Calgary Stampede kicks off with parade: “An emotional rallying point”

"The spirit of our city and province cannot be washed away."

Those were the words on a banner near the head of the Calgary Stampede parade and was clearly the sentiment among the thousands of people lined up along downtown streets, on Friday morning.

Just two weeks after the worst floods the city's history and in the midst of a massive clean-up effort, the parade — which included grand marshal Chris Hadfield, Alberta Premier Alison Redford, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and a tribute to first-responders — marked the official opening of the annual 10-day event dubbed "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth"

[ Slideshow: Preparing for the Stampede ]

Stewart McDonough of Calgary Tourism says the event is an "emotional rallying point" for the city and its residents.

"After two weeks of rolling up our sleeves and pitching in to help our neighbours, the city deserves a celebration," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

McDonough also emphasized the financial benefits of the Stampede to local businesses.

"The Stampede is...a big employer and has a significant ripple effect for many of the small businesses who were hardest hit by the flood. Tourism employs 1 in 10 Calgarians and our 5 million annual visitors contribute $1.4 billion to the local economy. So we couldn't be happier that the Stampede was able to pull off a miracle over the past two weeks and get ready to host the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," he said.

"The Stampede is often around the $100 to $150 million of economic impact for the 10-day event. It's too early to say what the flood's impact will be on the 2013 event, but we've just launched a national marketing campaign to help mitigate the effects of the [flood].

"We are letting travelers know that our city's doors are open and welcoming them back."

Organizers have had to amend their program slightly because of the floods. Earlier this week, they were forced to cancel four high-profile concerts which were to be performed at the flood-ravaged Scotia Bank Saddledome.

Adam Legge, from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said that despite the setbacks it was important for the Stampede to go on for the psyche of the community.

"Evidence from natural disasters in the states shows that one of the best things to help people feel like life is returning to normal is to bring back parts of their daily lives," he told Yahoo!.

"While Stampede is not a daily life kind of event t is something people can get behind. And that can help. I think however that there are some people who have lost so much that they just simply won't be in the Stampede spirit regardless. We have to understand and support those Calgarians still even while Stampede is on."

[ Related: Calgarians ready to party their mudboots off as parade kicks off Stampede ]

Federal party leaders are making the rounds in Calgary. Thomas Mulcair was in Town on Thursday and Friday, while Prime Minister Harper and his wife were spectators at the parade.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is expected to be onsite on Sunday.

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