Standing between a band marching towards me in one direction, and a golf cart full of paraphernalia driving by in another, Parade committee member Sharon Spooner looked at me, smiled, and said, “This is it! This is the fun part!” There was a lot that went on behind the scenes of the Calgary Stampede Parade and these were just a few of the moments that stood out to me.
1. There was a larger-than-life bull on the sidewalk, who may or may not have been parked illegally.
2. There were beautiful Mexican dancers practicing their moves before their float joined the lineup.
3. A “float judge” explained they base their criteria on how presentable the floats are, the enthusiasm that goes with them and the uniqueness of the entry. This year, the National Music Centre stole the show!
4. With more than 150 entries, including 30 marching bands, 40 floats, 750 horses and 4,000 people, the organization of the parade entries came down to a science. Different types of entries are organized on different city blocks before the Parade starts. This means, when they come together to form one parade line, they are coming from three different directions. But not to worry, the Parade committee traffic directors knew exactly who was to go where and the guidance of the entries ran smoothly!
5. Of the 750 horses mentioned above, it goes without saying that Harry was one of them.
6. While some Calgary Stampede board members began practicing their equestrian skills three weeks ago, others took a bit of gamble – averaging about three rides every thirty years.
But what they all hope not to get is the “Gnarly Steed Award” that is handed out among themselves post-parade. This lucky award-winner is chosen for having to ride the gnarliest horse in the parade but all in good fun. We know Bob Park won’t be receiving this award because his horse Buttons just couldn’t get close enough to Garry Holbrook for a few cuddles before the ride.
7. A team huddle and cheer was a great way to boost morale before the Parade – and the Stampede Showband Flag Team had this down pat.
8. Practicing trotting, turning and posing for pictures was one of the best uses of spare time. 2016 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm showed us how this was done.
9. Jennifer Batts on the People Services team taught us that when you’re a Stampede employee you can arrive to work, not expecting anything unusual, then end up in the Stampede Parade an hour later.
10. The Calgary Police proved that even if you’re not in the Parade as an entry, riding a horse is still the best way to do your job on Parade Day.