Meet the first Stampede volunteers to win White Hat Awards

The white hat symbolizes Calgary’s special brand of western hospitality and Tourism. Calgary’s White Hat Awards recognize “inspiring Calgarians in the tourism industry who go above and beyond and strive to make their guests’ experience a memorable one.”

This year, the Calgary Stampede had 34 employees nominated for a white hat award – and five volunteers. Stampede was honoured with three White Hat Awards:

Mayor’s White Hat Award: Suelin Richards, Calgary Stampede

Best Volunteer — Tourism and/or Hospitality: Keith Rutherford, Calgary Stampede

Best Bartender/Wine Steward: Jenny Slanisky, Calgary Stampede

We caught up with our two volunteer winners, Suelin Richards of the Indian Events committee  and Keith Rutherford of the Chuckwagon committee.

Best Volunteer — Tourism and/or Hospitality: Keith Rutherford, Calgary Stampede

Best Volunteer — Tourism and/or Hospitality: Keith Rutherford, Calgary Stampede

When did you start volunteering for the Stampede and how did you get involved?

Keith: A friend asked me to volunteer with the set up and livestock handling in a program called Rodeo College that provided aspiring young Rodeo competitors with professional bull riders’ instruction. Rodeo College brought together rural and urban kids to teach them to ride steers. That experience led to a volunteer position with the Stampede Rodeo and Chuckwagon races. That was almost 50 years ago.

Suelin: I was raised in Calgary, so, you know, we had Stampede in our blood. I have a friend who works in the barn and I was always asking and hinting to see if they need help. I’d always wanted to be a part of the Indian Village. I started the year of the flood in 2013 with the Indian Events committee.

Tell us what you do as a volunteer for the Stampede.

Suelin: My area is the horses. The Indian Village horses and riders are in the Parade every year and they are a part of the daily Indian Parade that goes downtown every day. I look after the horse and riders.

Note: Suelin was instrumental in creating the Young Wrangler Youth award in 2014, which recognizes youth participation and leadership in the barns among First Nations youth. She also worked with the Stampede Veterinarians and tipi owners to enhance animal care for the Indian Village horses.

Keith: I narrate the history and evolution of Chuckwagon racing to guests in the Infield suites and behind the scenes tours in the Chuckwagon barns. Basically, after 1850, a growing market for beef led to large and long cattle drives from Texas and Arizona along the Sedalia, Chisholm and Western trails. Wagons, called Chuckwagons, were used to carry bedrolls, water, food and supplies. (Chuck is the western term for food). In 1923 Guy Weadick convinced the Big Four to back the first chuckwagon race.

Mayor’s White Hat Award: Suelin Richards, Calgary Stampede

Mayor’s White Hat Award: Suelin Richards, Calgary Stampede

What’s it like being a Stampede volunteer? Why is it important?

Suelin: Stampede has terrific leadership and staff – it’s easy to want to jump in and work to put the show on. The Tipi owners I work with have been fantastic – and I’m blessed that they’ve taken me in. I’ve learned to listen. To understand and be proud of everything they’ve gone through and what they are going through. First Nations culture is such a big part of our history and legacy – and we live in Treaty 7 territory. I felt it was important to be a part of that and share their culture with the world.

Keith: Volunteering itself is a rewarding thing. I think the Calgary Stampede laid the foundation for volunteerism in this region. Back in the day, there were just a few employees and everyone else was a volunteer. That’s how it got started. Today there are volunteers in all sorts of organizations. If you volunteer, you’re part of a community.

What does the white hat and western hospitality mean to you?

Keith: The white hat is a symbol of Calgary and the west. Western hospitality is to be open, kind, generous and inclusive. It means making a guest feel like they want to come back.

Suelin: Western hospitality is about treating people the way you like to be treated. Be good, kind, happy, generous—and that will get you far in life.

What was it like to win a White Hat Award?

