Stampede Stories with Oliver Perry

Born in 1919, Oliver Lewis Perry spent much of his youth exploring Guy Weadick’s ranch near High River. He remembers Guy Weadick and Flores La Due fondly, saying that when he was over, “Mr. Weadick did the cooking…he’d have pancakes.”

In September, the Calgary Stampede Historical committee had the opportunity to interview Perry about his life and his memories of Weadick and La Due.

Perry was born in Kamloops, BC, on July 12, 1919. Before Perry started school, his family relocated to central Alberta, and later Banff. Then, around 1928, his father took a job in High River.

Perry remembers his first encounter with Weadick and La Due: his father’s manager asked Perry if he “wanted to go fishing”; naturally, the 10-year-old agreed. He thus joined the crew hauling supplies up the Highwood River and, in his words, became the “official gate opener.” He ended up staying overnight at Weadick and La Due’s ranch while the crew continued up the river. That visit started a 30-year relationship with the founder of the Calgary Stampede, Guy Weadick, and world-renowned trick rider Flores La Due.

Guy Weadick


Below the stage, behind the chutes, in the barns…and September Stampede pancakes! Doors Open YYC comes to the Stampede Grandstand

On the weekend of September 27 and 28, the Calgary Stampede Grandstand is participating in Doors Open YYC. For the first time ever, Calgarians will have the opportunity to get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of all of the places that are filled with Young Canadians, cowboys and livestock during Stampede time.

This year, the Grandstand turned 40 years old. During Doors Open YYC, you can get to know this icon of Stampede Park, which has seen 40 Stampedes, 40 Grandstand shows, roughly 240 rodeo champions and 4,000 chuckwagon races. It has also been a vaccination clinic, emergency shelter during cold snaps and is regularly used as a training ground for Calgary Police Services – not to mention that it becomes haunted every Halloween. (@screamcalgary)

Guided tours will run every half hour and will visit the following locations:

  1. “100 Years of Champions”

This is the tour start-point, located right outside the main doors. For those of us suffering from Stampede time withdrawal symptoms, the Downtown Attractions committee will be serving up free pancake breakfasts. While you’re eating, take a look at the new public art installation called, “100 Years of Champions.” This centennial project remembers all of the cowboy and cowgirl rodeo and chuckwagon champions since Tom Three Persons rode Cyclone to victory in the very first Stampede of 1912.

Photo Credit: Shaun Robinson / Calgary Stampede

  1. The Eye-in-the-Sky

Come and see the best seats in the house in the “eye-in-the-sky,” the Grandstand broadcast booth. It’s from here that Calgary icons Joe Carbury and now Les McIntyre call the chuckwagon races, and that judges evaluate the rodeo competitors. Volunteers from the Chuckwagon committee will tell you all of the juicy stories about watching cowboys and cowgirls from these elite seats, in elite company.

Photo Credit: Chris Bolin

  1. Under the Stage

If you’ve ever been to the Transalta Grandstand show, you’ve seen The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede spring up from a place where, just minutes before, chuckwagons were racing across the dirt. On the tour you will go underneath the stage and see the inner workings of the iconic Grandstand Show. Visit dressing rooms, see how the stage moves and get a feel for what it’s like to go onstage in front of a sold-out crowd.

Photo Credit: Kevin Bernhardt / Calgary Stampede

  1. The Infield

In the first Stampede of 1912, there were no enclosed infield or chutes. Cowboys and cowgirls had to get on their bucking horses in the middle of the field, creating many difficult and awkward moments; the horses had the entire range of the track, and many raced far out of view of the Grandstand audience. Since then, the Stampede learned its lesson and now has an Infield and chutes that are leaders in animal safety, rider safety and give the audience amazing views and experiences. Come and get a look at how the chutes operate and hear stories from Rodeo committee volunteers.

CS.000.35.19 - Miss Lucille Mulhall, 1912

  1. The Barns

The tour will end with a walk through the barns, where all of the Stampede livestock are housed during Stampede time. Plus, the 2014 Grandstand Show was called Barnburner for a reason: it’s back here where the cowboys and cowgirls party during Stampede. The 2013 flood devastated the barns, but hard work by employees and volunteers meant that they could host animals that year. Since then, the H Barn was improved using flood-resistant materials, new concrete floors and a specially reinforced wall to help keep out any water. Volunteers from the Chuckwagon committee will tell stories about the flood mitigation efforts and stories from past Stampedes.

Photo Credit: Bill Marsh / Calgary Stampede

Doors Open YYC runs at the Stampede on Saturday, September 27 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, September 28 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tours every half hour. For more information please visit Doors Open YYC.

