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Canadian astronaut and Stampede parade marshal Jeremy Hansen rides a horse during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, on July 7.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Colonel Jeremy Hansen is preparing to become the first Canadian to travel to the moon as part of the Artemis II mission, but Friday he cowboyed up to become the second astronaut to be marshal of the Calgary Stampede parade.

The 10-day Artemis II mission could launch as early as November of next year and involves slingshotting into deep space for a figure-8 manoeuvre around the far side of the moon. It would mark the first time any human has ventured so far from Earth.

Col. Hansen, wearing a grey cowboy hat, blue jeans and cowboy boots, was part of the two-hour parade ride through downtown. A blue NASA jacket was a giveaway that it wasn’t his world.

“This is pretty special. I am Christmas-kid kind of excited about riding Cisco today and being amongst all these cowboys,” Col. Hansen said on horseback just before the parade began.

“I am just a pretender today, I guess, but excited to be here. It feels good.”

Chris Hadfield was the first Canadian astronaut to be parade marshal after flying two space shuttle missions and serving as commander of the International Space Station.

“I did reach out to Chris Hadfield to get some advice since he was the parade marshal in 2013, and he said two things: Make sure you ride your horse in advance and watch out for the fireworks,” Col. Hansen said.

“It was basically ‘don’t fall off the horse and you’ll be fine.’ ”

Col. Hansen seemed at ease as he rode the parade route, smiling and waving to loud cheers.

An estimated 300,000 spectators lined the streets to watch floats, marching bands and dignitaries go by. People have traditionally arrived hours before the parade to get good seats.

“I’m pretty excited. I came all the way here from Ontario and been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Debbie Hazlett, who flew in to Calgary on Thursday night.

“I’ve been to the parade a couple of times, but I actually marched in the parade when I was 10, so this is a big moment for me. I’m excited to see the bands play.”

Rei Pacunayen and her family also showed up early and, to get in the spirit, her St. Bernard dog named Appa donned a black cowboy hat.

“My sister put it on but I’m not sure how long it’s going to hold, especially when he gets excited when the horses walk by,” she said.

It was also her first time at the parade since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s good to be back. Calgary is the Stampede. The Stampede is Calgary.”

Stampede Park has been a beehive of activity for the past week with the setting up of rides and concession stands.

“It’s like prom. We’re getting ready for the big day and when it starts we can put a corsage on it,” said Gregg (Scooter) Korek, vice-president of client services for North American Midway Entertainment, who will be making his 46th appearance at the Stampede.

Growing up in Calgary, he joined the midway group as a teen. Mr. Korek said it’s a relief the COVID-19 pandemic is in the past.

“It was very trying times with the hand sanitizing and the sanitizing of all of our equipment. That was a tough go, but … we did a very successful job of it.

“I’m so happy that’s behind us right now.”

The Stampede runs through July 16.

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