By Julien DeSchutter
The floor of the BMO Centre Hall C will be a sea of white cowboy hats on Monday, Sept. 10 as the ACI-NA/World Annual Conference and Exhibition opens with Calgary’s own White Hat Ceremony.
More than 900 hats will be placed on chairs waiting to be donned by conference attendees. The hats may look familiar as they are part of the uniform of the White Hat hospitality volunteers at Calgary International Airport.
On Monday, one of these volunteers will repeat a half-century-old tradition by administering the oath to induct each guest wearing the hat as an honorary Calgarian. Each attendee will find a folder with the history of the hat and its significance to Calgary along with a fill-in-your-name certificate certifying their status as an honorary Calgarian.
The white cowboy hat became a symbol of Calgary back in 1948 when Calgary Stampeders fans wore their hats to the Canadian Football’s Grey Cup in Toronto. Most Calgary fans wore cowboy hats made by Calgary hat maker, Morris Shumiatcher of Smithbuilt Hats.
A young alderman, Don MacKay, was along on the famous trip east and went on to become a high-profile Calgarian. After he was elected Mayor in 1950, MacKay distributed white hats as gifts to all visiting dignitaries and soon the symbol of the white hat was well established.
The Calgary Convention & Visitor Bureau (now Tourism Calgary) eventually took on the tradition of presenting the White Hat to dignitaries. And in time, the manager of hospitality relations at Calgary International Airport assumed the responsibility for performing the ceremony and offering an Honorary Calgarian certificate to anyone who purchases or brings an appropriate White Hat for their guests.
Ceremonies today are conducted by the airport’s White Hat volunteers, by Tourism Calgary within the city, as well as the mayor for visiting dignitaries.
While this ceremony may not be a world record (The World Petroleum Congress holds that one), it will be memorable. Be prepared with your best ‘Yahoo’ and we will all have a bit of fun.
If your hat is the incorrect size, please exchange with your neighbor, or exchange it at the Team YYC welcome booth after the session is complete.