Stampede and the Westness of West

“Is this the west then, legend or performance, the old west, the new west, the wild west, the faint west, the dusty west, the wicked west, the uncultivated west, the dishevelled west, the tempestuous west, the unkempt west, the turbulent west, the tousled west, the complaining west, the anarchic west, the restless west, windswept, rumpled and unironed and messy, its depiction as wildly unpredictable as its chaotic generation, a shambles and a jumble and a pandemonium of hope. Stampede or else.”

“West of what?” Both a perturbation of arbitrary geography and a question many Calgarians ask at least once come July — what is this west we’re celebrating? Is it Guy Weadick and the daunting list of cowboys and horse women who’ve lasted the eternal eight seconds on a bucking bronco? The sizzle of complimentary sausage links and pancakes doled out to eager diners morning after morning? The countless cups turned bottom up for that fabled griddle grease to soak up? Is it Canon, Carnival, a vital part of cowtown? Or just a crass corporate commodity stuffed wincing into $300 boots for ten days a year? From cockroach pizza to cowboy etymology, full of parade marshals, Stampede queens, recalcitrant horses and reluctant riders, Stampede and the Westness of West traces the history and hedonism of a festival that dominates Calgary every year, sun or flood.