Suelin: When I got the email that I was nominated, I thought it was a joke. I was shocked. I like to work behind the scenes. There are so many Calgarians deserving of this award. It was a massive honour. I was at a loss for words.

Keith: Being nominated knocked the breath out of me. It’s a tremendous honour to be nominated. A huge thing. I’ve spent a lot of time talking and entertaining people – it’s something I enjoy doing. It’s a humbling thing to be recognized for this. When I accepted the award, I said: I accept this award on behalf of all the volunteers of Calgary Stampede.

Suelin Richards receives Mayor's White Hat Award

Suelin Richards receives Mayor’s White Hat Award

Dummy destruction and life lessons at Farm Safety Day

There’s nothing quite like the dramatic destruction of a stuffed dummy to drive home a point about safety. The popular station demonstrating the dangers of a common piece of farm equipment, a power take-off shaft, was a real eye-opener for students at the first ever Farm Safety Day at Stampede Park.

“It’s kind of scary,” Strathmore area student Julia Doble said after watching the demonstration, but added, “kids usually don’t know about these things. Adults usually learn from experience, so it’s good for kids to learn about this early so they can prevent accidents.”

Demonstrating the dangers of the power take-off shaft

Demonstrating the dangers of the power take-off shaft

With recent tragedies in our province’s farming and ranching communities underscoring the need for an event such as this, a mutual desire to support our community’s youth had AltaLink and the Calgary Stampede joining forces for Farm Safety Day.

“I grew up in an agricultural community and have seen the incredible work ethic and can-do spirit rural Albertans bring to the work they do day in and day out,” said Scott Thon, President and CEO of AltaLink. “I am also aware of the complex nature of our agricultural operations and the dangers associated with it. That’s why AltaLink, in conjunction with the Calgary Stampede, hosted Farm Safety Day – to provide education and awareness to our youth on how to work safely and prevent injuries.”

Lunchtime learning at Farm Safety Day

Lunchtime learning at Farm Safety Day

Approximately 700 students took part in the demonstrations and hands-on learning on Thursday, May 26. Focused on helping rural youth learn and identify the risks around them in order to keep themselves safe, the event had a variety of safety-related stations. In addition to AltaLink’s electrical safety game, there were interactive activities on topics ranging from grain safety and confined spaces, to animal behavior. They were also able to see first-hand the powerful impact of accidents, with a demonstration that showed what could happen if an article of clothing were to get caught in a PTO shaft,  as well as a vehicle rollover simulator.

The rollover simulator in action

The rollover simulator in action

For teacher Marleen Belton, the experience was just what she was hoping for when she brought her students from the Rosebud River School, of the Springvale Hutterite colony. The community north of Rockyford, Alberta, relies heavily on farming, with young people becoming involved early on. Belton believes her students will definitely benefit from what they’ve learned at Farm Safety Day.

“It’s sinking in,” she said as the event drew to a close. “When they can come and touch things and see it, the hands-on really helps.” Plans are now in the works to make this an annual event that brings hundreds of rural students to Stampede Park to talk safety every spring.


7 Things Musicians (and everyone else) Should Know About Being Around Horses

Since 1985, the Calgary Stampede Showriders have been accompanying the Stampede Showband in parades as a mounted colour guard made up of 12 young riders and their horses. This pairing of horses and marching musicians is unusual and a lot of prep work goes into making sure that the horses are comfortable with the band.

Every year, the Showband and Showriders rehearse together to help desensitize the horses to the craziness of parades, and teach the Showband how to act around horses. It’s a great opportunity for the mostly city-dwelling band members to learn more about agriculture and animal care, especially since the Showband spends a lot of time around animals during the 10-day Calgary Stampede. Here’s a peek at what they learned from the Showriders this year!

Showrider Hannah Braun, 15 years old, and her horse Tokahee teach a group of Showband members about performing around horses.

Showrider Hannah Braun and her horse Tokahee giving a group of Showband members tips for being around horses.

