Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stampede is many things, but 'cool' is not one of them

  • Print

CALGARY -- You can use a lot of adjectives to describe the Calgary Stampede, but the one most likely to draw guffaws is "cool."

The Stampede is about as cool as Grandma's Corolla, as hip as a trip to Walmart, and as trendy as the Grand Ole Opry.

As Calgarians reassemble to celebrate the Wild West that never was, the city has once again turned into hayseed central -- with drunken "fauxboys" of indistinct socio-economic status weaving their way along downtown sidewalks day or night. Oilpatch engineer? Or box store stocking boy? It's almost impossible to tell when they're all dressed up in sweaty cowboy shirts, Shady Brady hats and Ian Tysons (the nickname I've attached to their oversized Wrangler ginkgo jeans).

A few of the ladies have distinguished themselves with their Daisy Dukes and tank tops exposing too much cellulite and not enough humility.

There's a healthy dose of corn pone sprinkled on your defiantly unhealthy corn dogs, mini-doughnuts, deep-fried Jello and cotton candy. It's everywhere, from the LED-gilded cowboy hats to ubiquitous hubcap-sized belt buckles brandishing some corporate sponsor's name.

Then there's the main event. The rodeo is fascinating in its violence, but the hosts sound like they arrived via time machine from Alabama in the '50s. Where do they get these guys who crack jokes as old as yer six-shooter?

Calgarians react in curious ways to this annual orgy of bad taste. Some embrace the silliness, put on our white Smithbilts (the cheap ones are made in Mexico) and jump in with posture-destroying pointy-toed cowboy boots. Then, there are those who consider a visit to the Stampede grounds about as attractive as getting your tooth drilled while listening to Kenny Chesney.

In fact, it's cool with a certain set to ridicule the self-proclaimed Greatest Show on Earth. Organizers know this and are trying to broaden the demographic, if only just a bit. In preparation for its centennial year, organizers boosted the advertising budget by 20 per cent and contracted with the Karo Group creative agency to put together a campaign to tweak the Stampede's image. The ads are brilliant in their campiness, contrasting old movie footage of two-steppers with images of modern Calgary, overlaid with a rockabilly tune.

The good news for Calgary is all those Stampede haters are having about as much luck curbing this event as Bob Barker has had in his quest to end calf-roping.

A total of 184,483 believers attended the Stampede grounds on Sunday, the largest one-day attendance in the 100 years since vaudevillian Guy Weadick shuffled up from the U.S. and convinced four local investors a paean to cowboys would sell. Barring disaster, the centennial is on track to blow the doors off the 1992 record of 1.2 million visitors over the 10-day event.

As any former high school math nerd can tell you, being uncool sometimes just means you get the last laugh. Who cares about being hip when being the opposite lands an estimated $300 million annually for the local economy?

I, too, laugh at the Stampede, but I do not head for the hills. Instead, I head to the closet, sort through my collection of cowboy hats, pull out my favourite shirt, belt buckle, Ian Tysons and boots -- and head for beer tents.

As corny as the Stampede is, it still somehow manages to generate a sense of magic that rivals some of the world's great annual festivals. Left or right, white, black or Asian, academic or truck driver -- for 10 days each year all the differentiators become invisible in this overgrown costume party. We know the code -- we say "Yahoo!" not "Yeehaw" and never, ever admit to being as gassed as we look.

Time to go. I hear they're serving vodka and OJ with your flapjacks and sausage this morning. Now, that's the Stampede spirit.

Doug Firby is editor-in-chief of Troy Media.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2012 A11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Paul Maurice addresses media at end of 13/14 season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Water lilys are reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google