Official Stampede festivities have been cancelled for the first time in almost a century, but that’s not stopping residents from enjoying the Stampede spirit. The Stampede events this week were all planned with social distancing in mind, and in line with the Calgary Stampede’s slogan “Community spirit cannot be cancelled”. That’s never been more true in our two communities.
“At Garrison Green we saluted the Stampede with pancakes at lunch on Wednesday, complemented with grilled hamburgers and ice cream sundaes at dinner, which touches on a Stampede food fair theme,” said Monica Schmidt, creative facilitator for Garrison Green. “On the music side, we featured country singer Travis Pickering, who walked around the outside of the community playing country favourites. Travis also performed outside at our Fish Creek community. We even had midway-themed mini-doughnuts as another Stampede treat. And on Friday, our weekly Good News Bulletin will feature the history of the Calgary Stampede.”
Residents were also invited to a virtual presentation of “We Too Will Ride Again” hosted by the Kerby Centre. Residents heard from the 2020 Stampede parade marshal Filipe Masetti Leite; learned about the history of the Stampede from author, historian, and CEO of the Whyte Museum, Donna Livingstone; heard cowboy poetry from award-winning poet Doris Daley; and even experienced some Chuckwagon action.
One of the residents living at Garrison Green has a special link to the Stampede. George Lane is the grandson of one of Calgary’s “Big Four” businessmen, also named George Lane, who kept the idea for the Stampede from going to Winnipeg in 1912, thus starting a century-long tradition in Calgary. In 2016, the elder Lane was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, both in Oklahoma.
“Guy Weadick came to Calgary with an idea for what would become the Stampede,” said George, a retired Dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. “He needed money to get it off the ground. My grandfather heard about it, brought three other business leaders together, and they provided the funding. Guy was going to take the idea to Winnipeg unless he could find funding in Calgary, so the Stampede became forever associated with Calgary.”
The elder George Lane owned the famous Bar U ranch near Longview for a quarter century. A later co-owner of the ranch was Patrick Burns, also one of the Big Four. The ranch itself has a number of colourful stories. For instance, in 1891 the infamous Harry Longabaugh worked at the Bar U, later becoming the outlaw “the Sundance Kid”, of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame.
Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward, who abdicated the throne in 1936), while on a cross-Canada tour, visited the Bar U in 1919 after saying that he wanted to see a real ranch. After spending several days as Lane’s guest, the Prince travelled on to Vancouver. He was so taken with the Bar U, that he wired Lane to arrange to buy a ranch in the area. The Prince bought a neighbouring ranch to the Bar U and renamed it the EP.
And Charles Russell, best known as the Cowboy Painter, who was famous for painted western scenes, painted a series of his works at the Bar U. One of his works was turned into a bronze. It marks a time when George’s grandfather rode home one night and found a herd of wolves attacking his cattle. The wolves turned on him and he shot several of them before the remainder ran off.
“Ranching was in our heritage, and two of my dad’s brothers set up ranches. But my dad farmed and raised horses, and I found I was better suited to an academic life,” said George. “But the Stampede is still important to us. We’ve always participated in it in various ways. On the 100th anniversary, they brought the descendants of the Big Four to Calgary to ride in the parade. When the Stampede was cancelled this year, I frankly thought they had jumped the gun. I wrote a letter to Mayor Nenshi suggesting it be moved to September instead, but at least the Stampede is still being held in spirit.”
George said his family history is important, and he recognizes that it’s something to be proud of. His grandfather died before George was born, so his memories come through stories his father told him. “The family considered High River to be our home before we moved to Calgary, and the Lane & Emerson block was named after my grandfather, and a park and campground in High River were named for him. I think I see him today as an innovator. His first telephone number was 3 in Calgary, meaning he had the third phone in Calgary. He saw the need for horses for the settlers coming to Western Canada, so he brought Percherons in from France and sold them to breeders who then sold the offspring to the settlers. And he saw the need to branch into agriculture rather than just stay with ranching, and he sold cattle to England.”
George said the Stampede is never far from him and his family. “I have a large number of photos and documents that all harken back to my grandfather and those early days in Calgary. I might just write a book about him one day.”
The restrictions on visiting mean that tours aren’t available right now, but don’t hesitate to talk with one of our active living advisors about life in a United community. They can arrange for a tour once we are able to do so. If you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community, send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a future visit. We are happy to help!
To learn more about life at United’s Fish Creek community, watch this short video.
Or, to find out more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.