A Brazilian-born cowboy who will soon become only the third person in the world to cross the Americas on horseback is the honorary Calgary Stampede parade marshal for 2020, despite the event being cancelled.
Officials with the Calgary Stampede made the announcement Wednesday, saying Filipe Masetti Leite was originally going to lead the parade before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
For the past eight years, Masetti Leite has been crossing the Americas on horseback in sections at a time for Hospital de Amor in Barretos, Brazil.
He started his journey in Calgary in 2012 when he saddled up and set off from the Calgary Stampede’s centennial celebration.
He’s ridden 26,000 kilometres in total, with just 800 kilometres left to ride this year before completing his awe-inspiring journey.
Last year, Masetti Leite, who moved to Canada from Brazil when he was a kid, rode from 2,600 kilometres from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Grande Prairie, Alta.
The final leg of Masetti Leite’s journey, which he started on May 20 with steeds Mac and Smokey, takes him from Grande Prairie, Alta., to Calgary.
Every day, Masetti Leite rides 30 kilometres on his horse alongside a support vehicle, a 1990 Econoline motorhome lent to him and his girlfriend by a couple in Claresholm, Alta. The support vehicle carries water, grain and hay for the horses, as well as food and jerrycans filled with gasoline.
He plans to arrive in the city on Friday, July 3 — the date the Calgary Stampede would have held the 2020 Stampede parade.
“I’m finishing where I started. It’s a dream,” Masetti Leite said. “To be named the Calgary Stampede parade marshal is the biggest honour of my life.
“I can’t wait to ride into Calgary on July 3, even if no one is watching.”
Speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Wednesday, Masetti Leite said he wants to bring happiness and inspire people.
“I want to show the kids, the youth, that if you have a dream and you’re willing to work for it, you’re willing to focus, you’re willing to plan – nothing is impossible.
“Before I started this journey, people called me crazy. They said I couldn’t do it. Now, look at me… There’s two statues of me in Brazil, my first pair of boots are at the Bata Shoe Museum (in Toronto), I have a best-selling book that’s going to turn into a Hollywood movie.”
When asked who he’d want to play him in a movie, Masetti Leite said Canadian singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes.
“He would look good in a cowboy hat,” he added. “He’s a great Canadian boy – I was born in Canada.”
“I think Shawn Mendes would do a tremendous job.”
In a news release, Calgary Stampede president Dana Peers said the choice of Masetti Leite for the role of parade marshal has been “many years in the making” and was finalized “long before our world changed this spring.”
“Stampede parade marshals don’t just lead a parade; they exemplify western heritage, values and culture.”
Masetti Leite said he is dedicating this remaining part of his ride to health-care providers around the world who have worked tirelessly to fight against the spread of COVID-19.