Mike Drew: Limitless reminiscences

I don’t really bear in mind my first Stampede.

I do know that it was most likely in 1954, our household’s second yr in Crossfield, and that my mother had simply had my center brother Rob. I used to be solely two years outdated on the time however I bear in mind Father telling me a lot later that we went to the parade that yr so it appears fairly probably that we went to the Stampede, too.

And we went yearly after that as effectively, the next 4 years earlier than we moved to Olds, that single summer time there earlier than we moved to Gleichen and the 9 years there earlier than we went to Milk River in 1968.

The 600 km round-trip from that beautiful city down by the Montana border was a bit a lot to go spend a day wandering across the grounds so we missed just a few years. By the point I used to be 19 and off alone, although, I managed to make it to Stampede just a few instances on my own.

However ever since I began on the Solar again in 1985, I’ve been to the Stampede yearly. In order that implies that this yr, at a guess, should be proper round my 60th Stampede.

For sure, going to the Stampede on the age of 67 is only a teensy bit totally different from going to the Stampede on the age of two though, after a few hours strolling round I nonetheless need somebody to choose me up and carry me. And I do get kinda cranky if I don’t have a day snack and a nap.

However the enjoyable of being there has by no means actually diminished.

It helps, after all, that for the final 40 years or so I’ve been carrying round a digicam. Having enjoyable and watching others have enjoyable and having the ability to file all of it to expertise over again later has made an enormous distinction to how I expertise the Stampede.

Just like the expertise of being on the rodeo.


Jake Watson of Hudson’s Hope, BC., heads skyward on Xena Warrior in Saddle Bronc competitors on the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Ab., on Saturday July 6, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

I really like rodeo. I really like the sights and sounds and smells of the world, the athleticism of the riders and ropers and the animals which can be their companions. And I really like photographing it, attempting to get the height motion and the storytelling moments. You’ll be able to maintain soccer and hockey. I’ll take rodeo each time.

Reality to inform, although, photographically there are significantly better rodeos to {photograph} than the Stampede. The backgrounds are messy and it’s onerous to get good angles on a few of the occasions. Small-town rodeos are significantly better — particularly Writing-On-Stone, the very best wherever — and the pictures virtually shoot themselves.

However nothing compares to the expertise of being on the Calgary Stampede rodeo, to be alongside the rail getting dust kicked at you by passing animals as the gang of, what, 10,000 individuals roars behind you. The announcers name out the rides over the loudspeakers, the video cameras comply with the motion to show on the massive display. The clown dances and makes dumb jokes in the course of the lulls between the occasions.

It’s greater than a rodeo, actually. It’s a present, a giant, loud, bucking extravaganza and regardless that you’ll probably get higher photos at a smaller occasion, total, man, there simply ain’t nothing just like the Calgary Stampede rodeo.


Jake Watson of Hudson’s Hope, BC., heads skyward on Xena Warrior in Saddle Bronc competitors on the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Ab., on Saturday July 6, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

Our household was semi-rural. Father was a grain purchaser and ran large outdated wood grain elevators within the small cities we lived in so we youngsters grew up kind of on the sting of the farming and ranching areas of southern Alberta. I used to be at all times extra all for that lifestyle than my brothers and my love and respect for that life-style has simply stored rising over time.

That’s why I so benefit from the agricultural segments of the Stampede. I really like seeing the sheep and cattle demonstration, watching the inventory horses and canines work. The grain shows are at all times fascinating as are — possibly much more so — shows that illustrate the significance of native prairie grassland.

The demonstrations of abilities like sheep shearing at all times make me cease and watch as does something that requires talent and dexterity. Like blacksmithing.


Farrier Riley Swanby hammers out a horse shore on the Stampede’s blacksmithing demonstration in Calgary, Ab., on Tuesday July 9, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

Although I’ve seen it achieved many instances earlier than over my Stampeding years, I simply love seeing a smith take a bit of iron, warmth it, hammer it and bend it into one thing helpful utilizing nothing however hand instruments. I watched farrier Riley Swanby do exactly that up shut. She barely broke a sweat.

Actually fascinating.


