Built to ROAM
Prison labour, Model T Ford help artist build unique parade float
Xstine Cook had a dream, and in her dream was a gigantic white buffalo. On wheels. Riding, among other places, in the Stampede parade. Question: how do you build a giant white buffalo float that sits atop a fourman bicycle with practically no budget whatsoever, particularly in the middle of an economic boom that has created a labour shortage of historic proportions?
Answer: the Drumheller Institution, a medium-security federal prison.
The dream led Cook, the mother of three daughters between the ages of one and four, as well as the founder of Calgary’s Animated Objects Festival, to a lingering desire to build a “kinetic” sculpture, the sort of giant puppet you’re more likely to find in a Terry Gilliam movie than in real life. Despite her dream, she was reluctant to build a white buffalo, worried that she might be appropriating an aboriginal symbol rather than paying tribute to it.
So she set out on a journey of discovery, with more determination than resources, that took her places she never thought she’d be, from B.C. workshops to an Alberta prison. It’s a journey that ends, in some ways, at Friday’s Stampede parade, when the white buffalo makes its debut, alongside the aboriginal group Wandering Spirit and a drama group called Young Spirit Voices.
From left, Xstine Cook, Maezy Dennie, 4, and Gavin Cosgrove try out the finished white buffalo float on Wednesday afternoon in the Ramsey community, in preparation for Friday’s Stampede parade.