"YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOO!" I just wanted to disappear! My mother's yell was no doubt heard blocks away as she let out her best Calgarian cheer from Nana's little kitchen on 6th Avenue as all 20 of us (at least it seemed like it) piled into her and aunt Ruth's small two bedroom apartment. It was a family tradition on the first Friday of Stampede to go down to Nana's for her famous Stampede Pancake Breakfast while watching the parade from her balcony 16 floors up.
I was always a little shy as my mother would put on her jeans, western shirt, and her white cowboy hat that she would wear once a year solely for Stampede week. She would tell me, "This is what it means to be a Calgarian!" And then promptly let out another, "YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOO!" out the balcony window. Still, as a young growing preteen adolescent, Nana's pancakes and Canadian maple syrup is hard to resist. I'd be sure to go back for another plateful of flapjacks while ducking under the balcony railing should anyone look up to see who was doing all that yelling.
Since 1923, Calgary has been cultivating the city's hospitality spirit in offering free Stamped Pancake Breakfasts across its many neighbourhoods. Today, over 200,000 pancakes are shared over the 10 day Stampede week. There are even maps created online where you can find and plan your next plate of flapjacks, sausage links, and Canadian maple syrup. Without any doubt, the Calgary Stampede Pancake Breakfast has become world famous and reflective to the amazing spirit of hospitality that our amazing city has.
In his most recent publication titled 'Soup Night', my friend Preston Pouteaux writes about the significance of shaping lives and relationships through shared meals. He writes about his old professor's soup nights; "Creating meaningful memories with others is often lo-fi. Relationships are formed around simple moments of hospitality, maybe around soup, with stories and ideas. In a hi-def world where most of our relationships are found through the screen of our computer, it’s almost radical to suggest that we start getting together to eat soup."
These are times that breakdown the social barriers of racial & political bias, misjudgments of economic status, fear of community intimacy, and instead as Richard Beck shares, becomes "an act of human recognition and embrace. If exclusion is fundamentally dehumanizing, hospitality acts to restore full human status to the marginalized and outcast."
In my adult years, I still shy from the extroverted confidence my mother had in her Calgarian "YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOO!" And yet the magic of her embrace to Calgarian hospitality has radically shaped who I have become today.
Stampede Breakfasts don't need to end once the week of festivities have stopped. Maybe we take up a community practice of Soup Night's as Preston's professor did, or maybe it is a block party and barbecue. Whatever your neighbourhood feels inspired to cultivate in the spirit of hospitality, get out there and do it! Get in line for your neighbourhoods next shared meal and become a radical embracer for others in real communal relationships that can change the world we live in for the better.