Category Archives: OUR HISTORY

Celebrating Our Exhibitions, Fairs & Rodeo Roots

Even though the Calgary Stampede, Edmonton’s Klondike Days and Winnipeg’s Red River Ex have ended for the year, it is the season for stampede and exhibition-style competition and fun. On the horizon is Regina Buffalo Days (July 30-Aug 3), but countless stampedes, rodeos and summer fairs draw crowds until fall. Of course, those are followed by other equally great community events.

In my mind, it is a season to thank and celebrate competitors, volunteers and others who make these events happen. Not surprisingly, I plan to do it with books and writing. My book, Awed, Amused and Alarmed is based on the history of fairs, rodeos and exhibitions. In fact, I always considered such events as some of the most important popular culture highlights in the West. Today’s events are fascinating to the crowds and rewarding to competitors. But it takes hard work to make them happen.

awedAA_1_72

Need gifts? Get two for the price of one.

So, this is my way of saying thanks. For anyone who helps organize such events, competes in them or works with the dozens of volunteers needed for success, I am offering a special price for Awed, Amused and Alarmed. Go to my website and purchase one copy, and I’ll mail you an extra for the same price. The concept is similar to Buy 1, Get 1 Free; or Two for the Price of One. You can request as many as you wish, but order a specific number, and I’ll add your free copies to the package (eg. order 2, I’ll send 4, but you will pay for 2). I will even cover any extra shipping due to the added weight.

My special applies only to Awed, Amused & Alarmed, and you have to order through my website and pay with Paypal. The only other option is to email me with your order, and we will discuss payment and delivery. As well, this special ends October 1. Obviously, trust is important. I trust that you are buying them for organizers, participants and volunteers involved in our wonderful community events. And, when you place your order for the books on my website and pay with Paypal, you have to trust that I=ll mail you the number that you ordered plus the extra books. You can order other titles at the same time, but you will receive extra copies only for Awed, Amused & Alarmed.

It’s important to say thanks and to share the fascinating history of our events. Come back next week, and you will see an excerpt from the book, both for your enjoyment and to encourage you to say thanks and share out history.

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Beginning Again With Christmas

I’m sending my best wishes to you for a happy holiday season. Since it is the festive season, to acknowledge its importance, I am coming back to  my blog. As I have said before, life fills up, and there never seems enough time for everything. However, after a long time of not finding the time in life to write, I am hoping this effort takes me back to my continued passion for our shared past and the process of writing. For this blog, I am starting with our public history, and the following is an excerpt from Sharing the Good Times: A History of Prairie Women’s Joys and Pleasure, a book intended to balance our views about our pioneer women. Yes, they endured seemingly endless hard work, but also, they knew how to celebrate the occasions that were so very special to them. I am publishing some of the section throughout the holiday season. Have a look and come back next week for more on the holidays.

Our friend’s Christmas village conveys a sense of community. Photo by W.H. Holt

Holiday Festivities

In the past, the calendar was filled with festive days for ordinary people, too.  The special holidays mean good times for the entire family. The fall harvest was celebrated at fall fairs and Thanksgiving, but even more important festive occasions were all the other traditional, religious holidays.

The holidays, their dates and the traditional activities associated with them varied with the homeland and cultural background of families. The exact dates for Christmas festivities varied for Eastern Orthodox and other Christians; but for most of the population, there were Christmas and Easter celebrations. Jews observed Passover, Hanukkah and other dates of religious significance. The Chinese celebrated New Years on a different day than most other western Canadians.

Special church services, gatherings and sometimes concerts were part of the religious and observances, but the good food and special, traditional dishes were highlights of the day. And food was in the realm of women’s work and women’s culture. Cooking for such occasions was a great deal of work, but to many, the role was a form of participation in the religious and family life that was treasured. Even the baking of bread became more than part of physical well-being. For important religious observations, bread–whether leavened or unleavened, a plain loaf or a braided one–was essential as a symbol.

And symbols are important to all of us at this very special time of year.

sharing72From: Sharing the Good Times: A History of Prairie Women’s Joys and Pleasures (To purchase or for further information, see my updated website: www.wordsandhistory.ca or go to Amazon.ca and search for me or the book title)

Backstory & Lifestory: Good Old Guy Weadick

Certainly, far more than 100 memorable moments will go down in Stampede history concerning the 1912 centennial. With Claresholm cowboy Chad Besplug winning the title of World Champion Bull Rider, we have much to celebrate. Also, we have many to thank including other fabulous competitors and stock suppliers, volunteers and paid organizers, entertainers and exhibitors (whether agricultural or artistic), which made the centennial a fabulous success.

However, when I consider good old Guy Weadick and the attention he received, I have some qualms, and so as not to put a damper on festivities, I’m glad to writing about him after the last of the fireworks have filled the night sky. Time and again, Weadick recounted how he started the Calgary Stampede, but what did he omit from his story?

