Heaven forbid Calgary ever be deemed cool, but CBC is going all-in for the 100th anniversary of the famed Stampede that begins today. To celebrate the centenary of the self-proclaimed "greatest outdoor show on earth" CBC is assigning a number of its network stars to the nine-day extravaganza of ropin' and wrasslin'.
This year, the local CBC luminaries have been gently nudged aside so that Red Deer's own Ron MacLean and chanteuse Jann Arden can host the big parade on Friday (repeated on CBC's network at 2 P.M. on Saturday). Heartland star Amber Marshall and Doug Dirks, host of CBC Radio's No.1-rated local afternoon show, will fill out the cast for the parade, which features Ian Tyson as Grand Marshal. CBC Newsworld is going live with Suhana Meharchand from the parade, too.
MacLean, who famously began his career as a weatherman in nearby Red Deer, will also host specials on the two Saturdays of the Stampede plus a special Showdown Sunday on July 15. (One can barely wait for puns about chaps and tie-downs.) Network stars such as George Stroumboulopoulos, the Dragon's Den folks, Steven and Chris plus the cast of Arctic Air are being airlifted from Toronto to demonstrate a little rapprochement with the denizens of Canada's oil capital.
Now some would say that the politically threatened CBC is simply being wise in making the home of the Prime Minister front-and-centre in its affections. But for CBC, the Stampede represents a delicate melding of its constituent cultures. It will come as no surprise that many in the core CBC audience are not all that enthused about some of the animal practices of the Stampede, which occasionally sees animals and even humans killed in the making of the product.
Think Hockey Night In Canada meets The Nature of Things. "While CBC is the host broadcaster for the Calgary Stampede, we certainly don't speak for them," CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson tells Usual Suspects. "That said, we are very aware of the debate regarding animal cruelty and, as always, our coverage will be sensitive to this issue. CBC is proud to be bringing the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede to Canadians across the country – it's one of our nation's longest-standing traditions."
Safety changes have been made in both the rodeo and chuck wagon portions of the spectacle. While co-ordinating with Humane Society officials on best practices, the Stampede still reluctantly accepts the danger as a part of its sports. Hopefully, CBC won't have to deal with any accidents over the next 10 days.
There will be daily live coverage of the rodeo and chuck wagon races on CBC's bold network with Dirks anchoring and, on championship Sunday July 15, Scott Oake hosts the live network coverage. Olympic skeleton athlete and barrel racer Mellisa Hollingsworth will also file updates from the Stampede.