By Christopher Walsh, reporter
The day has finally come to shine your boots, pull out the plaid, don a cowboy hat and drink your troubles away.
The Calgary Stampede kicks off in earnest this morning as the city embraces its western roots in flashy – and sometimes vulgar – fashion.
The Stampede Parade will begin the festivities at 8:55 am, starting at 6 Ave and MacLeod Trail S.E., travelling west then south on 10 Street and then east on 9 Ave. The parade will be led this year by Canadian icon Rick Hansen, who will act as parade marshal. Hundreds of thousands of Calgarians are expected to hit the streets to watch the floats and animals.
Michael Casey, president and chair of the Calgary Stampede, says this year’s Stampede will be the most hoot-hollering-hell-of-a-time yet.
“We’ve got a great show down here,” he said on the grounds Thursday afternoon, as a few people wandered the grounds for a sneak-peek.
New features this year include David “The Bullet” Smith Jr. – better known as the human cannonball, the kids’ chuck challenge, the cattle trail, as well as crazy new culinary inventions like the turkey-tini, deep-fried Poptarts and the doughnut burger.
Casey says all the world-class cowboys have arrived for the rodeo, the grandstand show will be “unbelievable”, the agricultural shows will be “the best ever” and the ice show is expected to be a treat.
“It just goes on and on,” he said. “It’s going to be a fabulous year. All entertainment for all ages.”
Casey added that the Royal visit has added a lot of excitement for this year’s Stampede.
“It confirms that the Stampede is a world, iconic event,” he said. “It’s something all Canadians should be very proud of. It will certainly focus the attention of a lot of media on the Stampede.”
And, he says, that means good things for the Stampede.
“It means that people understand that we do portray western heritage and values. It’s great that they’ve chosen to come and be a part of it and we’re absolutely delighted to host them.”
Two thousand volunteers and 300 staff have been working around the clock to ensure a successful Stampede. Casey says he’s proud of their effort and is certain this year’s Stampede will be remembered for a while.
“I have no doubt that I’m going to see people on July 18 tired; which would be the sign of a successful Stampede,” he said. “Smiling is another sign, and tremendously proud of the effort that everybody puts in to make it a great show.”
Advanced ticket sales have been up over last year and Casey hopes the buzz created by the royal couple will help attendance. Other indicators like an improved economy may mean increased numbers this year. But nobody wants to make any predictions just yet.
“I feel the success of this show is the fact that we have a bang-up line-up of entertainment and features,” Casey said. “I think the indicators point to a very good year. But at the end of the day, you just want the people who come to have a great time.”
The Calgary Stampede is celebrating 99 years as “the greatest outdoor show on earth” this year. The Calgary Beacon will be providing extensive coverage over the next 10 days.
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