, spirit and unique culture of Calgary. I made lifelong friends, saw our children, Maddie, Tori and John, participate as well as work each summer at the Park, (even my wife Susan supervised the staff and operation of the Skyride in 1979). I had many, many memorable experiences over the years with some very special moments and feelings that only those (or their spouses) who have volunteered or worked at the Stampede will fully appreciate.
One special moment for me occurred at the conclusion of all the interviews and photo taking following the final heat of the final night of chucks on the final night of my final Stampede in 2008. I was with Mike Whittle, another successful 30-year employee and fellow vice-president. He and I were both retiring after the 2008 Stampede - Mike and I had worked closely over the 30 years and shared many and all manner of aspects of growing up with our jobs, kids and families. We were at the Grandstand on the tarmac and as the winning chuckwagon team, the media and the crowds all left the Winners Circle photo area, a photographer friend of ours, Mike Ridewood, yelled at us to stand still for a photo - I grabbed Mike and the flash went off. It was the end of another terrific Stampede and it was the end of two terrific careers. We gave each other a hug, looked each other in the eye, shook hands and each went off to enjoy our annual "last night of a Stampede" rituals.
It felt good, as only good can feel, when you have done a job with your best effort, and even better, as part of a team that has done the same. The Stampede is like that - it gets in your blood and stirs a unique and very personal feeling, just as it’s in the city's blood and creates a unique spirit and city-wide feeling throughout all of Calgary. There is no doubt the Stampede will continue for another 100 years being a special event, generating a "Stampede Spirit" and will always remain The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Congratulations to all Calgarians throughout this Stampede Centennial year and in the years ahead.