“The Bronc Twister”

Every year, the Calgary Stampede thanks its parade marshal for leading the parade and embodying western values by presenting him or her with a replica bronze of “The Bronc Twister.”

Anyone who enters Stampede Park through the Main Entrance is familiar with this remarkable bronze, which was designed by Rich Roenisch, a southern Alberta artist and rancher. Roenisch based his bronze on a drawing and a unique story from the Victory Stampede of 1919.

Bronc Twister

After the end of the First World War in 1918, Guy Weadick, founder of the Calgary Stampede, bought a big sorrel horse with the brand I.C. on his neck. The I.C. meant that the horse had been “inspected” and “condemned” by the U.S. Army because he was no longer fit for the work demanded of an army horse. Weadick, however, believed that the horse was still healthy and could have a second lease on life as a working rodeo athlete. He purchased the horse and used him in the 1919 Victory Stampede.

Weadick decided to name his horse “I See You,” a play-on-words referencing both the horse’s brand and a drawing by the same name, which Weadick had selected to adorn the 1919 Calgary Stampede poster. Famous California artist Edward Borein had sketched an image of a bronc rider mid-buck, who appears to be looking down at the bronc’s head for a clue as to which direction he might twist next—the “I-See-U” reads as a friendly challenge between competitors.

The 1919 Calgary Stampede Poster

Borein’s drawing became a Stampede icon in the 1920s. It continues to represent the Stampede’s commitment to western hospitality and its celebration of animal athletes, which have been core values since Weadick’s first Stampede in 1912.

This year, Colleen Klein generously gifted back to the Stampede the bronze that was presented to Premier Ralph Klein when he was parade marshal in 2005. The bronze will be located in the Brand Room during Stampede time.

The Bronc Twister

Meet the Calgary Stampede’s two new Honorary Life Directors: Wynne Chisholm and Glenn Street

The Calgary Stampede is pleased to welcome two new Honorary Life Directors, Wynne Chisholm and Glenn Street.

Since its earliest days, the Stampede has recognized the leaders who have elevated Alberta’s stature nationally and internationally through their vision, hard work and tireless commitment to western values. Honorary Life Director is one of the most prestigious accolades awarded by the Stampede, and in April, the board of directors inducted two long-time Stampede volunteers and past directors into this prestigious grouping.

Please meet our new Honorary Life Directors:

Wynne Chisholm 

Wynne Chisholm

Wynne Chisholm began her four-decade long association with the Calgary Stampede in 1976, when she was crowned Stampede Princess. For the next three years she served on the Queens’ Alumni Association Executive and led the initiative to have the Queens’ Alumni recognized as a formal Stampede committee, which they achieved in 1980. She then served as its first chair. During her time with Queens’ Alumni, Wynne was integral in building the relationship between the Stampede and special needs children—a relationship that remains strong to this day. Wynne continued to volunteer each year with the Stampede and quickly became known for her energy, enthusiasm and strategic thinking. In 2008, she was elected to the board of directors. As chair of the board’s Strategy committee, Wynne oversaw the development of our current Strategic Plan.

Outside of her time spent at the Stampede, Wynne is the president and CEO of W.A Ranches and a leader in modern ranching operations. Her ranch prioritizes self-sufficiency and environmentalism, quality assurance as well as community partnerships. W.A. Ranches sponsors 4-H awards, scholarships at Olds College, is a major donor to the Agrium Western Event Centre and works with the University of Calgary veterinary school to give students hand-on experiences at a ranch. In 2011, Wynne was awarded the Farm Credit Canada’s Rosemary Davis Award, which honours female leaders in Canadian agriculture. In all of her efforts, Wynne epitomizes western hospitality, and demonstrates an enduring pride of place in Calgary and Alberta making her well deserving of the special privilege of becoming Honorary Life Director.

Quote from Wynne: Volunteering at the Calgary Stampede has been a great way to give back to the community. I’ve made lifelong friends and enjoyed building the capability and capacity of the board and volunteer committees. I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed an Honorary Life Director and look forward to staying connected. 

Glenn Street

Glenn Street

Glenn Street joined the Calgary Stampede Promotion committee in 1984. As the president of Calgary’s Street Characters, he helped the Stampede bring to life Harry the Horse, who has been a symbol of the Stampede’s western hospitality ever since. In 1990, Glenn joined the Downtown Attractions committee and he was elected to the board of directors in 2004. While on the board, Glenn served as director liaison to numerous committees including Lotteries, Corporate Relations, Grandstand Show, Western Legacy Awards, Strategic and Steer Classic committees, to name just a few. Glenn is an out-of-the-box and entrepreneurial thinker who has inspired and invigorated the Stampede through his efforts, as he does in all walks of life.

