Stampede Gets in Your Blood and the Fun is Infectious

Growing up on a seed farm near Red Deer, my parents were both very involved in the community and the Exhibition and Fair. Giving back to the community was part of the way I was raised.  As I teenager I moved to Calgary to be closer to the mountains, and the Calgary Stampede was definitely a surprise loaded with fun!

A few years later I worked for a company that had a chuckwagon that raced in the Stampede. They would bring the chuckwagon downtown to the Westin Hotel and we would cook and serve breakfast off the back of it. We met tourists from all over the world, even the Indian Parade would pass by each day.

Then, I decided to get involved and become a volunteer with Downtown Attractions Committee (DTA). Initially my volunteer partner, and good friend Kim Sewall, and I started out as Information Rovers handing out Stampede information. We have branded hundreds of kids, tourists and Calgarians. The lingo that went along with branding was telling people; “to hold still its red hot” (it was only red ink), ask them if they could “smell the hair burning”, and some of the good sports of the male gender we would tell them “it’s a good thing we aren’t going to make you into a steer”! Then together there was always a big “Yahoo”, we would end by saying to them “now you belong to the Calgary Stampede and you have to return every year”! After 10 days of Yahooing, it would take a couple of weeks for my voice to recover.

I later became involved as the Volunteer Liaison for DTA helping match volunteers with the many positions that are needed. Our committee is about 350 volunteers and I got the pleasure of getting to know many of them, other Calgary Stampede committee members and some of the Calgary Stampede staff. My volunteer position now is with DTA Committee Relations and I have the privilege of hosting on-site tours of our downtown events. It is with pride that I get to talk about and show people on our tours how much fun all the free DTA events are. The value to western heritage that DTA adds to The Calgary Stampede is extraordinary. Also it is truly amazing how the City of Calgary turns upside down for this great event.

Besides volunteering there is always more fun to be had! Through my many years of Stampeding, I have rode in a pink convertible with long horns on the hood, an antique fire truck, a motorized stage wagon, on the Square Dance flatbed trailer and many of the DTA Old Time Rigs. A Stampede experience all on its own was having watched the parade from the King Eddy! Each year I square dance on Stephen Avenue and county dance at Nashville North. There are community breakfasts, house parties, Chickwagon gatherings, and more fun at different Calgary dance halls. At night time the sound of the marching bands, the square dancer caller singing Red River Valley, horses’ huffs, the announcer at the Chuckwagon track and fireworks replay in my mind. At the end of the 10 days, all this leads us to say “yes, we Stampeded this year and wasn’t it great fun”!

Primarily it is about the many volunteers and friends that I have got to know and share with my family that makes Stampede so special. At the Blue Room (Volunteer Lounge), at the #1 Legion, and on the tarmac at the chuckwagon races, is where we get to catch up from year to year with many volunteers and friends. I also have to mention my new Stampede friends, Ace the horse and Buffy the pet chicken.

After volunteering with the Calgary Stampede Downtown Attractions Committee for 20 years I am grateful for the support of my husband Rick who has also had a lot of fun. This year he is volunteering with the Old Time Rigs, our son Wilson has been volunteering with the DTA Square Dance Subcommittee, my Sister Lorraine Jones and brother & sister-in-law Randy and Janet Mitchell also volunteer.  I can honestly say that Stampede gets in your blood and the fun is infectious. Yahoo!

Esther Mitchell
Calgary Stampede Volunteer 1992 to Present
Stampede participant since 1979