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Calgary Stampede, The


In the fall of 1884, the Calgary and District Agricultural Society was formed to showcase the region’s agricultural merit. A rail car was filled with the pride of local farmers and embarked on a journey to Eastern Canada. In 1886, the Society held its first exhibition, which soon became an annual event.

In 1908, famous American Wild West performer and promoter Guy Weadick came to Calgary with a vision to honour and celebrate Western heritage and culture through a frontier days festival and cowboy championship contest. To do this, he called on the financial backing of four wealthy businessmen and ranchers, Pat Burns, George Lane, A.E Cross and A.J. McLean — aptly named the “Big Four”.

In September of 1912, a great Canadian tradition, the Calgary Stampede, was born. During its first year, the Stampede was established as a one-time, six-day festival held about a month after the annual exhibition. It attracted more than 100,000 people including the continent’s top rodeo contestants, nearly 2,000 First Peoples and virtually every citizen in the city.

Seven years after the first festival, Weadick returned to Calgary to hold the second “Victory” Stampede to honour soldiers returning from World War I. With the success of the past two events, Weadick collaborated with the annual Calgary Industrial Exhibition to create the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede in 1923. The combined event has been held every year since.

In 1923, Weadick encouraged local ranches to form teams and enter the first chuckwagon races. With prizes totaling $275 excitement led to increased attendance from both competitors and patrons.

In that same decade as horse operas became box office smashes in Hollywood, Weadick persuaded Hollywood cowboy Hoot Gibson to shoot his upcoming movie at the Stampede. The movie, appropriately named The Calgary Stampede, was a huge success across the United States and in 1924, the Stampede saw attendance shoot up another 30,000 to a total of 167,000 people.

Though other organizers attempted to copy the Stampede format elsewhere, none took root. By the 1930s, the Stampede had become engrained as a unique Calgary event.

In the 1950s, the city’s population boomed and the decade was known as the golden age for the Stampede. The festival continued to see success, as TV cowboys became national heroes and agriculture continued to be profitable.

The Stampede’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1962 was star studded, with Hollywood celebrities including Roy Rogers, and a troupe of entertainers from Mexico in attendance. At this time, the crowds began to outgrow the already bursting Stampede fairgrounds and the Stampede Board began to look at expanding the grounds.

Over the next three decades, the Stampede began to develop the park into a new year-round facility with programs such as an annual indoor rodeo, named the Rodeo Royal, and a fall agricultural round-up.

In 1974, a new Grandstand and racetrack facility opened along with a new Indian Village south of the Elbow River. The following year, the original exhibition grounds were renamed Stampede Park and by 1983, it included a new exhibits centre connected to the city’s Light Rail Transit system and the Saddledome, a landmark coliseum.


This slideshow outlines the history of the Calgary Stampede, from its roots in the 1880s through its present incarnation. It contains historical images of events, exhibitions, facilities, promotional material and notable characters throughout the lifetime of the Stampede.


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Quiz :

Approximately how many people will eat a Stampede Caravan pancake breakfast over the course of the 10-day Stampede?

100 000
125 000
200 000