“I was six years old when I joined the Indian kids on the wagons to go to the grounds. I rode in the parade with them and stayed in whichever teepee had the most kids. We peeled potatoes for the concessions to get burgers and chips. At the end of the Stampede, they would drop me off at home. It was a great part of my life. I am now 76 years young and this centennial year will be the 72nd consecutive Stampede Parade which I have been in. I am fortunate to have so many great memories of our native friends, ranchers as well as those great cowboy athletes, the horses and livestock.”
— Stan Cowley, owner of Rafter Six Ranch Resort and Cowley Outfitters (mycalgarystampede.com)
It’s doubtful that American cowboy Guy Weadick, the visionary behind the Calgary Stampede, ever imagined just how big the first Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest would become.
For the past century, The Calgary Stampede has been an integral part of Calgary and the province of Alberta, growing into the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
With this year marking the 100th anniversary of the Stampede, there is more planned than ever before as the Stampede celebrates with a theme of We’re Greatest Together, recognizing all the people who have made this event what it is today.
With 100 years to celebrate, there are big expectations for the 2012 Stampede.
Last fall, CNN International’s website listed the Calgary Stampede as one of the top 15 places in the world to “party like a rock star” and this January they listed Calgary as one of “the top five places to visit in 2012.”
We’re Greatest Together — For more than a century, the Calgary Stampede has welcomed millions of visitors and each of them has a story to tell. The Calgary Stampede Association is inviting past Stampede participants to share their written stories, videos, photos, poetry and artwork on a new page called “my stampede” on their website: www.calgarystampede.com.
Stampede Parade — Of all the parades that take place in the world each year, the Rose Bowl is the only one larger than the Stampede Parade and if you have never witnessed the two-hour event live, 2012 might be the right time to do it.
Ian Tyson will be the 2012 parade marshal this year. For live viewers there will be pre-parade entertainment and bleacher-style seating to make it easier to see the dozens of floats, marching bands, chuckwagons, dancers and entertainers on display.
New rides — To celebrate the centennial, the midway will have a new roller-coaster named Outlaw, there will be an 260-metre zip line across Stampede Park, and visitors will have the opportunity to surf right inside the BMO Centre on a new exhibit called Flow Rider.
ENMAX Corral Show — This new production will showcase western horsemanship, incredible stunt effects, and fascinating First Nations’ performances and has been created especially for the centennial. Admission to the Corral Show will be free with admission regular Stampede admission.
Centennial Plaza — Built in the middle of Stampede Park for the 2012 Stampede, Centennial Plaza will showcase a diverse array of local Alberta talent.
RCMP Musical Ride — The famous Musical Ride of the RCMP dates back to 1887 and involves the execution of a variety of intricate riding manoeuvres and cavalry drills choreographed to music.
Members of the Musical Ride are trained police officers with at least two years of experience in active police work who volunteer for duty with the Musical Ride for a three-year period. Although the riders may be different from year to year, the highly trained horses usually stay with the ride for much longer.
2012 TransAlta Grandstand Show — The Centennial Grandstand show will be entitled Century. Each night of the show, Paul Brandt and the Young Canadians will perform popular songs from the past 100 years.
The finale will feature fireworks set off from a three-story birthday cake driven into the Grandstand on a semi driven by Brandt.
The most awarded male Canadian country music artist in history, Brandt launched his career after winning the 1992 Calgary Stampede Talent Search.
Light up the City, presented by TransAlta — In addition to the Grandstand fireworks, the skies above Calgary will blaze with more fireworks on both weekends of the Centennial Stampede. The fireworks will be launched from all four quadrants of the city, creating an incredible light show.
Agriculture Celebration Zone — Guy Weadick envisioned an event that would celebrate the agricultural history of Alberta and the Agriculture Centennial Celebration Zone will feature displays such as the World Championship Blacksmiths’ Competition, the Heavy Horse Pull, the Cutting Horse Competition, Draft Horse Town, the World Stock Dog Championship, and the North American Sheep Shearing Challenge.
The exhibitions will be rotated daily.
Centennial merchandise — A special line of apparel and merchandise has been created through a partnership with the Stampede and Roots stores. Items ranging from limited edition boots and hats and totes to centennial pancake mix will be available at the Stampede Store and at roots stores.
They can also be purchased online at www.calgarystampede.com.
Great Music — Music is an important part of the Calgary Stampede and more than 250 live performances will take place over the 10 days. With the exception of the nightly Grandstand Show and the concerts held in the Pengrowth Saddledome, all the musical performances are included in the cost of gate admission.
Music styles include pop, hip hop, country, folk, rock, alternative, Native American and children’s groups.
The annual Stampede Talent Search showcases young performers between the ages of six and 21 and has featured artists like Brandt and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald in the past.
The Stampede Saddledome Concert series will feature Garth Brooks, Johnny Reid and Brad Paisley. Garth Brooks will be coming out of touring retirement to perform during the Stampede.
Tickets — The Centennial Calgary Stampede will take place from July 6 to 15 and tickets are selling fast. General admission will cost $16 for adults and $8 for kids and seniors. Tickets to the Grandstand show start at about $52 and tickets to the rodeo start at $20.
There are several days when certain groups can enjoy free admission and events if the enter the park early. These include Suncor Energy Family Day July 8, Western Heritage Day July 10, and BMO Kids Day July 11. To learn more about the Stampede or to purchase tickets, visit: www.calgarystampede.com.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.