Experiencing the Calgary Stampede: The greatest outdoor show on earth
By: Alisa Samuel
Published on: March 09 2023
The Canadian West is made up of the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba provinces. Through shows, music, and attractions, the Calgary Stampede, a not-for-profit organization, celebrates the cowboy culture and history of the Canadian West.
A man named Guy Weadick founded the organization over 100 years ago. Weadick worked on ranches his whole life, and toured rodeo events in Canada, the United States, Britain, and continental Europe. He gave roping exhibitions. Roping, or tie-down roping, is when a rider sits on top of a horse, throws a loop of rope around a running calf, and then dismounts to tie the calf down as fast as they can.
During a visit to Calgary in 1901, Weadick had the idea of gathering pioneer cowboys in a sort of high-level sports championship. But Calgary at the time was basically a wilderness that couldn’t facilitate such a vision. It was only after the arrival of thousands of settlers, the building of railroads, and the founding of land companies that the West started to emerge as an urban centre.
With help from a friend, Weadick gained financial and moral support, and finally, in 1912, Calgary hosted its first ever Stampede.
“All competitions were open to the world, no colour, or nationality barred,” wrote Weadick in an article for The Calgary Albertan newspaper. People came from all over the US, Canada, and Mexico “in their native costumes and equipment.”
The week-long “reunion of Old Timers in the Great West” started off with a parade. The parade included all types of Canadians—Indigenous people, Christian missionaries, Hudson Bay company traders, whiskey smugglers, the North-West mounted police, ranch owners, cowboys and cowgirls, and more. Even government officials and the press came to visit.
The Stampede was a success—so much so that it was permanently added to the annual exhibition of Calgary in 1923.
What began with authentic settlers and pioneers of Western Canada, now welcomes visitors of all backgrounds from around the world.
The Stampede puts on several shows, each one showcasing a different side of Western Canadian culture. There are rodeo events, like the tie-down roping exhibition the Weadick did, and famously, bull-riding. Free admission to a powwow is also a show option. A powwow takes place when Indigenous people come together to sing, dance, and honour their heritage. You can also watch highly-trained dogs run action-packed courses that involve agility poles and frisbee catching.
The Stampede usually takes place over 10 days in the summer. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Keep your energy up by eating from Midway Food stands, one of the Stampede’s attractions. Midway Food offers fair food of all kinds, from spicy Korean BBQ French fries to sweet deep-fried cookie donuts. In terms of food, southern Albertan agriculture producers and members of the international food industry also visit the Stampede to share their ideas and build business relationships.
To experience the Stampede and all that it offers, check out its website https://www.calgarystampede.com/ for more information about ticket prices.