Calgary shakes off flood trauma, gets ready to party

Thu Jul 4, 2013 1:08pm EDT
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By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta, July 4 (Reuters) - Canada's bruised oil capital, Calgary, is gearing up to host a defiant version of its annual Stampede festival despite flooding two weeks ago that swamped large parts of the city.

Record-breaking floods across southern Alberta forced more than 100,000 people from their homes, destroyed roads and bridges across the province and left swathes of Calgary without power, including the downtown core.

The damage raised serious doubts about whether the Stampede, a 10-day extravaganza of rodeo, street parties and corporate entertainment that pumps C$340 million ($320 million) a year into Calgary's economy, would go ahead.

But touting a new slogan of "Come Hell or High Water" and aided by specialist contractors from as far away as Texas, organizers have pushed ahead with preparations to host up to a million visitors from the opening day on Friday.

"When we first saw the flooding and the water in Stampede Park it was quite devastating," said Jennifer Booth, publicity manager for the Calgary Stampede.

"But there's a certain spirit to Calgary. The support of people wanting to help and wanting to give is unique."

Receding floodwaters left debris strewn across the 230-acre Stampede Park, while the Saddledome stadium, intended as the venue for some rodeo events, was submerged in dirty water up to the tenth row of seats.

As floodwaters rose, however, officials armed with sandbags mounted guard around the park's electrical substation and managed to save the venue's power supply.   Continued...