Calgary Stampede Parade takes over downtown

“People are waving and smiling – it’s just exciting,” said Owen Crow Shoe.

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The largest outdoor show in the world is officially open.

The 2024 Calgary Stampede began Friday morning with the annual parade. The energy was palpable and tens of thousands of spectators lined the streets of 9th Avenue and cheered as the procession began.

Calgary residents and visitors alike came out early in the morning to line the downtown streets and enjoy the annual spectacle. Many arrived before 6 a.m. to ensure an unobstructed view of the floats and entertainment.

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For 17-year-old Tyleaha Smith, who lives in north Calgary, her day began at 3:30 a.m. She arrived at the parade route at 5:30 a.m. to secure a front-row seat on 9th Avenue near 1st Street.

“This is our favorite place it fills up around 8 or 8:30 a.m.,” she said shortly after 6 a.m.

Smith plans to go to the Stampede grounds almost every day during the 10-day festival and says attending the parade has become a lovely family tradition.

“We’ve been doing this for a few years now,” she said.

“I think it's just about getting out there and doing something and seeing all the people come together to watch it. It's just a different environment.”

“It’s a phenomenal time”

This year's parade marshal was actor Owen Crow Shoe, a member of the Piikani Nation and the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy.

The Hollywood actor whose latest film Horizon: An American Sagain which he and former parade marshal Kevin Costner star, is currently showing in cinemas said it was an honor to lead this year's procession.

Crow Shoe, who lives in the Pincher Creek area but has spent much of the past year in California, said he and his family have been involved with the Stampede for decades. Many of his memories of the Calgary Stampede include singing and drumming performances at the Elbow River Camp, as well as participating in the Warrior Ride during the Stampede Rodeo Grand Entry.

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“The Calgary Stampede is the greatest outdoor show in the world,” Crow Shoe told Postmedia before the parade began. “That's all I can say. It's a phenomenal time.”

“This is a big deal and I know a lot of people will be here. I think it's a big responsibility to lead the parade this year and it's a great honor.”

Although he said he enjoys everything the Stampede has to offer, Crow Shoe said the best part of the 10-day celebration is the people and the conversations the festival inspires.

“The Stampede has a lot of great stories to tell,” he said. “You just have to go up to people and talk to them. Everyone has their own unique story.”

Crow Shoes' entourage was one of over 100 participants in this year's parade, which included 21 floats, 11 bands and nearly 700 horses.

Many main attractions were well received by the cheering crowd, including the Calgary Stampede Showband and Showriders, and the Stampede's official mascot, Harry the Horse, who waved to the crowd from the back seat of a red convertible.

While the Stampede's usual western theme was embraced and celebrated, Calgary's multiculturalism was also on full display, with some floats representing the city's Filipino, Korean and Japanese communities.

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Numerous civic groups and organizations were represented along the parade route. The Heritage Park float promoted the site's 60th anniversary, while the Children's Cottage Society float promoted its new Children and Family Center in Montgomery.

Numerous politicians took the opportunity to mount a horse and wave to potential voters. Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Premier Danielle Smith, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Pierre Poilievre and newly elected Alberta NDP Leader Naheed Nenshi all participated in the parade.

Adding to the festive atmosphere of the procession was a series of live entertainment elements that added to the excitement before the parade. The warm-up acts, known as the “Parade Prelude,” included various drumming, singing and dancing groups, including the Calgary Stampeders Hype Team, Young Bhangra Club and Sparq Productions.

Another group that took part in the audition this year was Cool Choir, a 400-member adult pop and rock choir. The organization's founder and creative director, Jamie Serafi, said this was the choir's third time participating in the parade, and the nearly 100 members in attendance couldn't wait to belt out their covers of everything from Bruce Springsteen to Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga.

“We bring together people who think they cannot sing, and that is most people Car singer, shower singer and we can have some amazing experiences and performances. This is one of them,” Serafi said.

He added that the best part of the parade was walking down the street and seeing “the faces of thousands of people” cheering and waving at the singers.

“It literally gives you goosebumps when you walk through and sing,” he said. “People wave, smile it's just exciting.”

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