By Noni and Terry Schmaltz, Wood’s Homes volunteers
Ah, the excitement of the Calgary Stampede and of course the Pancake Breakfast fever that floods throughout this fascinating city. Drive throughout Calgary and relive the excitement of bygone times. Cowboys and cowgirls everywhere with Stetsons, blue jeans, Bolo string ties, plaid shirts and boots fill the parks, ride the buses and plug the ‘C’ train. Everywhere; stores, homes and signs celebrate the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, highlighted with invitations everywhere to attend the ritual free Stampede Breakfast There are so many of these events throughout Calgary, all deserve recognition for bringing out the happy vibes contributing to the “community” of friendly Cowtown.
Wander through a Wood’s Homes Stampede Breakfast and you will catch the scent of pancakes, hear sounds of sizzling sausages, see mounds of fluffy scrambled eggs and witness bubbling bowls of ‘cow poke’ beans. The fun is just beginning as joyful voices increase in volume, as witness to block-long line-ups of happy neighbours and visitors patiently waiting to fill plates with delicious food; and everywhere a sea of smiling faces. Music plays, there is a bustle of activity to meet and greet the friendly folks, make new friends, fill plates, juice and coffee containers ~ but always happy people.
Behind the serving tables while dishing up scrambled eggs we hear people commenting, “this is the best Breakfast in town!” or “we never miss coming to Wood’s Homes Breakfast!” or “been coming here since the beginning of Wood’s Homes breakfasts!” Contented families hold down tables chatting with old neighbours as well as those who are new to the ‘hood, children run everywhere; their feet too busy to sit for very long, while the DJ provides wholesome toe tapping country and western music while encouraging participation in the Wood’s Homes Foundation Trivia Quiz Questions. Not only are the answers to the questions found throughout the park there is the enticement of prizes! And who can resist the lure of a prize? We have the pleasure to walk around greeting guests, picking up used plates and learning more about the neighbours and responding to questions or referring guests to Wood’s Home staff for more detailed information.
We relished the pleasure of meeting a neighbour living only a block away and proud to claim that she has attended every one of Wood’s Homes Stampede Breakfasts since they began 31 years ago. She is happy to have Wood’s as her neighbour as she watches all of their activities with interest. While eating breakfast with another family, the father wanted to express gratitude for the good work that Wood’s does on the Bowness Campus. Both parents’ faces were lined with concern as they explained theirs was a firsthand point-of-view. Tears appeared in their eyes as the father explained, “if it hadn’t been for the wonderful folks at Wood’s Homes, we don’t know what we would have done with the behavioural problems our teenage son was experiencing.” The pain in their faces made evident the breakfast is much more impactful than just the food on our plates. What an honour for us to be able to participate in this wonderful event for this incredible organization.
One of the finest memories of this Wood’s Homes annual event was when a family of four arrived just in time to fill their plates, thrilled to attend their favourite Stampede tradition, the ‘Breakfast at Wood’s’. The dad explained their wonderful story. Every year, this family gets up early on Family Day Sunday to race over to the Stampede Gates and get their early pass to attend the Stampede grounds. Then, the entire group jump back into their car to drive across town to the Bowness Campus at Wood’s and the “best Stampede breakfast in town.” Beads of sweat trickle down their faces and their smiles go from ear-to-ear. A few moments spent with them fills our hearts with their joyful memories.
We are so grateful for this opportunity to be a part of something so special. It’s worth the sticky fingers, well-done pancakes, buckets of coffee, mounds of scrambled eggs and, always, the camaraderie of being part of such a special group of people. And, of course, no bona fide Stampede Breakfast is authentic until you hear the joyful sounds of an enthusiastic, “YAHOO!”
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!