The Wild West at its Best! 1912 – 2012

by Ann

It was a blistering hot day in July.  I had two little girls aged 2 and 4 years old – and I had reached my due date with my unborn son.  What should we do today, my daughters and I?  What might make for a fun day out, and maybe something to remember?  Why not the Calgary Stampede?

In those days I was game for anything – usually accompanied by my three, and then four, little ones.  Each year I took the children to the Stampede Parade, and we often we went onto the grounds and enjoyed a fun day out, quite inexpensively.  I remember this particular day well – I had $5 in my pocket, and it was enough for ice cream treats for the four of us.  There was plenty to see walking through the grounds and seeing the livestock and animal exhibits in various barns and buildings – no clamouring for rides on the midway then.

That day out was 41 years ago, when the Calgary Stampede was 59 years old; this year the Stampede is celebrating its 100 Year Anniversary.

The Stampede’s history

The original “Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest” was produced in 1912, by Guy Weadick, who was a working cowboy and vaudeville entertainer with a dream.  He wanted to celebrate the authentic culture of the old west and commemorate the lifestyle and western values of the time.  First Parade 1912

That very first cowboy contest in 1912 grew out of the agricultural fair that was produced by the Calgary and District Agricultural Society in October 1886, and soon became known as the Calgary Stampede.

By  1923 The Calgary Stampede merged with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition and became the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede.

Just as Guy Weadick wanted to celebrate the story of the western lifestyle and values of long ago, so the Stampede of today still commemorates the same story, and demonstrates that those western values are still alive today.

Farriers in competitionBy the time my children and I visited in 1971, Stampede Park had grown and the site had added several buildings, including the Stampede Corral and the Big Four Building  – built in honour of the four men who had financed the original show – Pat Burns, George Lane, A.E Cross and A.J. Maclean – all well-known and enduring names in western history.

These buildings still house various exhibitions, events rodeos and concerts, as well as curling and other ice events throughout the year as well as at Stampede time.  Preparing for the competitions

The new larger grandstand with a 5/8th mile racetrack and infield had not yet been built, when we were there, and the Indian Village had not yet been relocated.  And at that time, neither Suntree Park nor the Kinsmen Elbow River Park had yet been developed.  Stampede Park had much more growing to do.

The Calgary Stampede today

Every space is used to watch the paradeIn the 41 years since that visit of my children and I, the Calgary Stampede has grown to immense proportions – the parade is miles long, and there are livestock competitions for every imaginable breed and animal – from bunnies and chickens, to heavy draft horses and all breeds of cattle.

The Rodeo and Chuckwagon races are now hugely valuable competitions, watched by thousands of the millions of visitors that attend the Stampede every year.

The grounds have grown from the original 94 acres of land, until now Stamped Park welcomes over a million visitors every year during the 10-day show … and there’s more expansion planned in the next few years.

I wonder what Guy Weadick would think about his dream now.  From that humble yet ambitious dream of 1912, to the extravaganza of today – the goals and principles have endured through the years.
Stampede Park 2012


All photos courtesy of the Calgary Stampede.

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