Sam Steele Days kicks off the summer

Why Barry Coulter thinks 2013 was the best Sam Steele Days yet.

I must say it — after attending 15 straight Sam Steele Days, I think 2013 was the best one yet. And no, I did not spend all day at the bocce park, though the time I did spend there was pretty fun.

There seemed to be a heightened sense of anticipation ahead of the event, though maybe that was just my heightened sense of anticipation. Maybe it was the perfect weather (Saturday, anyway). Thank you, Cranbrook. I had a blast.

Let me present a personal list of vignettes that made my Sam Steele Days great. For space reasons I’m leaving out the mega-ball tournament, the soccer, the sudden proliferation of pancake breakfasts, and other aspects of Sam Steele Days that would be major events on their own.

• My favourite part of the parade is the passing of the Carlaw Clydes. I always position myself near the start of the parade so I can see the team of six giant Clydesdales turn the corner onto Baker Street, champing and stamping in unison.  When they stop for a second, I run up to get as close as I can — even though they look like they would like to stomp me into pancake flour. The Carlaw Clydes always send a chill up my spine. They’re like something from Norse mythology.

(My secret favourite part of the parade is waving at the visiting “royalty” — youth ambassadors from our town and others, riding in the backs of convertibles and waving at the crowd. Something pleasingly old-fashioned about it.)

• The fairgrounds and the downtown events are like Waikiki, Hawaii — really crowded, but no one minds in this case. Rotary Park is just a wee bit too small for the thousands who crowd into it, but it is still the best place in town for the fairgrounds.

• The Strongman Competition is a compelling sight, and so think the hundreds who crowd the bleachers, but I find it difficult to watch because of negative autosuggestion. I watched the competitors heft the 300-pound concrete balls, pull the semis, and other feats of which I am completely incapable, but nonetheless I feel phantom muscles in my back shred into pulled pork. Visions of my tendons snapping and bones breaking flood my imagination. I can’t even watch the volunteers take the big concrete balls off the barrels where the competitors have lifted them, for I immediately imagine one of them falling on my foot, pulverizing it. I am forced to turn away, and so I wander over to the Wiener Dog Races.

• Who would have thought that pitting small canines not generally renowned for their speed against each other would pack them in on 10th Avenue. The Wiener Dog Races are now in their fourth season, and spectators start lining up early. I had to stand on my tiptoes in the fourth row to see the action. And what action it was. With all that maximum cute factor, there’s only one thing that can make the Wiener Dog Races better, and that’s gambling on them. We must lobby to change the laws, then we can simply apply horse-racing gambling rules to the Wiener Dog Races — exactas, superfectas, minus pools, morning line odds, overlays and paramutuels, etc. What could possibly go wrong with this?!

• Here’s a shout-out to Angus MacDonald, who I ran into in the free coffee line-up downtown. He was wearing his kilt and pipe-band finery, but his feet were bare, and looked red and swollen. “My shoes are too small,” he lamented. Angus had marched the length of the parade route with the Kimberley Pipe Band, then down to Rotary Park to perform at the fairgrounds. He was then off to Kimberley to perform at Lobster Fest, then back down to Cranbrook to perform at the Festival  Gardens with the Good Ol’ Goats. Now that’s rockin’ and rollin.’

(Not to mention the nasty gash sustained by Goat Nolan Ackert, resulting in the photo of the blood-soaked banjo current making the rounds on social media. Ackert gashed his digit early in the Goats’ show, but didn’t miss a beat, so to speak. Now that’s rockin’ and rollin.’)

• No, I didn’t spend all day at the Bocce event in Baker Park, but I did spend a little time, and it was time well spent (well, maybe not well-spent in the Protestant work ethic sense). Hosting the event in Baker Park was the genius moment of this year’s Sam Steele Days. Next year should see the bocce event boom, and Cranbrook will suddenly challenge Kimberley’s JulyFest — “Canadian Bocce Championships,” as they’re known — for bocce uproariousness.

Just think of it — our neck of the woods as the world centre of bocce tournaments featuring outrageous costumes and saucy names. Putting us on the map, as they say.

• Speaking of costumery, we at the Townsman are smugly proud to announce our first place finish for the third year in a row, for Staff Costuming (16 plus employees). We’re putting out the challenge to other businesses (16 plus employees) to knock us off our pedestal and quell our arrogance. Do you dare?