From West Coast to Country Western

The country western culture is foreign to me and there is no better introduction to a new culture than total immersion. At least that’s my favourite strategy. I was of the “anything but country” variety for many years before I started dating a born and raised Calgarian. This year will be the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede so it seemed like the ultimate introduction to this integral part of his upbringing.

When I imagine the Stampede, the picture in my head is a toss up between a lawless, raucous street festival and an urbane city fair with partners swinging partners doe-see-doe.  Of all the stories I’ve ever heard about the Calgary Stampede, I have heard very few adjectives used to describe it.  Usually people tend to stop short at “It’s just so –“ or  “You’ve just gotta – “.  These types of descriptions, while leaving plenty of room for my imagination to run wild or “stampede” with visions of what to expect, may or may not be preparing me for what to actually expect on my summer vacation next week. From the information I have managed to gather, there are a couple aspects of the Stampede that seem to be especially community building in nature.


I am so looking forward to the prospect of an entire city taking part in a weeklong theme party.  I am a costume party enthusiast to say the least. It’s hard to imagine all of Vancouver getting dressed up in any one costume besides Canucks team wear but I do like to imagine everyone dressing up as fishermen for a week while for the most part going about their daily routine. Or if during the Olympics, instead of just wearing red mittens, we had all dressed up like the ancient Greeks. I have also heard tell of a special Super Hero Day in the Brazilian Mardi Gras celebrations when everyone dresses up as super heroes. From what I gather, it’s the nostalgic feeling of dressing up that really makes the Stampede more than an urbane city fair and more of community cornerstone.

FREE PANCAKE BREAKFASTS! Get everyone together and give them free pancakes. The genius of this simple idea should not be understated. I have written before about the strong power of a shared meal. People are much friendlier when they have full bellies and even more friendly when they have recently been the given something for free. Friendly people are catalysts for community building. Perhaps the way I phrased it the first time should be corrected. The real idea here is, “if you feed them, they will come”. Notably, this concept was a smash hit over the Canada Day long weekend in Vancouver with the first ever Food Cart Festival drawing in huge crowds and selling out their street eats.

Of all the adjective-less descriptions of the Stampede that I’ve heard, there has been a consistent excitement present in all of them. That excitement is undeniably contagious. I have my best outlaw gear at the ready and I’m raring to go to my first rodeo.

Ashley Davis

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to an ongoing segment here at The Daily Gumboot. It’s called “Get to Know Your Community” and, basically, it goes like this: each and every Sunday we will profile someone from a community somewhere. Each person is asked the same five questions (see below as well as in the “Ideas from Everywhere” page). At the end of the profile, the Gumbooteer (member of this blog’s Editorial Board) who found the person will list their three favourite things about the highlighted community member. Savvy?

Here are some ideas from everywhere. Here is one way that we try to build community. Have fun with it!

Ashley Davis: designer, community-builder, soccer star, Canucks fan in Calgary.

Ashley Davis: designer, community-builder, soccer star, Canucks fan in Calgary.

1. Who are you?

Hi all, I’m Ashley and I’m an art lover. I find anything that’s related to art to be an inspiration; music, photography, painting, sculpture…you name it! My real passion and my chosen career path is digital graphics. I do freelance print and web design work through my business Creative Lane Design, My education and career has taken me from Victoria BC, to Vancouver, and now to the cold province next door, where I work in Calgary. I love freelancing because it has allowed me to not only work on a range of different projects, but it has also introduced me to design in other cities, provinces and countries. One day I’m designing a website for a company in the UK and the next day I walk down the street to visit a local client. I love the variety!

2. What do you do for fun?

Well, I’m a huge sports nut. I enjoy playing soccer and fastball, and I love watching hockey. Even with the move to Alberta, I’m forever a Canucks fan! I also grew up loving photography and it remains a hobby of mine. I’m a big traveller too, from trips to Europe, Mexico and throughout Canada and the States. I have my eye on Africa next.

3. What is your favourite community and why?

I can’t say that I have a favourite. With all my travels, I have many favourites, from the highlands of Scotland to the nightlife of Amsterdam and the mediterranean black beaches of Santorini. The list of traveling favourites goes on, but there’s not enough e-space to hold the stories I have to tell. And even with my never-ending list of foreign favourites, I always enjoy the trip home. It’s hard not to take the salty ocean air and fresh mountain slopes of the BC coast for granted when you’ve grown up there, but every trip home reminds me of why I love Victoria and Vancouver so much.

4. What is your superpower?

I’m pretty sure my superpower would be my eye for detail. In the graphics industry, this is as important as the first sketch in your notebook to the final design loved by a client. What if the line is too straight or a tad bit too curvy? Or your alignment is off and the white space seems too overpowering? What if the colours don’t compliment each other… Well, you get the picture :)

5. How do you use it to build community?

A good eye for detail can go a long way, not just in the design world. You know, maybe that lasagna dish just needs a little more mozza to have everyone at the potluck praising the day. Or perhaps if you turned your right foot slightly outward when throwing the dodgeball, your team would come away with the win at the community tournament. Or maybe you know when all the details are JUST right, and it sure feels good, doesn’t it?

My three favourite things about Ashley Davis are…

1. She’s a Canucks fan in Calgary. Some people might get upset by this, but not Ashley. She embraces being a rivaled minority in Cow Town and vigilantly supports her team even when, well, they lose 5-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes like they did yesterday. Catching a Canucks game after some intramural soccer was how I got to know Ashley, and she can talk the hockey talk with the best of ‘em!

2. Creativity becomes her. Sure, I’m a fan because of her superpower (as attention to detail does not become me). But there’s much more to the Ashley Davis skill-set. If you’re looking for a designer with a heart and soul in the community, Ashley Davis is a great choice. Her ideas are as solid as they are innovative and her creative toolkit would be an asset to any small business or social enterprize in the Calgary area or beyond. Check out Creative Lane today!

3. Soccer skills, and she might be a Beatle… Like I said, I met Ashley on the UVic intramural soccer pitch – even though neither of us ever went there. She has wicked soccer skills, which was important, because in this particular co-ed league our ladies usually had to play the entire game. Her love of The Beatles, and knowledge of, well, everything about them has me suspicious that, in fact, she might actually be a Beatle. I haven’t gathered enough evidence to prove this, but recommend you have a chat with her to discuss the idea.

…as told by John Horn.