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WordFest celebrates 100 years of the Calgary Stampede with Wild West programming

Photo courtesy of WordFest and the Calgary Stampede

Calgary’s WordFest has teamed up with the Calgary Stampede to celebrate 100 years of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

WildWest Wordfest is a special summer mini-fest in tribute to Western Canada’s cowboy culture in literature, music, and art. The free three-day festival launches Monday at Motion Art Gallery with an appearance by Calgary poet laureate Kris Demeanor, an exhibit of images from the Stampede archives, and stories by the winners of the TumbleWord Writing Contest. (Entrants were asked to write a postcard story based on one of five archival Stampede images posted to the WordFest website.)

Highlights from the rest of the week include a Tuesday lunchtime presentation with Piikani storyteller and Stampede School site coordinator Anita Crowshoe; the launch for David Campion and Sandra Shields’ new book of Stampede photography, Cowboy Wild (Rocky Mountain Books), at the Art Gallery of Calgary on Tuesday evening; and the Cowboy Cabaret wrap-up party on Wednesday. The cabaret, which will be held at the Calgary Public Library, features auctioneer Bob Dyck, a collaboration between cowboy poet Doris Daley and singer-songwriter Bruce Innes, a reading from Tom Three Persons by Yvonne Trainer, and a performance of I Just Wanna Be a Stampede Queen by spoken word poet Sheri-D Wilson with dancer Hannah Stilwell.

The WordFest“Stampede partnership might leave some people scratching their heads, but WordFest marketing manager Mary Kapusta says with Calgary being named one of two cultural capitals of Canada for 2012 (the other is Ontario’s Niagara Region), the city has been buzzing with opportunities to show off its creative side.

Kapusta admits that the Cowtown’s community of artists hasn’t always appreciated the Stampede’s cultural value, though everyone from actors and  singer-songwriters, to visual artists and writers has responded positively to this partnership. It’s been an eye-opener for some in our community ¦ learning that the Stampede is about more than just the races and the rodeo, she says, expressing her own surprise at learning of the Stampede’s involvement in issues such as gender in sport, aboriginal rights and heritage, scientific and technological advances.

Most important, though, was discovering what the two festivals have in common: storytelling. WordFest is all about stories, Kapusta says, and the Stampede also treasures a good yarn. The power of stories is a big thing for them, she says, noting that the Stampede’s archives provided an entryway to the event’s legends and history. In fact, the archives were integral in putting the Wild West programming together, Kapusta says. We’re pulling parts of that [history] and playing with it, exploring it, and throwing it against this modern backdrop.