If there’s one voice that Calgarians know, it’s that of Joe Carbury. Not only is he one of the most recognized sports voices in western Canada for hockey, football, and wrestling, he spent 45 years calling the chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede until his retirement in 2008.
Joe called races the old school way – just Joe, his binoculars, and a microphone – no instant replays or helpers, and when his enthusiastic voice would yell, “And they’re off!!!” the crowd would go wild.
The local legend was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and was most recently honoured with his likeness on a “grate portrait” on the Stephen Avenue Walk of Fame, painted by local artist Mandy Stobo.
I had the pleasure of escorting Mr. Carbury to his grate during the special signing event on September 20th and was able to chat briefly with him about his involvement with the Stampede.
When I asked if he was surprised when he found out he was being included on the Stephen Avenue Walk of Fame, his response was an excited, “Oh yes! And very honoured.”
The emcee of the event, the always entertaining Dave Kelly (former co-host of Citytv Calgary’s Breakfast Television, and fellow Walk of Fame honouree), joked that the cotton candy being served there was Joe Carbury’s secret recipe and that he puts it on his toast in the morning. “Carbury Candy” got a good chuckle from the crowd, especially Joe.
Joe noted that one of his most memorable moments at the Stampede was his last night announcing. They figured that by the time he retired he had called over 5,000 races. He said that he got pretty choked up calling out “And they’re off!” for the very last time.
That night they brought Joe and his family on stage where he received a standing ovation from the crowd of over 20,000 people.
“I was very honoured, but also very nervous,” he said, pointing out that he was used to a very different view and experience of the crowd from his “eye in the sky.”
Joe was able to make it down to the Centennial Stampede celebrations 4 times this year.
“It was really something special! The rodeo was spectaculor. Congratulations to the whole Stampede Board on an amazing event!”
He really loved to go down to the barns and hang out with the chuckwagon racers and their families.
“Those are my kind of people.”
Carbury’s grate portrait is located in the “Pop Culture & Entertainment” section of the Walk of Fame on Stephen Avenue Walk between 1 St SW and 2 St SW near Lammle’s Western Wear & Tack.
Another amazing supporter of the Stampede (and the city), Bill Siebens, was also honoured with a “grate portrait.” Siebens, a local philanthropist, rancher and businessman, generously gifted the Calgary Stampede Foundation with the almost 8,000-acre southern portion of the historic OH Ranch.