Stampede team volunteers for The Alex Centre’s debut Community Meals program

“This is a place where everyone is welcomed with dignity; nobody is tested for the income they make to feel good about themselves. It’s a place where we can overcome barriers – both  physical and mental – and where community members don’t have to choose between rent and dinner,” explained Renee MacKillop, program manager at The Alex Centre, as she welcomed a team of Calgary Stampede employees to volunteer at the first ever community meal at the Calgary Community Food Centre.

Stampede employees arrived on the Stampede Trolley for a day ahead of helping out the community.

Stampede employees arrived on the Stampede Trolley for a day ahead of helping out the community.

The Alex Centre, since its inception in 1973, has saved millions in taxpayer dollars by moving people from poverty to stability and from crisis to wellness. Its focus is crisis prevention; as such, the community health, housing and food programs are aimed to break down social barriers.

The Alex Community Food Centre (CFC), the organization’s newest program, focuses on the importance of healthy food. The centre teaches community members the skills of cooking and shopping for healthy foods, and the importance of eating healthy to maintain energy and physical and mental wellness.

The Alex Centre focuses on providing individuals with the power, knowledge and skills to take control of their own lives.

The Alex Centre focuses on providing individuals with the power, knowledge and skills to take control of their own lives.

The Stampede Marketing & External Relations team was fortunate to be able to participate in the centre’s first ever community meal on Wednesday, January 25. The debut community meal was a partnership with the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary, a non-profit organization whose mandate is to provide social, cultural, education and employment services to Aboriginal people within the Calgary area. MacKillop provided insight into the collaboration for the debut event by saying “The Alex Community Food Centre is really a place for joy, health and sharing culture.”

To prepare for the community meal the Stampede team helped set up the space to welcome visitors – including preparing place settings for 120 guests, organizing the food health library, cleaning the area and helping to build furniture.

Two Stampede team members helped organize the community library of health-focused books.

Two Stampede team members helped organize the community library of health-focused books.

Before the meal began, representatives from the Aboriginal Friendship Centre blessed the space to provide positive intentions for moving the future. During the delicious, locally-sourced, meal, the Stampede team helped plate foods, serve guests and wash dishes. The menu consisted of fresh foods such as root vegetables, roasted acorn squash, beet salad, elk stew and home-made bannock.

The meal served was all locally-sourced and prepared in-house.

The meal served was all locally-sourced and prepared in-house.

“My favourite part of the day was when, after the guests finished eating, they all joined together to do a traditional dance, led by the Aboriginal Friendship Centre. I was so honoured to be invited into the dance circle where we all joined hands,” shared one Stampede participant. “It made me feel like we are all part of something greater, and all part of one community.”

The success of the debut community meal forecasted a busy future for the centre. Community meals will be served every second Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at 3920 17 Ave SE. Fridays are fun too – The Alex provides drop-in smoothie making, where the smoothies are blended by the pedal-power of community members on stationary bikes. Learn more about The Alex Centre’s community programs here.

Some of the most notable Calgary Stampede highlights from 2016

2016 was an eventful year for the Calgary Stampede: our bucking stock started and finished the year winning awards at international rodeos, we welcomed more than one million guests during the wettest Stampede since 1927, and Stampede Park hosted visitors year-round for many different ventures, including the Stampede’s first ever Fall Fair. Here’s a monthly recap highlighting only a few of the many milestones the Stampede saw this year.

January
The Calgary Stampede bucking stock brought in the new year in Denver with some big scores at the National Western Stock Show.
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NWSS photo by Sean Halverson, R-82 Reckless Margie

NWSS photo by Sean Halverson, R-82 Reckless Margie

February
The Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm flew to Australia for Destination Canada’s 2016 Canada Corrobree – a major tourism roadshow. Vanessa, along with other members from the Stampede and Travel Alberta, helped inform travel tour operators, wholesalers and media about all the incredible things Canada has to offer.
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February - IP in AUS

March
The Stampede’s Annual General Meeting was held in March. In addition to sharing the highlights from 2015, president & chairman of the board Bill Gray and chief executive officer Warren Connell gave insight into the Stampede’s future by speaking to the Stampede Park development plans. Connell noted that Youth Campus, the TransAlta Performing Arts Studios and Calgary Arts Academy were all well on their way, in addition to the future plans of expanding the BMO Centre, which would provide an estimated 500 full-time jobs and an added $73 million a year to the economy in Alberta and $87 million to Canada’s GDP.
Read more…

Bill Gray, president & chairman (L) Warren Connell, chief executive officer (R)

