The Side-Effects of Stampeding

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The first installment of our ten segment series; Face Lift, exploring the new face of our city.


The city, as it grows, is finding new and interesting ways to bring about these bits of culture and vibrancy. Designers and citizens are playing a part in creating our emerging civic identity and finding new ways to revitalize old aspects. This theme will be the focus of our Face Lift series. From now until July 27th, we will continue to expose the new face of the city, sharing our views on Calgary’s evolution, at a variety of scales. From personal projects to neighborhood redevelopment, from permanent, cosmetic treatments to temporarily activating underutilized spaces, all of the articles will explore an attempt to alter something old into an even better new. These face lifts could be as simple as giving local artists the opportunity to display their work on utility boxes to re-designing iconic or historic buildings such as the Planetarium or the King Edward School in order to suit a new purpose. Whether purely visual or providing a greater purpose, these adjustments serve to create a new look for the city. We kick things off today with the city’s largest face lift, the Calgary Stampede. 

Stay tuned these next two weeks as we explore Calgary’s face lifts. And if you stick around til the end, we just might reveal a botched face lift or two.


mC:t    2015.07.13  



The Side-Effects of Stampeding


Here marks the end of another great 10 days of country-style shenanigans!


For the past 103 years, the Calgary Stampede has been popping up in our city for a short period of time to celebrate our Western roots, each year a bit more extravagant than the last. The Stampede is the city’s most spectacular Face Lift, sort of like a large-scale version of tactical urbanism. The otherwise barren sea of parking on the Stampede grounds is converted into a bustling midway full of deep-fried food, neon lights and rickety carnival rides that attract millions of visitors from Calgary, Canada and all around the world. From true, blue cowboys and some pretty dedicated country fans to those who run in the other direction at the mention of the Stampede, there’s no denying the impact this event has on the city.


These days you don’t even have to set foot near the grounds to experience the festivities. People around town don their cowboy hats and denim getups, soaking in every bit of Stampede culture.  Free pancakes are handed out to the sound of country tunes while hay bales and lassos decorate every pub and patio around town. We all see the Stampede spirit as the city is momentarily transformed. And it seems that many people love the opportunity to embody the temporary culture. But now that those long days and even longer nights are over, the Stampede hangover is settling in and we are left felling a bit lonely, bored and empty. The good news is that when the dust settles, we’ll be right back where we began but with some awesome memories to add to the storybook.



Aerial photographs illustrating the transformation of Stampede Park during the Calgary Stampede.


I, myself, am quite the fan of the Stampede, mostly because of all of the buzz it creates. Love it or hate it, everyone has something to say about the 10-day event and it has become an iconic symbol of the city. For a of couple weeks, the city is alive. And while it is arguably artificial, this strong expression of culture and identity is something that is otherwise lacking in this city. Not that I’m suggesting that our identity can just pop-up overnight, nor that it should mimic the festivities of the Stampede. I think that we’re probably all better off leaving our cowboy boots in the closet for the other 50 weeks of the year.


But a stronger identity could do a lot of good for our civic pride and culture. If you ask me, this identity creation is picking up speed as Calgary continues to thrive and people become more invested in the city. However, it is still going to take some time. Calgary is young as far as cities are concerned and cultivating an identity on such a large scale is no small task.





Next: Where Do Pop-ups Fit In?
Previous: Calgary’s Newest Brew Pub


[1] Cowboy photography. Canadian Living. Date Accessed July 13, 2015.

[2] Midway photograph. Stampede Blog. Date Accessed July 13, 2015.

[3] Stampede Statistics. Calgary Stampede. Date Accessed July 12, 2015.

[4] Stampede Park aerial photograph (pre-Stampede). Calgary Stampede. Date Accessed July 13, 2015.


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  1. Naji Akbar says:

    Well written.

    I wonder if the time has come to enrich our winters, too, with traditional festivals.

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