The pictures of spectators are warped by sizzling air coming from the forge that farrier Riley Swanby is utilizing to create a horse shore on the Stampede’s blacksmithing demonstration in Calgary, Ab., on Tuesday July 9, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

The dancers over at Elbow River Camp had been sweating, although. Wearing heavy costumes and dancing within the warmth of the afternoon solar, they carried out to the beat of drums and the ululating voices of singers from all of the Indigenous teams that comprise southern Alberta’s first individuals.


Dancers with elaborate roaches at Elbow River Camp on the Calgary Stampede on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

I really matter myself fortunate to have lived proper subsequent to the Siksika Nation in Gleichen in the course of the 1960s and gone to highschool with youngsters from, actually, throughout the tracks and I particularly take into account myself privileged to have been capable of go to at the very least just a few of the tipis at Stampede as a pal as an alternative of only a curious customer.

I’m unhappy, although, that after we moved away from Gleichen I by no means stored involved with the youngsters I knew again then. Reminiscences are all I’ve.


A dancer shades her eyes from the intense solar at Elbow River Camp on the Calgary Stampede on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

OK, it’s time for one more confession. With my media go, I can go locations that the general public can’t. And a type of locations, possibly the very best one, is the chuckwagon barns.

Many years in the past earlier than all of the restrictions started to be enforced, our household spent quite a lot of time again within the barns. My mother was on a curling workforce with just a few of the chuckwagon drivers’ wives and Father knew just a few by way of the grain enterprise. For some time, a chuckwagon driver lived close to us in Gleichen.

Due to that, come later within the afternoon, we’d cease by the barns to say hey and hang around with the drivers and outriders and all their youngsters and quite a lot of instances we’d keep to look at the races from the backstretch.


Getting back from the wash bays within the chuckwagon barns in Calgary, Ab., on Tuesday July 9, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

The chuckwagon barns, in truth, will be the cause why I so benefit from the scent of horses. Add that to the scent of hay, splash on a contact of liniment and bottle it up for me, please.

However it’s not a spot the general public can get to. I perceive why however it’s a little bit of a disgrace that the majority people won’t ever get the expertise of being within the cool shade inside one of many large buildings, butt parked on a bale and inhaling that scent. It’s really one in every of my favorite Stampede experiences.


Eavesdropping on a dialog within the chuckwagon barns in Calgary, Ab., on Tuesday July 9, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

I additionally perceive that the Stampede means various things to totally different individuals. I prefer it for the agriculture, the rodeo, the chuckwagons, the cultural and life-style elements of Stampede. I grew up with that stuff in order that’s what I gravitate towards.

However a superb portion of the individuals coming to the grounds are there for different issues. And there are quite a lot of different issues.

Me, I by no means a lot was one for the halfway rides nor did I get pleasure from wandering by way of homeware shows and different stuff that my mother discovered attention-grabbing. As for the infinite potentialities for issues to eat on the Stampede now — foot-long fries, critically? — I can’t bear in mind ever consuming something on the Stampede grounds in any respect.

Now, although, a superb chunk of the Stampede is taken up with issues like that. The BMO Centre is form of a shopping center and the cubicles that line it and the skin of the Corral are like a meals courtroom. The halfway is a giant draw, after all, and it’s thronged with individuals from the time it opens till late at evening.

You wouldn’t get me on a type of rides at gunpoint however I do get pleasure from watching the individuals on them.


A protracted publicity smears the pictures of walkers on the halfway on the Calgary Stampede on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

I do know people that simply refuse to set foot on the Stampede grounds and even some that vacate the town for the 10 days of the present. And in a means, I can perceive that. I, myself, get a little bit weary of it after some time.

However my expertise of Stampede is, possibly, a little bit distinctive. When our household first began going, it wasn’t the beast that it’s turn into — this roaring, churning mass of individuals and cacophony of sound and smells. It was smaller, an agriculture truthful and a rodeo with just a few rides to entertain the youngsters.

As an grownup, although, by way of my digicam’s lens, I’ve watched it develop and broaden and metamorphose into the leisure spectacle that it’s. I’ve skilled it each as a participant and an observer.

So I admire it for what it’s, an escape from on a regular basis life, a trip, a getaway, an excuse to let free.

No, I actually don’t bear in mind my first Stampede. However I’ve many reminiscences from each as soon as since.

And this yr, I added a complete bunch extra.


The view from the Eye In The Sky as a thunderstorm passes on the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Ab., on Saturday July 6, 2019. Mike Drew/Postmedia

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