Five-thousand people attended the first-ever Calgary Stampede drive-thru pancake breakfast on Saturday at Cross Iron Mills.
There were the same free pancakes, enthusiastic volunteers and country music — that part hasn’t changed with this year’s Stampede breakfast.
“I think this is absolutely amazing. Everybody is so happy and in the spirit with people bringing their kids and little buckaroos here. It’s great,” said volunteer Barb Cowley.
But the 2020 version is drive-thru — a hard-to-imagine change for Calgarians who have been socializing over pancakes for years.
“We love it,” said Stampede Caravan Committee chair Chris Haywood. “Our smiles are just as big as everyone else’s. That was the one thing we found is that our volunteers are programmed to come and do this every year, and to tell them that we weren’t allowed to do anything, I think, was the harder part.”
Earlier this year, the Stampede Caravan Committee was forced to cancel the 45 pancake events due to COVID-19, but organizers got resourceful with this socially distant way of keeping the Stampede tradition alive.
“I think it brings you back to that things are starting to normalize a little bit. When you feed three generations of families at these breakfasts like we have and for that to be able to continue with the fourth generation, it just makes you all warm and fuzzy,” Haywood said.
Stampede breakfast veterans attending the event north of Calgary said they enjoyed how efficient the drive-thru method was and how it helped ease the disappointment of the 2020 Calgary Stampede being cancelled.
“We were just saying how sad it is and I’m sure it’s very sad for everybody, so this is great. We are planning to go to the next one,” said Claudia Corzato.
Over in the Lynnwood, clowns on bikes replaced horses in their version of a Stampede parade.
The southeast community has been hosting birthday parades for kids since the pandemic started. Organizers said Saturday’s event was important for giving people hope during this year’s cancelled Stampede.
“It brings up more morale in the community and supports local businesses,” said community resident and volunteer Brian Zappey.
“Everybody feels like your community is back. They feel home again. It just kind of gives us that step up to move forward again,” said Kelli Kalupar, who helped organize the event.
The next Stampede Caravan breakfast will be held at Stampede Park on Wednesday for BMO Kids’ Day. Another is planned for Southcentre mall on July 11.