Wednesday 10 July 2013

Ten Days of Guts, Glory and Determination

I wasn't born in Calgary. I didn't move here until I was fourteen years old. It wasn't for lack of trying though. My Mother was born here, moved shortly after getting married and spent the next twenty years trying to get back. When I was a child, I didn't know that Calgary was the name of this city, I thought it was called, 'home'. I swear, that's a fact. We would ask our Mom where we were going and every time she would answer, 'we are going home.' So I honestly thought that was the name of Calgary. When I finally moved here, I understood what she was talking about.

Calgary became my home and I quickly embraced the culture. I had been to a lot of Stampedes before I had moved here and seen every Stampede parade, even if it was just on TV, I saw it. I have to tell ya, I loved the bands. I loved the bands more than some girls loved Kirk Cameron before he turned all weird and 'I can hear God's thoughts'.

After high school I auditioned for the Calgary Stampede Show Band. You may insert your 'one time at band camp' joke here but I can tell you that The Calgary Stampede Show Band is no joke. The Stampede Band is known for it's precision, musicality and down right entertainment. They are particular about who gets to wear the C and the Lazy S and auditions are rigorous.

I was terrified when the Drum Major Dan watched me sight-read a piece of music, even more frightened when we were put in groups to follow a machine gun fire of marching instructions and didn't sleep until I got my letter informing me that I was a member of this elite group.

 The Stampede Band taught me dedication, loyalty, teamwork and exactly what I am made of. Qualities that at eighteen are more valuable than gold. Mostly, it taught me how amazing the Calgary Stampede truly is. I know the Stampede like the back of my hand. We spent every single day there for years and would have at least ten performances a day all over the park. When we weren't rehearsing, or trying to get a nap and a meal in, the Stampede members were roaming the grounds taking in all that it had to offer. I loved every single second of it.

 I traveled the world with the Band and everywhere we went, people knew who we were. Not in some vague 'I think I saw them on a lame cable access show' sense but in a real, 'holy crap the Stampede is awesome' kind of way. It was pretty amazing at the age of twenty, walking down a street in Sydney Australia and have people come up and ask you where you were performing next so they could be there.

Above all other things, the Stamped Band taught me pride. Pride in my talent, pride in my team, pride in those fantastic bright red cowboy boots we marched in (still to this day the most comfortable footwear I have ever owned) and mostly, it taught me pride in my city.

The Stampede has been a symbol of this city for a hundred years and when flood waters ravaged the Stampede grounds two weeks before the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth the city was in shock.

How were we going to have one of the biggest events in the world when the grounds are under water? I know how, with the same determination that makes this city great. With the same grit that makes the band great. With the same 'we don't give up no matter what' that Calgarians innately have.

 We often call Stampede 'Ten Days of Glory' but this year, the ten days before the Stampede were the highlight. It took everything this city had to make the Stampede happen and walking up to the admission gates I sure hope that I wasn't the only Calgarian to get a lump in my throat seeing it all laid out as if nothing had happened.

This city is nothing short of amazing and being an alumnae of the Showband and watching my band march the parade on streets that a week before were knee deep in water was a wonderful sight. Watching them dazzle on the Saddledome steps that days before were underwater was a powerful thing.

Pride doesn't sum it up. I don't know if anything could.

So please, if you haven't gone down to the grounds, you need to get there. If you have Celiacs you have LOTS of options. No, I'm not kidding, you have lots of options. The Avatara Pizza people are there, amazing GF pizza.

These guys are right outside the Big 4 and make all GF Fries and Chips.

These tacos from Los Compadres were amazing! Everything is Gluten Free.

 Add to that popcorn and cotton candy and you have yourself a party in your belly. If you are looking for something healthy, the Hidden Valley Ranch booth near kiddie land has salads for a dollar.

Please get down to the grounds, even if you are one of those 'I don't do stampede' misers. Not only because people come from all over the world to see what you have in your own back yard but because the world is watching. And when the world is watching, this city, and its Marching Band steps up - trust me, I've been there.
The Calgary Stampede Showband on The Saddledome Steps

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