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Stampede Parade Float

Interest in an ‘Irish’ float in the Stampede Parade was led by Hugh Neary. Hugh took on the role of Chairman of the Float Committee. The float featured Irish dancers and musicians and had a theme “Pioneers of Agriculture” acknowledging the early settlers John Glen and Sam Livingston and stockman Pat Burns. Generous donations from the Pettigrew and the Houston Dance Schools overcame funding issues and various firms helped out. Ed Milliken’s Summit Signs provided large panels of our logo to decorate the float. The Glensmen and Finnegan’s Wake provided live music for Irish dancers on the float. Volunteers who spent many hours of effort included John McCourt, the Toyes, Caseys, Cowmans, Ed Porter, Jerry Neary, John Houston, Jerry Foley, Michael Coleman, and Graham Doherty. Their efforts were rewarded by a Third Place Prize Award and also by the enthusiastic reception from crowds along the Parade Route.

The ICS ‘Prize Winning Float’ - 1986

Gerry O’Flaherty remembers joining the float crew in 1990 under the watchful eye of Bill Delaney. The ICS had procured a camper that had been wrecked in an accident and written off by the insurer. In spite of the extensive damage to the vehicle the engine and chassis were salvageable in the capable hands of Seamus Dunne. Application was made to Alberta Motor Vehicles to re-register the vehicle as float. Following this transformation by Seamus, work got underway at the Summit Signs premises on decorating the float. The theme of the float was a Tribute to Music and Bill’s design complemented this requirement. The safety rail posts along the float were gold painted treble clefs and both sides were lined with shamrocks and names of Irish musicians. Bill had decided to include the Giant’s Causeway as a main feature. Bill’s design was brought to life by the skillful creativity of John McCullagh and his helpers. However, Barney Toye opined that a seagull was necessary to complete the realism of the scene. As a result, a large white seagull with open wings, known as Barney’s Gull, was perched on the top column of the causeway. Bill was a stickler for detail but also gifted with the ability, in a pleasant manner, to encourage everyone to do their best. The cooperative team atmosphere was enjoyable and the banter between Barney Toye and John McCullagh always entertaining. The float crew at that time included Bill Delaney, John McCullagh, John Maze, John Houston, Hugh Neary, Gerry O’Flaherty, Carole O’Flaherty, Seamus Flanagan, John McCourt and Barney Toye who also drove the float.

Float crew and friends: John Houston, Sean Buckley, Barney Toye, Seamus Flanagan, Bill Delaney (with trophy), Jack Milligan, Gerry O’Flaherty and Carole O’Flaherty

The next year our design was intended to pay tribute to Calgary, it’s Western Heritage and “The Irish in Calgary”. More room was given on the float to accommodate dancers and musicians. A huge rotating cowboy hat mounted on a six-foot pipe gave great effect as the float drove along. The Stampede had decided for safety reasons that people on the float had to be seated when the vehicle was moving. That meant that the musicians and dancers could only perform when the float stopped and the dancers had to immediately sit down when the float moved again. This was unusual for the dancers and probably puzzling for the audience. Still, it was a very successful effort and did us all proud.

Barney Toye in the cockpit with Hugh Neary appearing to pray that the float wouldn’t break down

Barney’s Gull on the Giants Causeway

Leprechaun Joe McClure at the Rainbow’s End

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