CALGARY — The CEO of the Calgary Stampede has compared the challenges of staging this year’s event to the rush of tidying that precedes a visit from in-laws.
Vern Kimball says cleaning up flood water before the show began was like a large-scale mining operation.
Some bigger repairs, such as fixing Stampede headquarters and the lower level of the Big Four exhibition centre, still have to be done.
Kimball told a news conference to wrap up the 101st Stampede which concluded on Sunday.
Attendance didn’t reach last year’s record numbers, but organizers say 1.1 million people still passed through the gates during the 10-day event.
The Stampede also handed a $2.1-million cheque to the Red Cross for flood relief that was raised from selling T-shirts that said: “Come Hell or High Water.”
The phrase became a rallying cry for everyone who wanted the Calgary Stampede to go ahead despite disastrous floods that hit southern Alberta in late June and left the grounds looking like a giant lake.
“This was a little bit like when your mother-in-law is coming over and you kind of push everything under the bed and hope that she doesn’t go into the bedroom. It was that kind of Stampede,” Kimball said Monday about the rush to clean and repair the grounds.
Despite the hurry, Stampede officials reported that 80 per cent of visitors stated that they had an “exceptional” experience.
“Supportive Calgarians and visitors encouraged us to host Stampede 101, come hell or high water,” Stampede president Bob Thompson said in a news release.
“The desire to forge ahead with Stampede 101 was heard loud and clear from the community.”
Stampede officials said 150,000 of the fundraising T-shirts have been sold so far and will still be available online until the end of the week.
Kimball said he anticipated the T-shirt campaign being successful, but he added he was surprised at the size of the cheque.
Sue Phillips, Canadian Red Cross director general for Western Canada, said the support demonstrated the spirit and tenacity of Albertans.
The Red Cross has distributed cleanup kits, first-aid kits, hygiene items, water, towels, cots and blankets to those affected by the floods.
“The road to recovery will be long. This generous donation received today from the Calgary Stampede will help the Red Cross assist individuals, families and communities as they rebuild their lives from Alberta’s worst flooding disaster,” she said in a news release.