 1. Don’t run through the barns

You don’t want to turn a corner and run into or startle a horse. Don’t jump for the same reason.

2. Use your inside voice

Shouting and screaming can upset horses. Horses are reactive and pick up on the energy of other people an animals around them.

3. Stay a horse length away from a horse’s back-end

That way, even if the horse kicks out, you’ll avoid getting kicked.

Showband member Cassie Groves got to bond with Tohakee, petting the horse from the side so as not to startle the horse.

Showband member Cassie Groves pets Tokahee from the side so that she doesn’t startle the horse.

 4. Ask permission before approaching horses or offering them treats

Sometimes, like with the Showrider “Stand and Pat” events, it’s obvious that you’re welcome to approach a horse. If you’re walking through the barns or see a horse on its own, ask the owner if it’s okay to pet the horse. This is the best way to avoid getting bitten!

5. Approach horses from the side

Horses have blind spots directly in front and behind them. A horse can see you best if you approach from the side and pet their shoulders and back. Plus, if you approach a horse head-on and try to pet its face, it might think your fingers are treats – yikes!

6. Never play instruments while you’re walking through the barns

Sudden movements and unexpected loud noises can startle horses and they might react to the sight of shiny instruments and noise from musical instruments more than you’d expect.

 7. Ask questions

The Showriders love to answer questions about their horses. They spend a lot of time caring for their horses to keep them healthy and happy and are eager to share what they know with others, especially if it helps to keep their horses and others safe.


Win your way to the 2016 Stampede at the Community Round Up!

The Next Generation committee is getting very excited about Stampede 2016, and we hope you can all join us for a pre-Stampede community event to celebrate!

Come on down for your first Stampede pancakes of the season on Saturday, May 28 at the Stampede Community Round Up! We are presenting this event in partnership with the Centre for Newcomers. Find us outside the Pacific Place Mall (999 36 St NE) from 9 a.m. to noon. More info here.

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There will be many interactive activities for kids to get in some hands-on learning about animals and agriculture, including a petting zoo!

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How do you create an exceptional experience? An exclusive look at the inaugural Global Event Summit

At the Calgary Stampede, we are in the business of creating exceptional experiences – we believe they can make people’s lives better and our community stronger (lofty, but true). And it’s more than our July festival – our Sales & Event Management team produces more than 700 events every year.

I was honoured to join the Global Event Summit. In just a few days, I had dinner on the Queen’s Yacht, whisky and champagne, saw crown jewels, walked alongside bagpipers and had the chance to meet with the leaders in event industry. I’m excited to share what was the experience of a lifetime – and some insight on the thinking that goes on behind creating memorable events and experiences for people.

Our group at the Gleneagles Resort

We started off attending the IMEX Frankfurt tradeshow for two days. IMEX is the tradeshow and global industry event run by meetings professionals for meetings professionals. In attendance were  industry leaders from companies such as the Superbowl, Cvent, Viacom and Giants Enterprises, to name a few.

We then headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. At the Gleneagles Resort and Golf Club, we talk about human behaviour and the future of technology in events. Technology, obviously, is everywhere. We asked ourselves:

Does technology weaken the human experience at events–or does it engage them? If we are watching a concert through our cell phone camera, do we experience it differently—and is that good or bad?

Our night cap? A private whiskey tasting in the Blue Bar.

The next day we talked about the sharing economy and safety at events, which is a major topic right now in the industry.

Cyber terrorism, insurance, lack of staff training, poor planning and global warming are all safety issues facing the event industry. Solutions? We agreed that education is number 1. Collaboration with key stakeholders, such the municipal government and local law enforcement.

Our tour of the Edinburgh Castle included a bagpiper-led walk around the grounds, a peek at the crown jewels, dinner overlooking the city and a tongue-in-cheek Scottish musical.

Edinburg Castle

The next day, at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre—which features computer-controlled rooms that spin, turn and raise—we talked about the value and legacy of the event industry.

