Buckeroos bellied up to a buffet table piled high with baked beans and pulled pork sandwiches when the National Music Centre hosted a rip-snorting Stomp & Strum fundraiser, coinciding with the official start of the 100th Calgary Stampede. As cowpokes moseyed over post-parade, the parking lot beneath the graceful historic arches of the former Customs Building was transformed into barn dance central. You know you've got yourself a real rootin' tootin' western review when everyone from Beakerhead's Mondo Spider to Calgary's head honcho, Mayor Nenshi, drops by.
Mondo Spider lent an aura of steam-punk fantasy to the afternoon. A gigantic robotic spider does tend to attract attention, and hombres all but spit out their suds in amazement as the mechanical arachnid slowly shuffled in. Almost, but not quite, because that would have been a criminal waste of Village Brewery Blonde.
Barney Bentall and the Grand Caribou Opry sure kept things lively from their stage on the loading dock. From tapping toes to full-out square dance flash mobs, cowboys and cowgirls doe-see-doed in their finest western style. Not even the torrential downpour that raged through in the final hour of the fundraiser could put a damper on the dancing.
It was a great kick-off to ten days of Stampede and an open invitation to amplify the love of music at the National Music Centre, where a little western hospitality goes a long way.