About 300,000 people lined downtown Calgary's curbs and office highrise windows to take in the annual Stampede parade Friday morning.
Led by TV celebrity contractor Mike Holmes on a white horse, more than 40 floats and marching bands joined the procession that started at Sixth Avenue and Third Street S.E. and travelled west, turning south down 10th Street S.W. and then east on Ninth Avenue S.W., ending on Fourth Street S.E.
The annual parade, which was first held in 1912, kicks off the 10-day Calgary Stampede, which celebrates the cowboy way of life.
As Miss Rodeo Canada 2009, Aaron Courchesne participates in countless parades but she said the Stampede one is special.
"It's the best parade by far. I love coming to Calgary, everybody's so excited and the Stampede is the greatest outdoor show on earth and I'm just honored to be here," said Courchesne, who hails from Claresholm, atop a horse in the parade.
Daycare operator Daisy Compton woke up at 3 a.m. and took a taxi with 39 mini plastic chairs from her school to reserve spots along the parade route for her students.
"Smiling and yahooing and just yes! This is life. This is excitement. This is like seeing what our city's like, and our people, everything," she said.
For almost seven-year-old Abby Ingraham decked out in pink boots and a pink cowboy hat with a tiara, Friday was all about her outfit.
"I kind of know what's good to wear and what's not," she said.
Horses, sheep, politicians, bands and community groups from around the world greeted the crowds on a sunny day. A Canadian military tank spun around and did a "doughnut" in the middle of the street to the crowd's delight.
"It's a tremendous amount of fun. I live right down in this neighbourhood so I'm used to watching the parade from the sidelines and it's just as exciting out here as it is out there," said Calgary Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr from the middle of the parade.
Olympic gold medallist and Calgary gymnast Kyle Shewfelt took part as a celebrity judge, choosing the Alberta Building Trade Council's entry as a favourite.
"There's a reason I was an athlete and not a judge. It's very hard. But our criteria was basically aesthetic and the group of people - we want to see them having fun," he said. Daniel, a Swedish teenager who was visiting his aunt and uncle in Calgary, said parades are not common in his country.
"The culture isn't like this in Sweden so it's very nice," he said.
About 5,000 people and 800 horses play a part in the parade every year.
The Stampede draws about 100,000 people a day to its grounds for the daily rodeo competition and midway.
2009 Stampede parade winners, chosen by Olympian Kyle Shewfelt and KidSport representative Esther Klippert:
- Best overall parade entry - Brazilian Community Association of Alberta.
- Celebrity’s choice award - Alberta Building Trade Council.
- Best Western entry - Guns of the Golden West; CAOS - Calgary Animated Objects Society "Spirit of White Buffalo"; Chick Wagon.
- Most creative entry- Stirling Hunted House; Coquitlam Festival Society; City of Vernon.
- Best corporate entry - Canadian Pacific "Puffer Belly Express"; ATB Financial; Servus Credit Union.
- Best business or non-profit entry - Alberta Building Trade Council; Kensington Sun and Salsa Festival; Falun Dafa.
- Best cultural entry - Danish Canadian club; Ismaili Muslim community of Calgary; Trinidad and Tobago Organettes.
- Best municipality entry - City of Cranbrook; City of Vernon; City of Kimberly/Chamber of Commerce.
- Best horse entry - MT Stables.