People can perceive events as frivolous. However, events and experiences have a lasting impact on people and communities. People still talk and use the facilities created for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary nearly 30 years later. That event changed our city. The Calgary Stampede is part of our city’s identity.

On our last evening in Edinburgh, we had the royal treatment: Literally. The men were fashioned with kilts, the women with tartan sashes and broaches. We were transported to the Royal Yacht Britannia – the Queen’s yacht for dinner.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Greeted with champagne, we were all given a tour of the yacht and saw where the royal family used to vacation. We then had dinner in the dinning room where Queen Elizabeth used to host dignitaries from around the world. Seated at a table with Dr. Joe Goldblatt (who founded the International Special Events Society) and the head of Travel Scotland, I felt like I was in a dream as I experienced white glove military service, a six course meal which included my first taste of haggis (Yes, I tried it). Dinner ended with a digestif and an amazing performance featuring a marching band, bag pipers and highland dancers. It was truly a magical experience that our entire group will never forget.

This experience has left a huge impression on me and I am forever grateful (and bashful) to have been included on this trip with the caliber of event professionals that I met. A couple of final takeaways I can share:

  • Collaboration is essential for growth and improvement. When our industry comes together, we can accomplish great things.
  • Including people from different sectors of the industry and different lengths of time in the industry can bring different perspective—allowing us to learn more.

What events shaped or changed your life?

If you are event professional, what issues do you find yourself facing and what solutions have you found?


More than music: What it’s like to be a member of the Calgary Stampede Showband

So you want to join the Calgary Stampede Showband? Auditions are coming up on Monday, May 30 and Tuesday, May 31! (Information about how to register here.) The Showband is about a lot more than just music excellence. Want to know what it’s really like? Showband alumni have shared some of their favourite experiences and takeaways from their time in the band to give future members a glimpse of what to expect!

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The Young Canadians kick off preparation for 2016 Grandstand Show

Taking a quick glance around the room, one might not realize they were surrounded by some of the most talented youth in Calgary.

But in about two months’ time, these youngsters will be performing in front of about 20,000 people every night at the Calgary Stampede TransAlta Grandstand Show.

The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede got their first look at Grand Spectacular, the 2016 edition of the Grandstand Show.

When it was revealed May 5, The Young Canadians celebrated the start of a new show and big journey ahead. The very next day, they would already be hard at work and ready to learn the production numbers.

Brian Foley addresses The Young Canadians

Show director Brian Foley addresses The Young Canadians at the official kick off night.

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Time Flies

The Stampede AGM in March was the halfway point of my two year term as President & Chairman of the Board. It doesn’t seem possible to me that a year has gone by already but it has been a busy and very rewarding year.

I started my role the same time as Warren did in his new role as CEO and it has been a great pleasure to work with him. Mainly because we were both new to our jobs we decided to try some new things and I am pleased about many of our changes and in particular our goal to operate openly and transparently and share more information with not only the Board but with the entire organization and I feel we have had some real success in that area.

Speaking of the AGM I note that we had both record personal attendance and a record number of votes cast in the Board elections. Great to see such strong attendance from our shareholders and congratulations to all those who were re-elected to the Board that evening.

A few days after the AGM we had the GMC Rangeland Derby Canvas Auction thanks to all of the hard work put forth by our Chuckwagon committee, Paul Rosenberg, Robert Wise and all of our Agriculture employees, the auction came in at $2.2 mm, a far larger total than many had been forecasting. I think that total clearly shows both the resiliency of the people of Calgary and southern Alberta and the general support out there for the sport of chuckwagon racing.

Codey McCurrach competing in the GMC Rangeland Derby

Codey McCurrach competing in the GMC Rangeland Derby

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Stampede Ranches Busy with Babies

Life is always interesting at the Stampede Ranch, but springtime is something special.

