The Legend Continues and So Do the Memories

It feels like yesterday that I was shopping for Cowboy boots, meeting the Stampede Queen and Princesses, and riding in the Calgary Stampede Parade. I still remember the feeling and the intense adrenaline rush I had as I was walking across the stage at the Grandstand show, waving to the thousands of people in the crowd. I can still smell that distinct scent from the horses, the warm comforting smell of mini-donuts,  and the deep fried smell circulating through the crowd of dressed up cowboys and cowgirls. It was a special time in my life that I have not forgotten, and never will.

Almost seven years ago I entered a contest created by the Stampede. The contest required you to write a short essay about what living in the West meant to you. I don’t know exactly what it was, but something inside me told me I had to participate in the contest. Maybe living in the town of Cochrane, Alberta, inspired me to find what living in the West really meant to me, but all I know is that I had a very strong feeling telling me to write a paper and enter the contest. I began doing some research, jotted down some ideas, talked to a few people and before I knew it I was on my way to writing an essay. It took me months to perfect the paper though, with the help of one of my teachers who had recommended I enter the contest. After I couldn’t edit and critique my work any longer, I submitted my paper. I waited for what seemed like ages for the day to come where they would announce the winner, but that day came, and that day went. I was disappointed, but continued on with my life, until I got a phone call one afternoon. The phone call was to inform me that my essay had in fact been chosen as a winning entry! I politely tried to listen to the lady tell me what was in store for me, but I found it extremely difficult to focus as I was jumping around my kitchen with excitement. The lady on the phone continued to tell me that I would be attending a Stampede breakfast, get to ride in the parade as an Honorary Parade Marshall, meet the Stampede Queen and Princesses, meet the Stampede President, get my work published, and much more! I knew that it was going to be an experience of a lifetime that I would never forget, and it was.

When Stampede finally came around that year I could barely sleep. The Stampede had been something I looked forward to every year, but this year was different. I knew I wouldn’t just be walking up and down the grounds playing games and spending all my money on food. This year I was a part of the greatest show on Earth. What would have normally been a couple of leisurely days at the Stampede for me, were now a couple of days compacted with a million different events and activities. I was soon meeting tons of important people, waking up extremely early for Stampede breakfasts, attending awards ceremonies, riding in a horse drawn carriage in the parade, and watching the chuck wagon races from the front row. You could taste the dirt when the horses ran by – literally. It was an experience that I will never forget. Not only did I get the privilege of doing all these things, I got the privilege of seeing how much hard work goes into putting on the Stampede. It takes a tremendous amount of people to make it run smoothly, but no matter how busy or how hectic it got, I was treated with the utmost respect and I was treated like family.

To this day, I can still say that that week of the Stampede was the best week of my life. I will never forget the people I met, the opportunities I was given and gifts that I received. If I could re-live any time in my life, I would re-live that week. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I had being around a bunch of down to earth cowboys and cowgirls, who treated me like family and who gave me one of the best experiences of my life. When people say that the Stampede is the greatest outdoor show on Earth they aren’t kidding, it is phenomenal and a privilege to go to. To me, a bigger privilege was meeting the people who create the event. The Stampede is in fact the greatest outdoor show on Earth, but within it are some of the greatest people on Earth I would say. As I write this piece I am re-living each moment in my mind and there is a huge smile upon my face. I had a once in a lifetime experience and this is my second story that I’ve had the privilege to share, this time as part of the Stampede’s 100-year anniversary celebration. Yeehaw!

Alyssa Wheeler