Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C), his wife Laureen (R) and his daughter Rachel watch the annual Stampede parade during the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 6, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/TODD KOROL
CALGARY - Happy 100th, Calgary Stampede!
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 Calgary and abroad lined the streets to catch the spectacle.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his family were also on hand for the festivities.
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.
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 kids 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 more than a half dozen chairs along a stretch of 9 Ave. downtown.
En route were her parents and aunt and uncle to join her and her two sons, to celebrate the centennial together.