For example, under Glenn’s leadership, Street Characters has become well-known for its high performance business culture, and is regularly visited by representatives from other companies to learn its techniques. In 2007, Glenn received an FMC Pinnacle Award for Business Excellence. At Street Characters and the Stampede alike, Glenn is an enduring proponent of measuring the success of the organization. Glenn has always striven to ensure that the Stampede stays true to its western values, which he has exemplified in his own extraordinary contributions to the community and is why he truly deserves the special recognition of becoming Honorary Life Director.

Quote from Glenn: I’ve been fortunate enough to have some pretty amazing experiences in my life. I’ve been able to do a lot of things that most people would not have the opportunity to do, and by far being a director of the Stampede is one of the highlights of my life.

Together we Dance!

In 1924 Calgarians took to the streets by the thousands to take part in the first annual Stampede street dance. Hosted by the Palliser Hotel on the final day of the Stampede, the Cowboy and Old Timers’ Ball spilled out onto 9th Avenue with crowds of about 5,000 people decked out in their finest and most colourful cowboy attire. The newspaper reported happy old timers and members of the “younger set” waltzing and two-stepping across the Palliser’s ballroom, followed by the bawling of a square dance caller to “balance on the corners and promenade all.” Roper Eddie Bowlen summed up the merriment, saying “she was a big evening – fine stuff after a tea party with a flock of calves.”

The street dance expanded every year, and by the end of the 1920s it took an entire city block to accommodate the 15,000 people who attended. Through the century, dancing continued to be an expression of the buzz that permeated the city every year during Stampede. The Downtown Attractions Committee still has square dancers in Rope Square today, offering a fun way for Calgarians and visitors to celebrate the spirit of the Stampede together.

-  Aimee Benoit, Archivist

Together we Dine…A Look Back

As anyone who has been to the Midway knows, food has always been a big part of the Stampede experience. In 1923, when the Calgary Stampede joined with the annual exhibition, the event featured a giant buffalo barbecue. Five buffalos were roasted in the packing plant of Pat Burns, one of the Big Four sponsors of the first Stampede. Local businesses donated buns and butter, and the Dominion government provided the buffalo meat itself. The roasted meat was carved up by an army of volunteers for about 10,000 people on the final Saturday of the Stampede. Amazingly, despite hungry crowds, no riots ensued!

1923 was the same year the tradition of pancake breakfasts began, when a rancher from Gleichen – “Wild Horse” Jack Morton – set up his chuckwagon downtown. The camp cook started cooking for the crowds, inaugurating a tradition that has since been an expression of our community’s western hospitality. Today community groups join the Stampede’s Caravan Committee in hosting pancake breakfasts across the city in July.

-  Aimee Benoit, Archivist

Royal Visits to the Calgary Stampede… Historical Highlights

Over the past century, the Calgary Stampede has hosted a number of royal visitors.  Here are some of the highlights…

1912: Duke and Duchess of Connaught

Their Royal Highnesses Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (Canada’s Governor General) and Princess Louise Margaret visited the 1912 Calgary Stampede.  A special Welcome Arch was built in downtown Calgary to welcome them.

1923: Prince of Wales

Edward, Prince of Wales purchased a ranch in Pekisko, Alberta in 1919 following a post-war tour.  In the summer of 1923 he came to Alberta for a holiday and presented a special Prince of Wales trophy to the 1923 bronc riding champion, Pete Vandermeer.  Original plans included a special one-day Stampede at the Calgary Exhibition grounds, but a semi-private ceremony was held instead at the Prince’s E.P. Ranch in late September.  The ceremony was attended by some of the Prince’s ranching neighbours, Directors of the Exhibition Board, and representative cowboys.

1939: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth

The King and Queen visited the Calgary Stampede on May 26, 1939 as part of their Royal tour across Canada.

1951: Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh

On October 18, 1951, the Calgary Stampede staged an authentic Stampede program for the royal couple who was touring Calgary.  A couple dozen of the best bucking horse riders, calf ropers, steer decorators and chuckwagon drivers in the country were brought in for an exciting full dress Stampede.  A barbeque luncheon was prepared in the Corral for the royal couple and about 2,000 people.

1959: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

In 1959 the Calgary Stampede was again honoured by the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.  The royal couple stopped for a short rest at Fort Calgary House and made a tour of Indian Village, then watched an evening of chuckwagon racing in glorious summer weather, from a specially constructed dais on the grandstand stage.

1968: Duke and Duchess of Kent

Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Kent kindly accepted the Stampede’s invitation to visit Alberta and the Stampede in 1968. His Royal Highness officially opened the Stampede on the evening of July 4th, and on Monday morning both of them rode horses in the Stampede Parade.  The gracious couple was warmly received.

