CALGARY — Calgarians boogied in a different kind of boots Thursday night at a sellout concert in Calgary for Alberta flood relief.
In honour of the work of volunteers and those who were forced to clean out mud and garbage from water-soaked homes in the severe flooding that devastated southern Alberta eight weeks ago, many of the 32,000 people on hand were wearing rubber boots.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a surprise guest at the event and spent the evening in the stands along with Alberta Premier Alison Redford.
Despite a star-studded lineup that included Loverboy, Nickelback, Jann Arden, Randy Bachman, the Sheepdogs and Ian Tyson, some of the biggest applause was for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who acted out a lifelong dream of introducing a band at a rock concert.
“I’ve always wanted to be a rock and roll announcer. Some people want to be on stage and I wanted to be an announcer,” Nenshi told master of ceremonies Brent Butt.
“Here we go — Ladies and gentlemen, give it up — for Tom Cochrane!”
Butt, star of TV’s Corner Gas, kept the show moving along and told the crowd they were part of history.
“We’re going live all over the planet. This is going out on the internet, which I don’t know if you’ve heard — it’s worldwide.”
Calgary songstress Jann Arden paid tribute to those people who worked together during the floods.
“You know what this show is about to me?” said Arden. “It’s about good neighbours. I’ve got good neighbours and I’ve met tens of thousands of neighbours I didn’t even know I had.
“I think we all gained from the experience this summer … you guys were amazing.”
Nenshi said the concert is not about looking back at what happened during the floods but ahead to the future.
“It was eight weeks ago today that the Bow and Elbow Rivers crested. It was eight weeks ago tonight that I was wandering around the city wondering how we were ever going to recover,” Nenshi said.
“Here we are. Thirty thousand plus people here, not just celebrating but reinvigorating themselves for the next phase of work which is going to be just as hard.”
Organizers of the event said a cheque of $1.4 million was going to be written after the concert but it was hoped the final total would be around $2 million.
Jeff Parry estimated that the sellout crowd was around 34,000 when volunteers were factored in. With bright sunshine and a temperature around 29 C, conditions couldn’t have been much better.
“Tonight is the exact opposite of the whole flood,” said Parry. “This is the perfect storm and that was the worst storm.
“I’ve been in this business 35 years and this is the coolest thing I’ve ever been part of. It’s kind of a rush seeing this.”
Fans were lined up a couple of hours before the gates opened at McMahon Stadium. Roy Williams, who was hit by the floods in High River, brought his wife and a bunch of relatives from the United Kingdom.
“We were in the flood area but we were one of the fortunate ones really, but we have so many people around us who are not as fortunate as we are. It’s fantastic,” he said.
“It’s a tremendous idea. Everybody’s doing something to try and help in some way. We’ve got family over from the UK, too, so we thought no greater thing to do but to bring them here this week.”
Kim Schubert and her mother Shelley were also there to raise money for the flood effort. She said the concert was a great idea.
“Absolutely. I haven’t heard of any other events quite this large for a cause like this in Calgary. They do them in the United States but we don’t really see them this much up here so it’s nice to see everyone come together for an event like this.”