Ceremonial cow milked for mystery concoction at final Hays Stampede breakfast in Calgary

Click to play video: 'Hays Calgary Stampede breakfast bids farewell after 69 years'
Hays Calgary Stampede breakfast bids farewell after 69 years
WATCH: The Hays Stampede breakfast has been a tradition for many in Calgary for decades. Josh Ritchie reports on the final year of the event and the impact it has made on the community – Jul 7, 2019

It’s a party that blends the who’s who of Calgary with a dairy cow at centre stage.

The Hays breakfast started in 1950 when Calgary dairy farmer Harry Hays held a get together after chores were done for the day.

“Our family was identified going back to the 1950s with breakfast parties [that] arise out of my father being a dairy farmer whose first half of his day was over by six or seven in the morning,” said Dan Hays, Harry’s son and a former Alberta senator, on Sunday.

Harry ended up becoming Calgary’s mayor, one of the few Liberal MPs from Alberta and the federal minister of agriculture. The neighbourhood of Haysboro is named for the family.

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Part of the fun at the annual breakfast is the traditional sillabub ceremony, which includes milking the ceremonial cow. Sillabub is a milk-based mystery concoction with wine that has long been the special drink at the party.

The final breakfast

The Hays breakfast has been held at Heritage Park for the past 20 years, but this year is expected to be the final party. The president and CEO of Heritage Park Historical Village called the last event on Sunday a “bittersweet occasion.”

“It’s wonderful that so many people have come out today to pay homage to the Hays family and the Peters family and to Heritage Park because this is really what it’s all about: western heritage and culture,” said Alida Visbach.

“Sixty-nine years is a long time and we’ve been very honoured to be the host for the last 20 years but, as all good things, they do come to an end eventually. I think this is such a fitting send-off to such an amazing event. I’m very grateful.”

Visbach said the decision to end the event had been talked about for several years.

“They decided it was Dan’s 80th birthday this year and there’s so much going on, they just felt it’s time to retire this event and retire on a high point. I think we’ve done exactly that,” Visbach said.

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She said the invite-only event has generated around $200,000 in donations for Heritage Park. She said there are no plans to replace the party yet.

Dan Hays said he enjoyed the event on Sunday, adding that he’s holding out hope for the future.

“Who knows? Maybe someone will come along and do it. Maybe we will change our minds or something will happen to change your mind,” said Dan.

Special guests at Sunday’s breakfast included Premier Jason Kenney, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Stampede Royalty, members of the Canadian military, and rodeo and chuckwagon personalities.

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