Come Hell or High Water: Calgary Stampede Goes On Despite Disaster

calgary mayor Flood relief fundraising t-shirt lauds Calgary's mayor Naheed Nenshi as a hero. (Courtesy: CowboysCalgary on Instagram)

“It’s way worse than we thought it would be,” says my mom.

When my parents, my sister and her fiancé enter the house, they find the basement ceiling on the floor. The deep freezer is tipped over and there is rotting meat everywhere. Mud and sewage coats everything. On the veranda—the same one where I took some wedding pictures two years ago—the mud is so thick that there are green things growing out of it. (...)

The upstairs, the only place that looks like the home I remember, is caked with muddy footprints from the emergency responders who searched for anyone in distress a week ago. “I don’t even know where to begin,” my mom says.

Those same comments will echo through the town in the days to come, as thousands more open their front doors and step into their own disaster zone.

So far, only one death has been directly attributed to the state-of-emergency floods that swept the Calgary, Alberta area in late June.

However, the material losses are devastating.

And the timing of the flood couldn't have been worse.

As pretty much all Canadians immediately wondered when reports first came in (of the Saddledome stadium supposedly flooded up to its roof, for one thing):

"What will happen to the Calgary Stampede?"

Now in its 101st year, the Stampede calls itself "the greatest outdoor show on earth" and is the province's most important event in terms of economics, tourism, community pride -- and politics.

An Israeli friend asked me about a tweet he'd spotted, sent by former singing (and not-really-tweeting -- he used government ghostwriters) Canadian astronaut (and this year's Grand Marshal) Commander Chris Hadfield, inviting folks to join him at the 17th annual Ismaili Muslim Community Stampede Breakfast.

I explained that, despite its reputation as Canada's redneck central, Calgary's mayor is actually Ismaili Muslim Naheed Nenshi, currently being hailed far and wide as the Giuliani of the flood; if Hadfield wants his possible career in politics to go better than that of the last former Canadian astronaut, I added, he'd best attend such an event.

(And as those minority immigrant Ismaili Muslims wisely noted seventeen years ago, they'd better darn well sponsor one...)