Ogopogo went country for the Calgary Stampede and came away a big winner.
The City of Kelowna parade float featuring the mythical Okanagan Lake monster as a six-metre-long blue serpent won the President’s Award as the best overall entry and the best municipal float award in the Calgary Stampede Parade on July 5.
The parade kicks off the 10-day rodeo, exhibition and festival, which is billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth and attracts almost 1.5 million visitors annually.
“We’ve been in the Stampede parade a bunch of times, but this is the first time we’ve won best overall parade entry,” said Ogopogo float ambassador and driver Clarence Johnson. “This is a huge win for us.”
The float usually features Miss Kelowna Lady of the Lake Olivia Solano and Kelowna Princess Jennifer Werner standing against a backdrop of the city’s official flower, the Okanagan sunflower, waving to the crowd while Ogopogo looms large ahead of them.
To play to parade judges and spectators, the float was accessorized for the Stampede with the Lady of the Lake and her princesses donning cowboy hats.
As well, a cowboy plush toy was riding Ogopogo as it would a bucking bronco, roping a fish and sporting a bolo tie and belt with Calgary Stampede logos.
“I’m Kelowna born and raised and have been volunteering with the Ogopogo float for 13 years,” said Johnson. “I enjoy promoting our city.”
Kelowna is getting a lot of mileage out of its Calgary Stampede Parade appearance and wins.
About 350,000 people line the parade route annually and more watch on TV.
The Ogopogo float beat strong entries from Whitefish, Mont., WestJet, CP Rail, Parks Canada and several showy marching bands.
In 2017, the float was revamped, replacing the traditional cartoonish green Ogopogo with a more stylized blue lake monster with a face resembling ancient Aboriginal depictions of Ogopogo.
There’s also Indigenous lettering on the float along with Spirit of the Lake signs.
The float is entered in a slew of parades every year to promote Kelowna throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It’s been on a winning streak this season, picking up the main award at June’s Strawberry Festival in Marysville, Wash., best international float at Tacoma’s Daffodil Festival and first place at the Canada Day Parade in Peachland.
Up next, the float will appear in the Westside Daze Parade on Saturday and Penticton’s Peach Fest Parade in August.