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.