Every year in early July, the Calgary Stampede brings swathes of people, horses, and monstrous food concoctions to Calgary. Over a million rodeo fans attend the “Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth,” prompting a full cowboy makeover of the city every summer.
After living in southern Alberta for most of my life, attending the University of Calgary and spending a summer working in a popular downtown Calgary bar during Stampede, I have learned to avoid Stampede at all costs. When you live in a city where cops wear cowboy hats year-round, it’s a little much to be bombarded by visiting oil executives in full rodeo garb shouting “yahoo!” at every bar you go to.
However, some things are unavoidable, like the window art of Stampede season. The paintings are done by various local companies and artists, and occupy the windows and fronts of everything from apartment buildings to donair shops.
It’s a strange genre of artistic expression, highlighting everything from the classic horse and cowboy, to more obscure imagery like penguins and even an elaborate hula party scene featuring the likenesses of one business’s employees (more on that later).
To showcase the weird and wacky of Stampede window art, I present the first (and likely last) annual window art awards.
Worst in show
There is a lot going on here. First, what does a hula party have to do with Stampede or this business, which appears to be an I.T. company?
Also, it appears the people in the image are modelled off of actual company employees, which only makes it more horrifying. Imagine being Karen from finance, enjoying your lunch break when a coworker comes up and asks for your picture, only to explain that it will be painted in excruciating detail on the window of your workplace.
Look closer and not only will you spot “Craig’s Tiki Bar,” but also an awkward moment of a horse eating a woman’s skirt.
Every time I pass this window, I wonder why it has to exist. To its credit, it does perfectly embody the awkward vibe given off by thousands of business people attempting to get into the “yahoo” spirit.
Best product tie-in
Who knew horses loved donairs so much? And this horse in particular loves the donairs of Shawarma House.
Honestly, I respect a business that actually connects their business to the Stampede, instead of just slapping a mustachioed cowboy on a window and calling it decor. My brilliant contribution would’ve been to rename it “Shawarma Horse” for Stampede Week.
Anyway, I’m now giving suggestions for Stampede window art next year.
Speaking of mustachioed cowboys, this one on an office building that includes a take-out burrito place and Subway sandwich franchise catches your eyes from across the street. Is he following your gaze? Definitely. Is it Sam Elliot? Maybe.
Most questionable moral choices for a horse
Is the horse drunk? Also, based on the horse’s quote and the fireworks behind the cowboy, is it supposed to be New Year’s?
Didn’t get the memo
Any Calgarian can tell you that it’s “yahoo,” no “yeehaw.” The city issued an official poll last year to confirm its superiority, and even Canada’s official Twitter account confirmed that “yahoo” is the official greeting of the Calgary Stampede.
This year the city even installed giant public art pieces featuring the word. In a delightful turn of events, onlookers started to photograph the installations from behind, prompting a slew of online exclamations of “oo-hay!”
Yeehaw backwards is “wah-eey” — not nearly as fun.
Wait, why is there a penguin here?:
What do penguins have to do with Stampede or this bank? I mean, it’s adorable. But not very relevant.
The short and simple award
I like this one. It’s small, it’s simple and it communicates the message. It is the Calgary Stampede. There are horses. That’s all I, a random passerby, need to know from the window of this bank. Thank you for keeping it classy.
Best “not a window painting”
Rather than a window painting, this is a painting in a window. I admire the strange artistry of putting a square canvas of sky up on a post in a window.
It could be a commentary on the capitalist bloat of Calgary during Stampede season, dominating the collective consciousness of the city. Corporate synergies are represented by the window pane of glass blocking out any sense of truth or wholesomeness in the prairie spirit, represented by the single square of blue sky hidden behind the glass. The single red boot stands as a symbol of the people of Calgary, standing tall amidst the Stampede onslaught.
Or maybe, much more likely, all of the window painters were booked by then and they had to improvise with what they had.
Watch: Calgary Stampede unveils its midway food list for 2019