Calgarians ready to party their mudboots off as Stampede kicks off
Friday, July 5, 2013, 11:36 AM -
Crews have been working around the clock, making last-minute preparations for the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth."
The Stampede grounds were hit hard by damaging floodwaters two weeks ago, leaving the park resembling a muddy swimming pool.
The water has since receded and the state of emergency lifted, leaving Calgarians ready to throw one heck of a party.
The Stampede kicks off on Friday with its annual parade, led by Canada's celebrity astronaut Chris Hadfield.
Hadfield says the event will be a chance for flood-affected residents to celebrate "something bigger." He will pay special tribute to the first responders who kept citizens safe in the early days of the disaster.
At one point, about 75,000 Calgarians were evacuated from their homes in the flood that began on June 20.
Crews have pumped millions of litres of water from the rodeo grounds, scraped mud, torn out and replaced drywall and have been sanitizing surfaces in Stampede Park.
Those working behind the scenes say they're amazed at how well things have turned out since the devastating flood.
"It's extraordinary...You can't even tell there was a flood here now," one worker said.
Organizers and longtime Stampede volunteers say it's important for the party and rodeo to go ahead this year.
"I think more Calgarians are going to go this year because they want to say they went this year, because they have Calgary pride,'' said Cliff Steedman, a retiree who has been volunteering with the Calgary Stampede for three decades.
TUNE: Tune into The Weather Network on TV as we report LIVE from the Calgary Stampede July 5-14.
Despite all the effort to run everything as normal this year, organizers were forced to cancel some signature events because of flood repairs.
The flood-ravaged Saddledome, the heart of the Calgary Stampede, is still too damaged to host the shows that were scheduled.
“We regret to inform fans that the four Stampede concerts scheduled in the Saddledome cannot proceed as scheduled due to the damages the facility suffered during the recent flooding,” Stampede organizers said in a release.
Record flood waters had filled the Saddledome up to the eighth row.
"Construction trades have been working very hard on a number of fronts simultaneously including addressing issues related to electrical power, portable water, air conditioning, air quality, and personal safety. Ultimately, due to the flood, it just isn’t feasible to go ahead on July 10," organizers added.
All ticket holders will still receive admission to the Stampede on the day of their concert by showing their concert tickets.
Officials are also hoping to reschedule the shows at a later date.
Other events like the horse cutting and the vintage tractor pull have also been cancelled entirely.
Still, officials say they've been able to move most events to other locations, so the overall impact should be fairly small.
The Stampede's president vowed the event would proceed "come hell or high water."
That's now the motto emblazoned across black T-shirts seen everywhere in in the city, even on the back of popular Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
Are you planning to attend the Calgary Stampede this year? Be sure to check out the weather conditions before you go. We'd also love to see your Stampede photos and videos, which you can upload to our online gallery.
With files from The Canadian Press