That he would omit relevant information is not unusual. When people tell their live stories, they focus on some memories, ignore others and perhaps even invent scenarios. Seldom, if ever, do we as readers or listeners discover the whole truth as perceived by impartial observers.

Research involving many sources is far more likely to reveal the true or real story. Of course, I admit to having my own limitations and biases, but as someone who loves research, I feel that I treated that history in a reasonable manner in my book Awed, Amused and Alarmed: Fairs, Rodeos and Regattas in Western Canada. I admit that, knowing Weadick was a hero to many Albertans, I treated him with kid gloves. Instead of saying, “Here is the lowdown on Guy Weadick” and offering one tell-all expose, I offered glimpses of his life story in various relevant chapters.

Born in Rochester New York in 1886, as an older teenager, Guy claims to have visited and worked in Montana and Southern Alberta, and those adventures included a witnessing huge powwow in Lethbridge. Also, he developed an acceptable vaudeville roping act and perform as Cheyenne Bill. While on the vaudeville circuit, he met Bill Picket, the world famous bulldogger or steer wrestler who hired Weadick as agent and announcer. Finally, Weadick’s career options had improved. Touring with Crestwell and Osborne, they performed at the Calgary Exhibition in 1905.

By then, the Buffalo Bill Wild West show was in decline, and the Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show had garnered the spotlight. From Oklahoma, the outstanding 101 Wild West Show wanted Picket, and Weadick was part of the deal. Over the years, the show would tour throughout the United States, Europe, South America and Canada, and the two men were with part of the entertainment. In 1908, travelling in 45 railcars, the Wild West Show was scheduled for both Winnipeg and Calgary. That year, Calgary staged the Dominion Exhibition under the capable and watchful eye of organizer and administrator E.L. Richardson. Along with First Nations and NWMP, the 101 Show (including Picket, Weadick and its other stars) marched and rode in the impressive parade Not surprisingly, festival visitors from all over Canada enjoyed performances and competitions.

By the time the 1908 Dominion Exhibition was staged, the story of agricultural fairs and contests was already an old one in Western Canada. The first Calgary Exhibition was in 1886. Cowboy competitions have an equally long or longer history, and gymkhanas and rodeos were an early hit with many local audiences. Alberta’s formal rodeo history has roots in the 1891 at Fort Macleod rodeo when events were held in conjunction with the fall fair. As early as 1893, for the summer agricultural fair in Calgary, a steer roping event was organized by George Lane of the Bar U Ranch. Forward thinking Ad Day, with roots in Texas and Oklahoma, had been instrumental in organizing the 1908 Dominion Exhibition in Calgary, following up with great, successful competitions and events in Medicine Hat, and in the meantime E. L. Richardson, what we could call a “suit” today, kept the fun and competition going year after year in Calgary.

So, what happened in 1912 to make this a centennial year? In fact, all of those early organizers played essential roles for the “first” Calgary Stampede? And what exactly was Weadick’s contribution to the event and to later-day stampede history? According to him, the Stampede was his vision. But, according to my research, Weadick had a knack for exaggeration.

In fact, I had wanted capture the tale in a few hundred words, but life stories are often complicated. Sometimes the most interesting aspects of the stories are left out, which seemed to the case when it came to Guy’s boasts regarding The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

So, if you are interested, join me next week when the plot thickens.

52 Blogs!

I’m late for a very important anniversary date. But I am becoming more flexible. I have been a blogger for one year, so I am no longer a newbie. Admittedly, my count doesn’t exactly jive with WordPress statistics, which suggest this is the 51st published blog, and 2 drafts were not posted. But, for now, I plan to trust my own count.

What will the future bring to my history-related blogs? Just as in my writing posts, I’ll be attempting brevity. In fact, my goal is 400 words or fewer for each post, which is definitely a challenge for me.  Also, I might post a particular history blog that is continued over two or more Mondays. I remain interested in topics such as Doors to the Past, in which I recommend museums or archives that might be of interest to you.

Also, I remain passionate about History along the Highway or the history of our communities. However, my focus may shift so as to include “stories” from those communities. An example might be the life story of someone who lived there, whether the individual was well known or little known. By treating such “stories,” I hope emerging writers become more aware of the countless options available in life writing.

My new approach should allow me to tackle a broader geographical area, too. Certainly, many of my regional books treat history-related topics relevant to all of Western Canada. Some of the region’s settlers had once lived in Eastern Canada or the USA. Others, from Britain and European countries, came west, too. So, once again, flexibility regarding approach, geography and subject matter becomes a great option.

Also inline with my other resolutions, I plan to suggest some of my research-related experiences. Countless times, I have discovered great stories about people and communities at times when, unfortunately, those stories were not relevant to the particular book I was drafting. However, what happened during the research process might be of value to those of you who are investigating your own family and community history. So, along the way, expect an excerpt or two from interviews that I have completed over my many years writing and researching our past.

Will I be blogging at this time next year? I can’t answer that question. But I do know that we have more stories and history than I could cover in a lifetime.

After rewrites, I’m happy to proclaim “That is my 409 words.”