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Stampede that almost never happened due to flood wraps in Calgary

The 101st Calgary Stampede wraps on Sunday after 10 days of events that a record-breaking flood almost prevented from happening.

Official attendance over the 10 days wasn’t available by late Sunday, but organizers said the one-million mark had already been met by the end of Saturday.

The record attendance was 1,409,371 last year.

“We’re just extremely proud we put on the show we did,” said Stampede spokeswoman Jennifer Booth.

People were still drying out their homes from the massive overflow of the Bow and Elbow rivers last month when Stampede president Bob Thompson pledged the show would go on “come hell or high water.”

His announcement came only days after water rose so high that the Stampede grounds looked like a giant lake, with the Saddledome flooded up to the eighth row.

Many wondered whether anyone would be able to come, even if the thousands of volunteers could get the grounds dried out and repaired in time.

In the end, a lot of people welcomed a chance to ride the midway, chow down on fried treats and watch the rodeo as a diversion from their troubles.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who was the parade marshal on opening day, said this year’s Stampede showed Calgary’s “strength through adversity.”

More than 75,000 Calgarians — along with residents of many communities throughout southern Alberta — had to leave their homes when water from raging rivers rose on June 20.

Since it was first organized by Wild West performer Guy Weadick and livestock agent H.C. McMullen in 1912 as a cowboy championship, the Calgary Stampede has continued uninterrupted despite two world wars, a Depression and the recent flood.

As in a normal year at the Calgary Stampede, there was controversy over some events.

A chuckwagon horse collapsed and died after a race Friday. A steer was also euthanized earlier in the rodeo because of a neck injury it suffered in competition.

The deaths prompted the Vancouver Humane Society to reiterate calls for the suspension of both events.