1973: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

The Queen visited the Calgary Stampede for her third time in 1973.  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Stampede and his Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh was an honoured guest.

1977: Prince Charles and Prince Andrew

The 1977 Stampede honoured Alberta First Nations on the hundredth anniversary of the signing of Treaty Seven.  Prince Charles and Prince Andrew came out to visit local First Nations.  His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales led the Parade as the Parade Grand Marshal, and officially opened the Stampede.

2005: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip

In 2005 Premier Ralph Klein hosted Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, along with His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and 600 special guests, at a luncheon in May.  The luncheon was held at the Calgary Stampede.

-  Aimee Benoit, Archivist



Rodeo’s roots: myth or heritage?

As a professional historian who has worked with the Stampede for the past year, I have read with interest the recent comments about “the myth of rodeo’s Western heritage”, and the argument that rodeo has little to do with the culture of the old west.   I was surprised at this idea, as the roots of rodeo – and the Calgary Stampede rodeo in particular – are profoundly linked to the region’s ranching culture and heritage.

The Wild West shows that toured North America in the late 1800s had a major role in shaping popular images of cowboy life.  Performances mythologized the “old west” and created an entertainment culture that featured riding, roping and shooting.

However, Calgary Stampede founder Guy Weadick had a different vision.  His dream was to create a genuine cowboy contest that tested the skills and horsemanship required by working cowboys.  So for the first Calgary Stampede in 1912, cowboys (and cowgirls) gathered from across North America to test their wrangling skills in the bourgeoning sport of rodeo.

Some early events did grow out of the Wild West genre – such as bulldogging (steer wrestling) – invented by Wild West performer Bill Pickett – or buffalo riding, which would never have taken place historically.   Other events, however, emerged from ranching traditions: saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, and bareback riding all originated from roundup and branding activities.

During spring roundups in the late 1800s, cowboys would gather the cattle that had wandered on the range during winter months, and brand the new calves.  Ropers were key figures in the branding corrals, and many went on to win championships in rodeo events.  One of the outstanding ropers at the Bar U ranch in the 1920s, for example, was a Nakoda cowhand, Jonas Rider, who was known for his exceptional speed and dexterity.  He became the Calf Roping champion at the Calgary Stampede in 1923 and was a top contestant through the rest of the decade.

Clearly as time has passed the lines between historical working cowboys, rodeo cowboys, and romanticized Hollywood cowboys have blurred.  But the western heritage and values that the Calgary Stampede promotes and preserves, in significant part through its western events, have authentic roots in the local conditions, economy, and culture of the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

- By, Aimee Benoit, Archivist


Grandstand ski jump 1920-21

This picture is in honor of Calgary’s never-ending winter this year.   When I first looked at this photo I wondered what the metal scaffolding was on the roof of the former (1919-1973) grandstand.  After a bit of digging I learned, though it’s hard to see here because the image is cropped, that the structure is actually a ski jump!   In its 1920 Annual Report, the Calgary Industrial Exhibition Co. (as the Stampede was then known) announced that it was organizing a Winter Carnival for Calgary.  Later that year, they built a 75-foot high ski jump on top the grandstand at a cost of some $8500.00.

The city’s first Winter Carnival in January 1921 drew competitors from across BC and Minnesota, and close to 15,000 visitors.  Amazingly no bones were broken, and the event was considered a success from every standpoint.  But Calgary’s infamous chinook winds caused havoc the second year, melting the snow just days before the winter carnival was set to begin.  They brought in tons of snow by railway gondola cars from Lake Louise, and hauled it all the way to the top of the ski jump.  The weather then turned bitterly cold right before the event began.  With only a small turnout that second year, the Exhibition decided to shut down the venture.  The idea of a ski jump at Stampede Park might seem a little crazy now, but the Carnival marked the beginning of a long tradition of winter sports at Stampede Park.

- By, Aimee Benoit, Archivist

Stampede history!

Most people would be surprised to hear that HRH the Prince of Wales had a ranch in southern Alberta in the 1920s and was a big fan of the Calgary Stampede, that model trenches were built on park during the First World War, or that several Hollywood movies were filmed at the Stampede in the 1920s and 1930s.  As archivist and historian for the Calgary Stampede, I think I have one of the best jobs on park because my mission is to preserve all these interesting bits of history so that the bigger story of the Calgary Stampede can be told.  Almost every day I get to talk to people about how they’ve been involved and what the Stampede has meant to them.  These conversations open up so many new perspectives for me, along with the images I piece together through historic photographs, documents, or a pair of worn leather chaps.  I’m excited to share the stories that I am privileged to, and to show off some of the great collections we have in the Archives.   Stay tuned!


- By Aimee Benoit, Archivist