Canada 59 years strong: Meet Calgary Stampede's longest running volunteer, Bruce Roy

16:08  12 july  2018
16:08  12 july  2018 Source:   cbc.ca

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David Gray chats with Bruce Roy who has been helping out at the Calgary Stampede for 59 years .

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a man wearing a hat and glasses: Bruce Roy is the Calgary Stampede's longest running volunteer. He first visited the event as a child in 1943. © CBC Bruce Roy is the Calgary Stampede's longest running volunteer. He first visited the event as a child in 1943.

Bruce Roy has been volunteering at the Calgary Stampede for 59 years, and he hasn't missed a single year.

Roy first visited the Stampede as a kid with his father and cousin in 1943 and fell in love.

"We saw the parade, walked to the fairgrounds and it was unreal," he told Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray on Wednesday. "Surreal for a country kid."

Roy said that in 1943, the Stampede looked a lot different than it does now.

"There weren't very many rides at that time and I distinctly remember the fairgrounds were covered in sawdust," he said.

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The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary , Alberta, Canada. The ten-day event, which bills itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world' s largest rodeos, a parade, midway

After having some great years at the end of the 1960 s , 1972 started a long period of struggles for the Stampeders. 2001: Roy Jennings. 2001: George McMahon. Calgary Stampeders 59 th Grey Cup champions. Bruce Covernton. Derrick Crawford. Doug Davies.

"I remember that there were no end of side shows with all these fat ladies and the snakes and all the rest of the big band were singing out front."

From that moment on, Roy was hooked on the Stampede spirit. In 1959 he volunteered at the greatest outdoor show on Earth for the first time.

a person standing next to a cow: An undated photo of Bruce Roy shows him with a horse. He's competed, judged and announced for the heavy horse events. © CBC An undated photo of Bruce Roy shows him with a horse. He's competed, judged and announced for the heavy horse events.

Since then he's competed, judged and announced for the heavy horse events — events that were thought to be a thing of the past when Roy started as a volunteer.

"Draft horses were going out out of commission in their agricultural scene and the committee was falling away, but then the head of the committee, who was secretary of the Canadian Percheron Association, asked me if I would come aboard," he said.

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Bruce Roy is volunteering for the fifty third time. But Stampede organizers will tell you it couldn't happen without the hard work of well over 2000 volunteers . And no one has been volunteering longer than Bruce Roy .

"And I was always game for anything and so I did and then I never left."

Roy said he recalls when heavy horses worked on the streets of Calgary. There were milk horses all over the city, including a beautiful grey Percheron mare named Blossom, he said.

a person standing next to a horse: Bruce Roy, shown in this undated photo, says he has a passion for horses. © CBC Bruce Roy, shown in this undated photo, says he has a passion for horses.

According to Roy, every morning Blossom would come down 9th Avenue with the milkman. He'd walk on one side of the street with his basket full of milk bottles, and Blossom would move up and down on the other side of the street.

"And every morning when Blossom went by the Palliser Hotel the doorman would met her and greet her and give her a couple cubes," he said.

But one morning the milk man wasn't there.

"The milk man was on the other side of the street and Blossom was looking for her sugar cubes while attached to the milk wagon," he said.

"She went right up the steps to the revolving door and there was milk coming out of the back of that wagon. Ninth Avenue looked like a river of milk."

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Their two- year dispute had been settled with the Stampede board in time for crowds to cheer on such champions as the calf roping team of Roy Cooper and Sparky Trotter, chuckwagon driver Bruce Craige and novice saddle rider Guy Calgary Stampede : The 1920 s — Frontier Meets the Fair | Chapter 2.

Loves the crowd's reaction

Roy said it's a passion for the horses and Stampede that keeps him coming back every year.

"I love the horses. I love to see the horses perform for the crowd and I love to see the crowd's reaction to their performance," he said.

Tuesday evening's heavy horse performance particularly touched Roy. The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra began playing William tell Overture, and the horses began their performance on cue, something he's witnessed for nearly six decades.

"Oh, it was powerful... With those nickel chrome fittings on that black patent leather harness, the steel shod shoes shining," he said.

"And then the rumble of those great wagons and with that music, it was overwhelming. The crowd just went ape."

In his 59th year of volunteering, Roy is approaching the next in important milestone: 60 years.

"I'm hoping to, and then I'll probably want to go to 85."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener .

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