Stampeding to recovery: Calgary rodeo to go ahead 'come hell or high water'

CALGARY - The president of the Calgary Stampede says the world-famous event will go ahead next week "come hell or high water."

Bob Thompson says crews have been pumping millions of litres of water from the rodeo grounds, which were swamped last week by extensive flooding that hit much of southern Alberta.

"Throughout our entire history, we have never cancelled a show, despite two wars and a Great Depression — 2013 will be no exception," he said at a news conference Monday. "We will be hosting the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, come hell or high water."

Professional cleaning crews are working to scrape mud away and to sanitize buildings, he said.

Organizers are also promising to hold the traditional parade July 5 to open the Stampede, though adjustments may need to be made to the route through a downtown that was swamped by floodwaters.

Stampede CEO Vern Kimball said he understands that many people's homes have been damaged. His own home was flooded.

But he said he believes the Stampede will be a welcome distraction and will provide the city an opportunity to show the world its resiliency.

"We want all of those affected by flooding in southern Alberta to have the opportunity to take a break from these difficult circumstances," Kimball said. "We are going to do whatever it takes to be ready for July 5."

The 101-year-old Stampede features a rodeo, chuckwagon races and a large midway.

Kimball said Stampede setup normally takes three weeks and the flood has cost crews 10 days.

He said they will be working around the clock instead of the usual 16 hours a day.

"The same amount of effort in a much shorter period of time."

No thought has been given to what all that extra work will cost, he said.