The month of September has brought some major Royalty milestones throughout the Stampede’s 103-year history. Shannon Murray, historical specialist, walks us through this history as we eagerly prepare for the crowning of the 2016 Royalty Trio on Monday, September 28 at 7:30pm in the Agrium Western Event Centre on Stampede Park.
The first Stampede was held September 2-5, 1912. The event coincided with a visit from Their Royal Highnessess Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (Canada’s Governor General), Princess Louise Margaret and their daughter Princess Patricia. The family stayed with Senator James Lougheed and his wife Lady Isabella at their home on 13th Avenue SW and attended the first Stampede Parade as well as a few Rodeo events. Ever the showman, Guy Weadick had a special welcome arch set up for the royals in an effort to draw more spectators to his event.
The Duke and Duchess of Connaught, riding in a carriage, pass under the “God Save the King” arch, specially built to welcome Their Royal Highnesses to Calgary.
The special box seats created for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught as they attended the first Calgary Stampede Rodeo in 1912.
Flash forward 33 years to 1945, when Stampede manager Jack Dillon selected Patsy Rodgers to act as a “goodwill ambassador” and represent the Stampede at the 1946 World Championship Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York City and Boston Garden. She joined five other rodeo queens who did promotional work for six weeks. The group arrived at Grand Central Station on September 20, 1946. Rodgers was a popular queen and inspired the creation of an annual competition. Initially, communities or businesses sponsored candidates and people bought tickets to support her to become queen. The money raised went to local charities. In 1964, ticket sales were replaced with a competition based on horsemanship and rhetoric, and ladies-in-waiting became Princesses.
When travelling south of the border, Patsy Rodgers was called “Miss Canada.” This is her page in the program for the World Championship Rodeo held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In 1965, the Calgary Stampede recognized Gloria Littlelight as Stampede Indian Princess and from that year forward, a young woman from one of the five Nations of Treaty 7 – Piikani, Stoney, Kainai, Tsuut’ina and Siksika – has been chosen Calgary Stampede Indian Princess, the official representative of Indian Village presented by Penn West and the Stampede.
Photo from The Albertan on Saturday, July 19, 1965 with the photo of the 1965 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Gloria Littlelight.
In 2015, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Indian Princess program. Each of the Indian Princess Alumni embraces the legacy of the iconic Indian Princess title with honour and pride. The 2016 Indian Princess will be crowned in October and a story in the next issue of Saddlebag will highlight this new member of Stampede Royalty.
For nearly forty years, the Royal Trio was selected in the spring, coinciding with Rodeo Royal. But in 2008, that event moved to the fall and the coronation of Stampede Royalty moved along with it. The Trio selected this September will serve as the 2016 Royalty – marking the 70-year anniversary of Queen Patsy Rodgers’ reign.
Come see history in the making as the new Royal Trio is crowned on Monday, September 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Agrium Western Event Centre.
 Jennifer Hamblin, Calgary’s Stampede Queens (Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 2014) 16-17, 23.