Three lessons the Calgary Folk Music Festival can teach the Stampede

Posted by Jeremy Klaszus on 21 July 2014

One summertime show is done with for another year, while the other set to begin this weekend at Prince’s Island Park.

The first show, the Calgary Stampede, describes itself as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. But that name might be more aptly applied to the second show, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, which is arguably a better reflection of our city.

They are two different events — rodeo/exhibition and music festival — that appeal to different groups of people. But as large urban events, they can learn from each other. Here are three things folk fest can teach the Stampede:

1. Stand against misogyny. This year, local voices including Elsbeth Mehrer of YWCA and Metro columnist Greg Callsen called out the Stampede for its misogynist undercurrents. For 10 days in July, women are regularly hooted at and harassed by bros who are just having a good time at Stampede. Such behaviour isn’t officially endorsed by the Stampede organization, but we all know it’s prevalent both on the grounds and off. By contrast, folk fest has a much safer vibe. If you behave like a creep, you will generally be vilified as such. Respect is the rule.

There are exceptions at both events, of course. But each organization can set the overall tone for its show, and only one has done this well.

2. Embrace cyclists. Both folk fest and Stampede are in inner-city locations ideal for cycling. This being so, folk fest has for years encouraged people to leave their cars at home and cycle to the island, where there’s ample bike parking, complete with a checkout system to ensure security. This year, Stampede couldn’t even be bothered to set up racks at the “bike corral” outside the gates until cyclists and media made a fuss a few days in. Strangely, the Stampede has portrayed its location as inconvenient for cyclists, as if it’s somewhere near Spruce Meadows and not smack in the centre of the city. On the plus side: During the brouhaha about the absence of bike racks outside the grounds, the folk fest offered on Twitter to share its cycling expertise with the Stampede. A great idea!

3. Lead instead of lagging. A decade ago, when recycling was almost non-existent on the Stampede grounds, folk fest was leading in this area with a plate-reuse system. Today, folk fest says it has a waste-diversion rate of 86 per cent (up from 45 per cent in 2008). In fairness, the folk fest has the advantage of a smaller scale — roughly 50,000 attendees compared to Stampede’s 1.26 million in 2014. But that’s no excuse. Recycling is not new, bikes in cities are not new, respect for women is not new. Instead of always reacting to trends and trying to catch up, the Calgary Stampede should be leading. Organizers can always swing by Prince’s Island Park this weekend to see how it’s done