Parade kicks off 100th Calgary Stampede

Fireworks go off over the Calgary Stampede Marching Band at the start of the annual Stampede rodeo...

Fireworks go off over the Calgary Stampede Marching Band at the start of the annual Stampede rodeo parade during the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 6, 2012. (Reuters/TODD KOROL)

DAMIEN WOOD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:30 AM ET

CALGARY - With the roar of jets overhead, followed by bursts of fireworks exploding over downtown Calgary, the Stampede kicked off its centennial celebration with its traditional parade Friday morning.

Citizens from here and abroad lined the streets to catch the spectacle.

Also on hand for the festivities was Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his family.

Harper said he and his family always enjoy getting back to Calgary for the Stampede, but noted this year is particularly special in the history of an event near and dear to him.

"The Calgary Stampede has become a real Canadian icon," Harper said. "It's one of the things that's known about this country — about Canada — the world over.

"It's something that has preserved our values ... the things upon which this city has been built."

Men and women riding on horseback, marching bands, military and more trekked through the city's core to the delight of thousands.

A great many of those had already been downtown for hours, waiting, after getting up before the sun to snag a sweet spot, street-side.

Ken Rigel got up at 3:30 a.m. He said his wife told him to, for the kids.

"The kids need a front-row seat, apparently. I didn't know this until two days ago," Rigel said with a laugh.

"Now that I'm here (I feel) pretty good but at 3:30 this morning, not so good.

“Especially on the 100th anniversary, I wouldn't miss it,” he added. “When the kids get here, it's going to be worth it."

Rigel was not suffering alone. He had his buddy Thijs Vanhalteren with him, freshly flown in from Holland to catch the big birthday bash.

If his friend is going down, he will too, Vanhalteren said.

He noted the gallon or so of coffee in their bellies was helping.

It's not all about the kids. Mary Kay Fortin said her little ones tend to get bored with the parade.

"I probably like it more than the kids," Fortin said.

Fortin was another early arrival Friday morning, setting up shop at 5 a.m., lining over a half dozen chairs along a stretch of downtown.

En route were her parents and aunt, uncle and two sons to celebrate the centennial together.

damien.wood@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNDamienWood


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