“It’s my favourite time of the year,” says Calgary Stampede ranch manager Tyler Kraft. “After a long winter, spring comes and the grass starts to turn green. But the best part is the babies.”

The little ones started to make their arrivals on the Stampede’s 22,000 acre property near Hanna, Alberta mid-April. Still in full baby-mode, Kraft and ranch hand Charlie McKinnon are busy watching over the new moms and pregnant mares, which have been brought up close to the ranch buildings for the season. While hands-on with the mares if they need to be, the men know the horses would sooner just be left alone to give birth. And it’s never long before the foals are up, active and – hopefully – hungry.

Newly born foal with mom at the Stampede Ranch

Newly born foal with mom at the Stampede Ranch

“The most crucial thing early on is making sure they are up on their feet and getting the essential first nutrients from their mother’s milk,” says Kraft, adding “they’ll stay with their mothers for about eight months before they are weaned.”

With bucking in their blood, these wobbly-legged foals hold the promise of one day becoming powerful rodeo competitors. Part of the Born to Buck program, they will eventually be introduced into the herd of more than 600 horses at the Stampede Ranch.

Nearly two dozen babies have been born so far, with dramatic weather swings adding a unique twist to the already busy time. Temperatures in the high twenties one week turned into three straight days of snow the next. But despite a foot and a half of snow, Kraft says the temperatures didn’t drop enough to cause problems. In fact, the snow was welcomed.

“It’s much needed moisture. With the warm weather, this spring has been very dry. This snow will give the grass a good start.”

Mom and foal enjoying the moisture the snow brought to the Stampede Ranch

Mom and foal enjoying the moisture the snow brought to the Stampede Ranch



























At the Calgary Stampede’s historic OH Ranch, just down the road from Longview, Alberta, the weather is also proving beneficial. The mild spring is making things much easier for ranch manager Ken Pigeon and his team during calving season this year.

“It’s been great. It’s a lot easier to check on them and we aren’t finding them shaking and shivering right after being born.” says Pigeon, adding “we also haven’t had to bring any of them indoors to warm them up.”

Right now Pigeon is constantly on the go. Every three to four hours he heads out to check on the more than two hundred cows and the calves that have already been born. The heifers – first time moms – are watched even more closely. A much smaller group of 17, they are in a pasture close to the ranch buildings to make sure they get help quickly if they need it.

Calves enjoying fresh milk from their moms

Calves enjoying fresh milk from their moms at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

All that care and attention is paying off. More than 150 little ones have now been born, with a few extra surprises along the way.

“We have two sets of twins,” says Pigeon, with a smile. “They’re doing great!”  Under the ranch manager’s watchful eye, those twins and all of the newborn calves will continue to flourish and grow on land that has supported cattle for generations and will continue to do so for years to come.

Calves twins means there's always someone to play with!

Calves twins means there’s always someone to play with!


5 Reasons not to miss the Community Round Up on May 28!

The Calgary Stampede and Centre for Newcomers are excited to invite you to put on your cowboy hat and mosey over to the Community Round Up on Saturday, May 28, 9 a.m. to noon outside the Pacific Place Mall (999 36 St NE). Here are five reasons not to miss this year’s Community Round Up:

Your first Stampede pancake in 2016! There’s a skill involved with mixing the perfect pancake batter and flipping those golden flapjacks to perfection. Our Stampede Caravan committee has got that skill down to a science. Don’t forget about the sausages and drizzling maple syrup. We’re drooling just thinking about our first Stampede breakfast of the year.

Photo Credit: Tye Carson / Calgary StampedeExtend your yahoos to the newest members of our community. The Community Round Up is partnering with the Centre for Newcomers for this event to give new Calgarians a warm Stampede welcome and an introduction to the 10-day festival. We know our city’s weather can be confusing, but going to the Stampede for the first time doesn’t have to be. We’ll have information for first-time Stampede goers about how to get to Stampede Park, Value Days and all the amazing things to do on Stampede Park for 10 days in July.

