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  July 8, 2000



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Great day for a parade


By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- Calgary Sun

 I was delighted to receive an invitation from Rob Mathews, president of the Stampede board of directors, to be in the parade and attend opening day as his guest.

 It was great fun.

 Before the parade was under way, I ran into my old high school political rival, Ian Todd, who clobbered me in a race for school president .

 I was amused to see that Ian is now with Preston Manning's campaign.

 Al Duerr was smiling as bright as the sunshine.

 The weather this year is a heck of a lot better than last year, when, even the rain didn't put a damper on the fun time I had hosting a special Stampede TV show guest starring Calgary's own Paul Brandt.

 The long-awaited premiere of Stampede decision Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

 The show is an ad-libbed romp through the Stampede grounds with Paul and I having a great time talking with tourists from around the world and behind the scenes with competitors in the various events.

 I'll clue you in on an inside joke.They had it planned that Paul and I would go on a lot of big, scary rides, but to kid around with Paul I conveniently disappeared before each ride started so he ends up going it alone.

 When you hear him asking, "Where's Bret?" and another time he says, "I'm beginning to see a pattern here ..." it's all very real -- and very funny.

 Riding in the parade on yesterday morning,I was struck by the fact that even though the city has gotten bigger, so has the heart of Calgary.

 The people and the atmosphere are the same as they've always been. I reminisced about my funniest Stampede memories, which centre around the blunders and foulups that accompanied Stampede Wrestling in the parades.

 My brother, Bruce, one time aptly described the absurdity like this,

 "The parade itself was even more interesting. Stu must have pulled out all the stops to provide damn near every freak and misfit in the business -- including Andre the Giant, the 800 lb. each McGuire Twins, the midgets.

 Ripper Collins, four chronically nagging lady wrestlers, strippers and a host of other unconventional and invariably inept supporting actors."

 Bruce, I couldn't have said it better myself.

 The whole bizarre crew along with the Hart kids would pile into the ring, which would creak and sink under the weight.

 There'd also be some wrestlers on horses, usually the ones who didn't know how to ride and the main event wrestlers would be in convertibles seated beside strippers, waving to the crowd.

 And there were the McGuire twins on mini bikes. One year, one of them blew a tire and had to walk the whole way and he was so winded we didn't think he'd survive.

 Meanwhile, stripper Barbette Bardot fell off a horse and she ran around hysterical and sparsely dressed

 Every year, the ring/float would fall apart and come to a grinding halt -- at the busiest part of the parade route.

 The parade marshall would be yelling at Stu for holding up the whole procession, not just for the local crowd but in front of a national TV audience too.

 Meanwhile, Stu was oblivious to the Marshall's fit because he'd be yelling at the guy who rigged up the ring.

 And at least once Stu stretched the guy right there in the road -- and got cheered by the crowd -- while the police and the marshall gnashed their teeth.

 The wrestlers on horses, who managed to stay on, got a big kick out of watching the hoard of us climb down from the ring and have to walk the rest of the way.

 Other times, spectators hastily cleared a path on the sidelines so our strange tribe could push the ring out of the way, abandoning it and rejoin the parade on foot in whatever spot we happened to squeeze into.

 The commentators would be expecting some dignitary and instead there would be the McGuires and the midgets.

 Every year they said they'd never let us near the parade again and every year we came back. Finally they got smart and put us at the very end, right before the street cleaners.

 Too bad no one has the Hart family parade hijinx on film -- or maybe not! But for a fun time check out the Stampede special on Wednesday.

 It includes a toe-tapping concert by Paul Brandt and scenes of me riding brahma bulls and racing chuck wagons!

 Happy Stampede week everybody!

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