Less than 24 hours after arriving back home, I find myself navigating the crowded streets of downtown Calgary. Friday means day 1 of the Calgary Stampede and the jean wearing, plaid shirted, stetson topped masses along 9th avenue signify it’s time for the Stampede parade which officially kicks off the 10 day western celebration. Horses and motorized floats drift through the city’s business district.
I’m still a little out of it, firmly in the hold of culture shock and jet lag. My girlfriend, Jamie, wisely points out later that it’s maybe better I have an event like the Stampede with which to assimilate back into my work life. Despite it’s naysayers and their belief of its tackiness, it’s a ‘thing’, a pretty important ‘thing’, Calgary’s ‘thing’. Better than coming back to blandness. She’s got a point.
I’ve never really been a parade type person. And at this moment the event is lost on me. But after talking to a few children whose images I’ve captured, I realize my inner cynic is perhaps being a little too dominant. They’re enjoying it. The horses, the cowboys, the clowns, the bands. Stampede has begun and maybe it’s the kids who understand better than most that the parade is a promise of better things to come. Soon they’ll be getting their thrills on midway rides and stuffing their faces with all sorts of delicious treats.
I know how they feel. When given a pitch pass 45 minutes before the opening match of the World Cup between Mexico and South Africa, I rushed through the media access tunnel at Soccer City in Johannesburg. Emerging into a hive of yellow and vuvuzelas, I grabbed my first official frame of the World Cup, a man waving a South African flag. The moment grabbing me, I switched over into tourist mode and asked a fellow photog to take a photo of me with my media credentials. I reciprocated for him. We shared simple attempt to capture the moment. A beginning.
Perhaps that’s a little trick in life. Even as you get older, to know those moments are out there waiting for you and to make sure you embrace them when you stumble upon them.
A month later in Calgary, the parade ends. After the last horse has passed, the street cleaners approach and the crowds begin folding up their deck chairs I spot a South African Springbok rugby jersey amongst the ocean of plaid. Can’t help drifting towards it, giving a petty and egotistical,”I just came back from there,” to its wearer.
He tells me he’s from Johannesburg but has lived in Calgary for seven years. He asks my opinion of “Joberg”. I answer with my, now, well practiced response.
“Uhh, it’s a crazy city.”
He delivers the familiar knowing smile, followed by a,”that’s a polite way of putting it.” We discuss the World Cup and the differences between Canada and South Africa before wishing each other all the best. I leave satisfied that I’ve got my South Africa fix for the day.