09 July 2007

The Calgary Stampede - the voice of heresy is heard

This morning's Globe and Mail ran an article on the Calgary Stampede which -- horrors! -- contained critical material. As a proud Calgarian, I feel obliged to respond to this heresy.

The article is entitled "The Tyranny of Stampede" and focuses on the social and career pressure on Calgarians to dress up and get in the mood. At the risk of having to get an unlisted phone number, I publicly admit I thoroughly appreciated the piece. YAHOO for the Globe and Mail.

The whole Stampede thing has become somewhat embarrassing for those of us who believe Calgary may not be a big city yet but should at least have grown out of its cow town phase. We should no longer have to pretend we all enjoy the same things. Nor should we have to believe that getting "sauced" before noon is a matter of civic duty.

As the Globe article emphasizes, much of the pressure to conform comes from employers. As one young employee of a supplies store observed, "There is this total tyranny that takes hold. It's this total Big Bother aspect ...." More boosterism than fun, it seems.

Speaking for myself, I have absolutely no interest in all that horsy cowboy stuff. As for the cultural heart of it all -- rodeo -- I simply cannot accept that tormenting animals for entertainment or "sport" is something to be celebrated. And yes, my individualism is offended by the group think, or perhaps I should say group drink, of coercive fun-making.

One native Calgarian summed it up this way: "I can't take it any more. The dressing up, the partying -- it's all just too much now. I'm going to Vancouver for Stampede."

Me, I just ignore it.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe you didn't get a comment on this back in July. I feel bad that I just read this now.
    As a native Calgarian myself, I do have a pretty strong opinion on this. Some years I do just leave town during that week, other years I get right into it. But I think that if you move here, you still have a choice to participate or not. It's the spirit of Calgary that makes the Stampede so much greater than any other fair, and that spirit comes from Calgarians. So I say get involved, if you want. It's a lot more fun than ignoring it. It's not group think, it's just that we all want to participate. Of course you can just ignore it too. It doesn't hurt you.