"The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" by Sean Marchetto
2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist
Sean Marchetto has made the 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth."
At the age of 14, Sean Marchetto began working at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. He spent the next 10 years becoming one of the fairgrounds' leading parking lot attendants. In 1999, he left to attend graduate school where his scholarly work on the history of punk is now considered a cult classic. He is a former music journalist, college radio DJ, art auctioneer and high school chemistry teacher. Last year he completed the Humber School for Writers Creative Writing Program under the mentorship of Nino Ricci. He is currently an elementary school principal.
Entry in five-ish words
Memories working the Calgary Stampede.
The story's source of inspiration
"This is a true story. I spent a decade working at the Stampede and it really was a best of times, worst of times experience. I also really did vow never to go back, owing to our behaviour as 'good neighbours' to the people of Victoria Park. During the time that I worked there, my department only seemed to hire retirees, so that by the time I finally did go back, with my daughter, a lot of my former colleagues had passed away. Walking around with her that night, every corner of the grounds contained ghosts of one kind or another."
"The world of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede rolls out before you from atop the Sunshine Gate. The rising sun is behind you. It is 5:00 A.M. and you have not been to sleep. In a few hours, the cowboys and their families will gather at the river for Sunday service. There will be the best pancakes of all Stampede at their breakfast.
"Despite the prohibition against drinking alcohol on duty, Trevor hands you a cup of Bailey's, liberally warmed with coffee.
"'What are they going to do?' he smiles. 'Fire you?'
"You are 23. You have worked 10 seasons at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. This is your last day. You do not return for 10 years, the day your wife wins the grand prize in the Creative Living Display for an elaborate crochet blanket."
About the 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize
The winner of the 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, will have an opportunity to attend a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and have their story published on CBC Books and in Air Canada enRoute magazine. Four finalists will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their story published on CBC Books.