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Danielle Smith dons apron for her second premier's Stampede breakfast

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Throngs of people joined lineups to be served pancakes Monday by Alberta Premier Danielle Smith at her official Calgary Stampede breakfast. 

It was Smith's second annual appearance at the traditional event. This year, she said, the Stampede feels different.

“I just feel like we got our groove back," she told reporters.

Smith said people are embracing the 10-day festival and rodeo as a chance to do business and honour the province's heritage at its numerous events.

"There was a time a few years ago when things weren't so good in the economy (and) everybody was scaling back their parties. And I just don't feel that this year," said Smith.

The premier's office said about 3,600 people were fed Monday and about 4,000 people were in attendance. Staff said it was the largest turnout in over a decade. 

On Sunday, Alberta Opposition New Democrat Leader Naheed Nenshi hosted his first caucus Stampede event. Members there touted a jump in attendance at NDP Stampede events since Nenshi took the helm in June, replacing outgoing leader Rachel Notley.

Smith, speaking to the breakfast crowd, celebrated the city emerging from water use restrictions after a catastrophic water main break a month ago. Crews fixed the breach and a state of emergency was lifted just in time for the Stampede.

"You all look great now that you’ve had the chance to shower," Smith told the gathering, as several people clamoured to get pictures of the premier.

Smith thanked city officials and workers for their efforts, San Diego's water authority for helping provide replacement pipe and Calgarians for being community-minded.

"You took a bad situation and made sure that you didn't turn it into a crisis, so I appreciate you all chipping in."

Joined by United Conservative Party caucus members and cabinet ministers, Smith also welcomed about a dozen dignitaries from the United States.

U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen was put to work pouring syrup next to the premier.

In a long-honoured local ceremony, the premier also offered white cowboy hats in exchange for a pledge from her American visitors to spread Calgarian hospitality.

Inside McDougall Centre, the provincial government's Calgary headquarters, they capped it off with a collective "yahoo!"

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2024.

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