All the fun you can have on a Saturday morning with furry friends. Want to experience the farm while in the city limits? Community Round Up will have a petting zoo this year! Get up close to all the barnyard animals you grew up loving. There will be plenty of great photo opportunities capturing your little ones meeting these new furry friends!

Photo Credit: Shane Kuhn / Calgary Stampede

Photo Credit: Shane Kuhn / Calgary Stampede



















Dust off your dancing boots. Square dancing, live music and a stage of community cultural programming – all this before noon on Saturday! Two-step with Harry the Horse or watch your local Punjabi dance class perform. There’s entertainment for everybody at Community Round Up.

Photo Credit: Shaun Robinson / Calgary Stampede

Photo Credit: Shaun Robinson / Calgary Stampede

Sneak a peek before Sneak-A-Peek. Community Round Up is as close as you can get to experiencing the Stampede before it starts: the Stampede Showband, roping demonstrations and the best excuse to dig your western wear out of the back of your closet. And did we mention a pancake breakfast?



Join the Calgary Stampede for Jane’s Walk on Saturday, May 7

Know where one of the largest pieces of public art in North America is located? Ever wonder what the first Stampede Parade was like? Heard the story of the first saddle bronc champion in Calgary and the famous horse he rode?

Photo Credit: Bill Marsh / Calgary Stampede

For the answer to these questions, and many more, join members of the Stampede’s Public Art and Historical committees on Saturday, May 7, for a guided tour of the many and varied public art pieces on Stampede Park.

The tour begins in front of Cowboy’s Casino (421 – 12 Ave SE) at 2 p.m. and is part of Jane’s Walk, an event started nine years ago to honour the legacy of Jane Jacobs, a writer and an activist who believed that great cities are created by the people who live in them. Jane’s Walks are now held around the world to encourage people to connect with each other and explore their communities.

Meant to be a walking conversation rather than a lecture, during the tour, Stampede volunteers will share interesting stories and notable facts about the more than 15 pieces of art on Stampede Park, from larger than life wall murals to grand bronze sculptures, each depicting people and events that have shaped the history and identity of our city.

The Calgary Stampede , Friday, July 6, 2012. Photo by Mike Ridewood

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, or for those who would appreciate help getting around the Park, the Stampede Trolley will be available to take people from piece to piece along the route.

We’d love to share our history and our art with you! Whether you are new to the city or a lifelong Calgarian, the art walk is sure to provide some new insight into “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”

In addition to special events like Jane’s Walk, self-guided tours of the public art on Stampede Park are available with the aid of the art walk guide. And for more information on Jane’s Walk and the other events being held in Calgary May 6-8, visit

34 New Foods Hit the Stampede Midway in 2016

2016 New Food

If you love Midway food as much as we do, you may have been following along with our Midway food series. If not, make sure you check out our take on Classic Fair Food, and Deep-Fried Food Memories! As Stampede gets closer and closer (only 65 days away!?) we have been looking back on some of our favourite Midway food.

It’s a yearly tradition to try the wild, new foods that come to the Calgary Stampede each year and to plan out each meal when you’re visiting the park. Summer-after-summer, adventurous new ideas come to The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth and entice guests to become foodies for 10 days.

All the classics you’ve come to love are back…but we’ve also tracked down the most exciting, tasty, and wacky new foods for 2016. With 34 new foods, what will you try first?

Big Pickle Dog

Ever wonder what a hot dog stuffed pickle would taste like? Look no further than the Big Pickle Corn Dog! Get your dilly dog fix.

Big Pickle Dog

PB Dumbbells

Do a rep of these gooey peanut butter bacon balls wrapped and deep fried in home-style corn batter. Topped with chocolate sauce and crispy bacon bits, your appetite does the heavy lifting. Skip the gym – the only dumbbells you’ll curl during Stampede are waiting at the Peanut Butter Cupboard.

PB Dumbbell

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