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This is a reanimation of the Vicaribus blog as lived by Miro Kazakoff and Ehren Foss in 2004 and 2005. The photos may be spotty.

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July 16, 2005 near Calgary, AB | Printable

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The Greatest Province on Earth

Posted by ehren

With two solid work days behind me, I confidently left the laptop in the bus and rode worry free into town around noon on Friday. In the afternoon we all got separately lost in the livestock tents, so I wandered on my own for an hour, and eventually found the Stampede Casino buffet, which I can confidently claim is the best food deal within a half mile of the grounds. I ate a lot and it made me ill. I think we're familiar with this pattern of mine by now.

In the mid to late afternoon we met up in the Indian Village to watch the Pow Wow / Indian Dancing finals. It was a substantive cultural experience, though not necessarily in the ways you'd expect. Two girls from Chilliwack (I still love Canadian city names, no matter how many Skookumchucks I see) warmed up the microphone with hip hop, native Canadian style (they're called the First Nations up here). Quotes:

"I just wanted to give a shout out to all the Canoe paddlers this season... and all the elders keepin' it real in the council. Word up."
"Are there any warriors in the hooouuuseeee??"

The emcee for the afternoon, one of the retired dancers / elders also peculiarly blended cultures in his crowd banter:

"Yeah, scalping white people turned into a PR nightmare, so we don't do that anymore."
[To the crowd on a grassy hill / ampetheater] "You remember in all those John Wayne movies when the cowboys chase the indians up over a hill? Well, let's try that another way..."

And an announcement:

"Chet Running Horse... your Dodge is blocking the truck ramp and must be moved."

The costumes were astonishingly bright and intricate, indigenous patterns amplified with modern dyes (even the occasional fluorescent). Look at the pictures, eh? The dancing varied...the over-55 traditional categories were essentially shuffling in bleached buckskin, and some of the women's shawl dances were elegant but not particularly exciting. The men's chicken dancers evoked the energy and chaos of their namesake, and the crowd demanded (and got) several encores. Another men's category (I've forgotten the name) had just as much energy, and in between the several performances (I was down by the stage by then) I saw a couple of them hobble over, breathless, to gatorade bottles and off-stage chairs. Though the emcee called out a number of different dances, my ear wasn't tuned to the differences between them. Little kids in the crowd felt the music, certainly.

Michelle (one of the Scots, remember?) showed up at the Pow Wow after the end of the afternoon rodeo event. [Allison was supposed to show up today (Saturday) with one of their flatmates, but we have yet to hear from her.] The five of us wandered around in search of dinner, beer gardens, and what else to see. Sean and Rana waited in line and snagged 3 rush tickets for the chuck wagon / grandstand event, so at 8 we entered the grounds for more rootin' tootin' westernness.

The chuck wagon races were a minor disappointment, but only as they were built up too much by people who had seen more exciting nights of racing. It's not particularly humanitarian to hope for upturned carts and uncontrollable horses, but is it any different than the real reason for watching NASCAR or hockey? It's a peculiarly designed sport...a chuck wagon driver moves up to a first barrel, 3 jockeys -- who seem to be provided by the Stampede, not part of any particular team...? -- hold the wagon back as the thoroughbreds rare to go, and at the klaxon load a barrel (simulating an oven) into the back of the wagon. The wagon takes off, makes a 180-degree turn around another barrel 50 or so feet away, while the 3 jockeys mount their steeds and take off in persuit. For reasons of space there are four wagons per heat, and they each have their own set of barrels. After the big turn the race becomes a standard oval race, with the exception that the three jockeys must stay within 150 feet of their wagon, or penalties ensue. Likewise for knocking over a barrel (10 seconds with the wagon, 2 with a lone horse). It was exciting, but I don't understand all the extra steps.

Nobody crashed, but in one of the later heats one of the teams broke out of control after finishing the race. The wagon was by then on the far side of the track, but this is what I saw: Horses bucking, tangled in their harnesses, a gray horse fell (out of sight behind the track wall). Lots of people came running, and erected a black screen around the area, brought in a horse ambulance (with red crosses and everything), and that was that. They made no mention of it over the PA (much effort goes toward fighting stereotypes of unnecessary equestrian harm), so I don't really know what happened. Worst case, the horse broke a leg and they shot it. Best case, they tranquilized it in order to free it from the harness.

The chuck wagoneering was overwith by 9:30. At that point a big John Deere tractor began dragging a very massive performance stage -- set up like a turn of the century Alberta railtown -- to front and center. While local talent (ugh) kept the crowd busy I saw them set up wagons of fireworks, pinwheels; a variety of props in far excess of what I had been expecting.

What followed was the biggest, loudest, wildest, all-singing all-dancing variety show singalong performance I've ever seen. I've never witnessed a state or province's -, sesqui-, or bi- centennial celebration before, but I can't imagine that Rhode Island, Illinois, or even New York putting something like this together with a straight face. The money might be there, but I have yet to visit a United State (excepting perhaps Montana) with enough attitude and pride to pull such a show off. Along with hundreds of "Young Canadians", a nation's performing arts product, we saw Cirque du Soliel-caliber gymnasts perform several routines, standup poking fun at Saskatooners and the Noufs, along with acts representing Alberta's various major/minor ethnic groups. The finale lasted at least a half hour, hundreds of people onstage, fireworks exploding everywhere, unified in song about the wonderfulness, prosperity, and future of Alberta. The theme of the show: "Alberta Rocks, AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT." Some of the photos came out well, but you aren't really going to believe me until you see something like this in person.

After the show, the 5 of us pre-partied our way out of the grounds on the way to walk around 20 blocks to a bar called "The Roadhouse" where Michelle would meet up with her French-Canadian friends from Banff for a ride home. Sean, after living for a few years in LA as a high-powered business consultant... I think he actually cast a magic spell or something, because somehow we got into the VIP line without any bribes and were in the club, just in time for last call (boo). The interior was fairly insane, cowboy tastic with a mix of standard club music, dancing on tables, drinks being knocked over. We didn't have sufficient time to acclimatize before the place started closing, so we said our goodbyes to Shelly, and snagged a cab home.


Photo Album

Ehren's Posts:
(Aug 1): This Is The End
(Jul 28): Tulip the Bulldog
(Jul 25): On Fumes
(Jul 23): 500 Miles
(Jul 20): Oofda.
(Jul 19): Are we there yet?
(Jul 18): Leaving the North Country Fair
(Jul 16): The Greatest Province on Earth
(Jul 14): My name is Gus, I'm a Longhorn Steer, and I weigh 1600 lbs.
(Jul 12): The Million Dollar Rodeo

Miro's Posts:
(Jul 27): Minnesota
(Jul 23): Angry Blacksmith
(Jul 17): Aurora Borealis
(Jul 13): Cowboy Up
(Jul 3): A selection of Butte's finest
(Jun 26): A Continent divided
(Jun 18): Snow in June
(Jun 12): Smelly Cat is an Excellent Campfire Song
(Jun 11): Interior Canada
(Jun 9): Yuk Yuk

See all log entries.

Miro's Recipes: (See All)
(May 25): Zhurek (Sour Polish Soup)
(May 23): Atomic Noodles
(May 22): Campfire French Onion Soup

Bus Conversion: (See All)
(Oct 9): Electrical System
(Sep 19): Design
(Sep 10): Roof Raise

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