Thursday, July 10, 2003

For some native Calgarians, loathing the Stampede is just what they do. It's easy to hate, as it is a ten-day-long drunken party that clogs our city with tourists, litters offices and buildings with fake western paraphernalia, causes otherwise sane people to dress in ill-fitting pseudo western wear and go begging for breakfast in mile-long free pancake lineups. And don't even get me started on all the crummy country music that seems to permiate every open space downtown. I've even been known to poopoo the whole, "pretend to be a cowboy" thing.

So what did I do today? I took most of the day off to take my family down to the Stampede grounds ... and I don't regret doing it. It was something that the kids looked forward to ever since I mentioned to them that we might go. There's a lot of things that do rub me the wrong way about attending the midway and exhibition:
  • the horrendous cost of admission and the midway rides themselves
  • the mass of people with little respect for your personal space
  • the lowlifes that seem to ooze out of nowhere to hang out at the fair grounds
  • the nutritionless, overpriced food they serve
  • the half-hour waits for a 3 or 4 minute ride that is questionably entertaining
  • the con artists and scammers in the crowds (we were approached three times by one guy, begging for money because he was supposedly deaf and mute)
  • the constant pressure to spend, spend, consume, then spend some more

I tell you, I wasn't looking forward to the day at all. Then I realized that my attitude could end up bringing the whole group of us down. I thought back to my own experiences, when my parents took me to Edmonton's local fair and all I remember was having a great time. I decided that Banana and McMonk would probably have the same experience and I had the choice of (mentally) fighting against being there, or resolve myself to the fact that yes, I was going to be there all day and yes, I was gong to part with more cash than I wanted to. Once I came to grip with those to unavoidable facts, my zen-like self took over and I was able to enjoy the afternoon and evening.

We went into rides like the House of Mirrors that I've been through dozens of times (or so it seemed) before; I bought just about any type of snack that the girls were interested in (cotton candy, hot dogs, corn dogs, fries and gravy, popcorn, mini donuts, fudge); we were educated in what slutty teenage girls wear these days (and believe me, there was thousands of rounded, little pot bellies hanging over low-rider jeans at the fairgrounds); them we did the goofy rides like the Mark I roller coaster and the Giant Swings; we waited in line (and chatted) for 30 minutes at a time; we took in the surprisingly-entertaining SuperDogs show; we saw some crowd surfing at the Coca-Cola stage; we stayed late, freezing in our shorts and light jackets, to watch the daily finale of fireworks as it lit up the sky and echoed through the fairgrounds; we took the train home with the thousands of others who stayed right until the end of the show.

We are all exhausted - the girls were asleep (not just in bed) within 10 minutes of being home. That included a stop in the bathroom to brush their teeth. I asked McMonk what kind of a day she had, and she responded that it was a "fun" day, she clarified by telling me it was a really, extra-fun day.

That's what I needed to hear. I'm sure that ten years from now, she'll only remember two things - that she spent a whole day at the Stampede when she was nine, and that it was an extra-fun day.

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