When the dust settles

·3 min read

For four consecutive Saturdays, the News has taken you behind the scenes of the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede and explored what goes into preparing for, operating and cleaning up different aspects of the annual event.

In our final installment of Behind the Stampede, general manager Ron Edwards explains what happens after the fun concludes.

Saturday at midnight, the midway lights will turn off, the crowds will disperse and the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede will draw to a close until next year.

For many, midnight marks the end of a four-day celebration two years overdue. But for Stampede staff, volunteers and partners, midnight is just the beginning of multifaceted event cleanup efforts, which take approximately two months to complete in full.

“(Clean-up) takes quite a few weeks,” Edwards told the News. “There’s a system.”

The system, refined through experience, operates in order of priority, with the most important tasks addressed in the hours and days following the event.

“On Sunday morning, we’ll try to get most of our garbage all picked up and taken away,” said Edwards. “That’s No. 1 because otherwise it smells, it attracts seagulls, it floats around, (etc.).

“We also have our committees come in here and start cleaning up their areas. Mostly we say to them, ‘Put everything in a pile and then we’ll come along and start to put it away where it needs to be put away… And when we do that, we kind of sort out and say ‘Do we keep this hose? Or is it worn out? Do we have to replace it?’ It just gives us an opportunity to actually assess our needs, make lists, and then put stuff away for the next year.”

By the time staff and volunteers are returning to the grounds Sunday morning, the midway is already rolling out. Operated by West Coast Amusements, midway rides, games and concessions are in high demand, resulting in a quick turnaround between scheduled stampedes.

“(The midway) will not be here Sunday morning by 10 o’clock,” Edwards said. “They will be on the road.”

Cleanup efforts will continue throughout Sunday. But on Monday, most staff and volunteers get a well-deserved day off.

“We’ve got to give staff some time off,” said Edwards. “So, it’s a pretty skeleton staff Sunday afternoon and Monday. And then Tuesday, it’s a full-fledged ‘Let’s get things cleaned up, tidied up, put away.'”

By Tuesday many of the buildings regularly used for storage will be empty, so crews can once again start packing items for winter.

“We’ll gather up the real important stuff or the expensive stuff which we need to get put away under lock and key,” said Edwards. “And then, it’s just a matter of picking up all things, like benches, stages, booths, hoses, cords, mats – everything you can think of.”

Edwards says some items will be left out or placed in easily accessible spots if needed for upcoming fall events, like the Global FMX motocross and snowmobile show coming in August, the Memory Lane Memorial Team Roping in September or the Olde Tyme Christmas Fair and Farmers’ Market in December.

Stampede has gone by in the blink of an eye for Edwards. And while he can’t believe it’s almost time for clean-up to begin, he assures Stampede-lovers it will be back again before they know it.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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