Rain or shine, Grandstand Show will definitely entertain you

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Mother Nature was no match for the Young Canadians and their 2024 Stampede Grandstand Show.

The sneak-a-peak preview of the yearly entertainment extravaganza had to be delayed Thursday night for almost an hour because of lightning.

When that threat abated, even though it was still pouring rain, the Young Canadians burst onto the stage with a dazzlingly choreographed, costumed and executed, ramped-up version of Let Me Entertain You. Ironically, with the steady sheets of rain, the impressive lighting effects, and the explosion of fireworks, on and above the stage, it was particularly breathtaking. It certainly dwarfed anything Gene Kelly did to win his Oscar in the 1952 classic, Singin’ in the Rain. Then again, there were 113 Young Canadians, aged 7 to 21, and only one Kelly, aged 40.

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Dave Kelly opens the 2024 Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show each night. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

Calgary and the Stampede have their own star in Dave Kelly who acts as the MC for the Grandstand Show, and he is simply the best. It was Kelly’s job to keep the crowd entertained as the stage was being set up, which he did with enthusiasm and energy. He introduced the audience to the Boston Dynamics Spot robot, which showed off its dancing skills, and interviewed three members of the Urias family motorcycle daredevils, whose great-great-grandfather created their trademark Globe of Death 112 years ago, the same year as the first Stampede.

Brad Fleischer, Duke Domino and Lisa Jacobs are the featured singers with the Grandstand band, and they are truly electric as they fill in the gaps between featured acts. Fleischer followed Let Me Entertain You with a rock medley which included I Love Rock ‘n Roll, Juke Box Hero and Come Dance With Me, keeping the crowd in a party mood.

Trapeze artists Josefina Castro and Daniel Ortiz perform during the 2024 Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

It’s one thing to sing and dance in the rain but to do some mind-boggling aerial gymnastics is quite another. Even without inclement weather, what Argentinians Josefina Castro and Daniel Ortiz do in their cradle act is awe-inspiring. They were using extra talc powder to ensure Jose didn’t slip out of Dani’s hands as she swung from him as if he were a trapeze. Her agility is matched by his incredible flexibility and strength. At one point she walks on his chest as he rests, board stiff, from their platform in the air.

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It’s become a tradition to have a featured guest singing act in the Grandstand Show, and, in the Hunter Brothers, the Grandstand Show snagged a real winner. These five siblings from Saskatchewan are like an Energizer Bunny quintet. They took control of the entire stage with their antics, involving the audience at several points in sing-a-longs. It helps if you know the lyrics to their songs because they’re delivered loud, though not always clear. The crowd roared with approval, especially for I Was Born and Raised, Northern Lights, and Lost.

Hunter Bros
The Hunter Brothers put on a high-energy concert during the Grandstand Show. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

The Hunter Brothers joined The Young Canadians for a full-throttle version of Kenny Loggins’ Footloose. Fortunately, Dave Kelly, Harvey the Hound and several Young Canadians had taught the crowd a few line dancing moves so it was eager participation time as people danced at their seats in, sort of, unison with the crowd on stage.

The Spot robots are impressive indeed, especially if you see them up close, as was the case when one visited Telus Spark a couple of years ago. They are even being used in China as seeing-eye robots. This was the one act that suffered from the weather because the Grandstand’s drone fleet was not allowed to fly, and they were supposed to accompany the five dancing robots.

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Performers hit the stage during the 2024 Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show at the Calgary Stampede. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

The Grandstand stage’s four jumbotrons are an essential part of the show, especially for those sitting in the nose-bleed section as Kelly calls the rear of the bleachers. They were particularly helpful for Tammy FireFly’s aerial act which was staged at the rear of the stage, creating quite a distance from performer and audience. She spins in a star whose prongs are on fire while jets of fire erupt on stage. It’s visually arresting.

The Globe of Death is as thrilling as it is astonishing. The globe itself is not that huge so getting three motorcycles to zip around inside it is daunting, to say the least, but then to have a young woman enter and stand in the centre while the motorcycles zoom and roar around is triply exciting. This is the one act where director and choreographer Angela Benson can leave well enough alone. The addition of fireworks and other onstage performers is too distracting. If you let your gaze wander from the globe, even for a second, it greatly diminishes the impact of the motorcycle stunts.

The show closed, as it opened, with The Young Canadians, accompanied by the entire cast this time, singing Let Me Entertain You, which all these artists had done royally for 60 minutes.

The Young Canadians are a beloved part of every Grandstand Show at the Calgary Stampede. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

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