Riding in the mini Parades with Grandpa and Grandma

My Grandpa drove a team of his Belgians in the Stampede Parade and all week during the downtown mini Parades for some 30+ years.  When he first started the Stampede organizers used to go around to the various farmers and ranchers and pickup their horses in big trucks to haul them into Calgary for the show.  Later my uncle joined him in driving for the Stampede.

My Dad worked for part of that time at Hudson Bay Oil and Gas and we came in early with him on Parade morning so we could get a good Parade viewing spot right on the route. We made the pilgrimage in to see the Parade every other year or so. And if we didn’t come in to see the Parade – we definitely watched for Grandpa on TV.

It wasn’t until many years later that I got my chance to ride in the Parade as a member of the Southern Alberta Pioneer honoured family – this time through my Grandma’s family.  That is an experience I will never forget – the enthusiasm of the Parade watchers is so overwhelming.

Throughout the week the downtown mini Parades were always fun as the wagon drivers picked up people at the Palliser Hotel on the Old Time Rigs.  We used to watch to make sure we got on Grandpa’s rig.  Being as my sister and I were little we got to ride on the driver’s seat.  Grandpa kept a little notebook under his seat and had everyone on the wagon sign it – people from all over the world enjoyed Rope Square and the pancakes and bacon on those rides. 

I still think a couple pieces of bacon wrapped in a pancake served in a paper napkin on a rolling wagon is the best Stampede food.

After the mini Parade we used to ride back to the barns and have a picnic lunch on the riverbank where the “old timers” camped.  It never occurred to me then how much work Grandma used to do to help clean, harness, hitch, dress up in period gear and ride in the mini parade – only to come back to a small truck camper and then get lunch ready for everyone.

On those sun drenched mornings of fun I certainly never dreamed that I would someday be a part of the Stampede in a very different way – I now work full-time in the Rodeo and Chuckwagon Office.  And the sun drenched mornings are still a lot of fun.

I have so many favourite moments – especially as my next favourite is still to come.

Catherine Laycraft
Rodeo Program coordinator