Calgary's always leading the parade

Post Date: Friday, July 06, 2012
Here is the full version from my regular monthly column that appeared in the Calgary Herald today. Happy Stampede!

If you’re reading this on Friday morning, I am astride my buddy Garfield, getting ready to ride in the Stampede Parade. And that is probably the best thing about being Mayor of Calgary during the Calgary Stampede.

There are other highlights, of course: community events put on by volunteers in all parts of the city, fireworks, the midway, the rodeo, the chuck wagon races, mini-doughnuts, the agriculture fair, a confluence of cultures in the Indian Village, mini-doughnuts, meeting people in pancake breakfast lines, mini-doughnuts, and generally looking awesome in a Smithbilt hat and Alberta Boots. (Donut burgers, however, do not make the highlight reel).

But the parade? Well, that’s special. For me, it started as a kid: dressed in cowboy clothes and waiting with my parents and sister at the side of the street for the first horses and floats to go by. Side by side with tens of thousands of other Calgarians ready to be amused and amazed and proud and, perhaps, if they were like me, imagining being in that parade themselves.

We’re celebrating 100 years of many great education, arts, culture, business, and municipal institutions this year. The Pumphouse Theatres, the Grand Theatre, the Calgary Public Library, City of Calgary Recreation, and of course, the Calgary Stampede. We have never been a city content to just watch the pretty floats go by. We are a city that always wants to lead the parade.

A hundred years ago, Calgarians were inspired to lead by imagining and building the city they wanted for the future. They imagined a modern metropolis that welcomed the world as a city of opportunity for those with the skill and initiative.

And, literally, we created our own parade.

I don’t know what Guy Weadick and Florence LaDue and the Big Four thought they were building in 1912. I know they knew they were on to something special. There were 80,000 people (in a place with a population of just over 60,000) at that first parade. And the Stampede had its first royal visitor – the Duke of Connaught, the son of Queen Victoria and then Governor-General of Canada (no wonder Connaught School, in the Beltline, is also celebrating its hundredth birthday).

From my view atop Garfield, it’s easy to see the city we built for ourselves. That vibrant metropolis of diversity and opportunity is here. And so is that same excitement that Calgarians had 100 years ago.

We are neither perfect nor finished. Our city will continue to grow and evolve.

Calgary is filled with everyday visionaries. We work, ride the bus, raise our families, enjoy our communities, and always think about what the future will hold.

We write our own stories and keep creating parades. 

I think of so many Calgary stories on my horse. Today, I think about my Dad’s story, a typically Canadian story, a typically Stampede story.

My family and I were deeply touched and overwhelmed by the hundreds of supportive messages we received when we lost Dad a few weeks ago. The most interesting thing for me was the number of Calgarians, people we’ve never met, who saw their own story in my father. Coming here, working hard, giving back, building a future. It’s the ordinariness of his story in this place that makes Calgary so extraordinary.

I don’t doubt that, 100 years from now, we will have achieved the vision of the city that we set out in ImagineCalgary. It will be an even better place in which to live, work, and raise a family. And while we can’t know if there will be hover cars and jetpacks, Stampede 2112 will most certainly be an amazing celebration.

I hope that the world will continue to visit Calgary and enjoy all we have to offer. I hope that the Stampede will still be a volunteer-driven organization. I hope that volunteers will still flip pancakes in every corner of the city. I hope that we will continue to tip our hats to an agricultural, entrepreneurial western culture.

And, most important, I hope that our 2112 mayor gets the chance to show off her riding skills on a beautiful horse as she leads the Stampede Parade.

Enjoy the parade.

- Mayor Naheed Nenshi