Bill Gray, president & chairman (L) Warren Connell, chief executive officer (R)

April
Aggie Days moved to their new home in the Agrium Western Event Centre. The lunchtime rodeo took place in the new arena and the animals and exhibits were arranged throughout the main level, in the exhibit hall and around the arena.
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With 77,000 Christmas Lights and 500 hours of work, Stampede Park has a beautiful public display for the holiday season

“I like my blue trees the best, they’re my signature look,” said Sandy McAfee, park maintenance supervisor and Christmas lights display expert, when asked about the stunning lights display across Stampede Park. McAfee shared that her team, which consist of two core lights-hangers, Kevin Smith and Glen Felt of the Park Maintenance team, as well as four to five additional helpers, bases the lights displays around the locations on Stampede Park. “We use blue and white for the BMO Centre, since those are BMO’s colours, and Stampede colours, red and white, for the Stampede Headquarters Building and main roadway.”

Christmas Lights Stampede Park

McAfee’s signature blue trees have been featured in a lot of surprising places – most notably, they were included digitally outside the Saddledome in one of the old NHL Hockey Xbox games!

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Stampede committees work together to host event that proves anyone can be a rodeo star

The Calgary Stampede Queens’ Alumni committee, in partnership with the 4-H committee, and sponsored by Maxim Power Corp., hosted Giddy-Up Rodeo this past weekend, an event for special needs children to come have some fun and try their skills in mock-rodeo events.

“We love participating in the amazing events you hold for the special needs community,” Giddy-Up attendee, Katy Lowe, said. “My son has autism and cannot usually participate in community events and as a result neither can his two sisters.” Giddy-Up Rodeo, and all of the Queen’s Alumni Giddy-Up events, are specially designed so that children can participate in community events at their pace and in a comfortable setting that isn’t over-stimulating and overwhelming. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming and it’s an event where everyone can feel accepted.

As soon as you walked through the doors of the beautiful Agrium Western Event Centre guests were immediately greeted by enthusiastic members of the Stampede board of directors, members of the Promotion committee (who were giving out CS branded stamps and showing off their roping skills) and an 11-year-old fiddler to set the tone.

Giddy Up Rodeo 2016 - Agrium

 

Giddy Up Rodeo - Promotion committee

Giddy Up Rodeo - welcome Continue reading

Stampede kitchen shares recipe to keep you energized while you visit Stampede Park

The 2016 Stampede is already at the halfway mark – but there are still tons of events for guests to check out this week, including the many shows that are included with your admission such as the Canine Stars, Bell Adrenaline Ranch and Peking Acrobats – so here are two quick and easy recipes from the Calgary Stampede Kitchen to keep your energy high.

Graham Armstrong, Stampede sous chef, holding the granola bars with his coworkers and fellow chefs holding the honey and granola bits.

Graham Armstrong, Stampede sous chef, holding the granola bars with his coworkers and fellow chefs holding the honey and granola bits.

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Canine Stars share the secrets to their tricks while putting on a spectacular show

The Canine Stars prove it’s possible for any dog to become a confident show dog because most of the dogs featured in the shows have been rescued or adopted.

Ray, one Canine Star, was found on the street when he was only two-years old, with his sister. Any loud or sudden noise would make Ray cower with fear and hide. Now, one of the stars of the Stampede’s new show, the cheers and claps from the audience motivate and encourage him to do the tricks. “We use only positive reinforcement on the dogs,” explained the show’s  host, “encouraging them with toys, treats and praise – including cheering and clapping!” The louder the audience members would cheer, the faster the dogs would run and the higher they’d jump.

frisbee 1

Ray chasing the Frisbee at the Dog Bowl

And he's got it!

And he’s got it!

After hearing Ray’s story, and seeing his confidence catching the Frisbee time and time again, the announcer let the audience in on the secret of training your own pooch at home to catch the Frisbee in long distances and stunts. Continue reading

BMO Farm Family focuses on environment and sustainability

From humble beginnings on a farm in Holland, one BMO Farm Family’s Alberta agriculture involvement has grown substantially over the years. “We moved here in 1954, just one week after our wedding” said Margaret Rommens, who grew up on a farm in Holland. Margaret and her husband Adrian began their Canadian journey by worked for other Albertan farmers, while saving up to one day buy their own land. In 1971, the couple had saved enough to purchase three quarters of land and begin their own operation.

“Irrigation was new to us, but we had to start somewhere and take the opportunity,” Margaret explained. “And good thing we did because we’ve been quite successful.” In less than 30 years, the operation had grown from 30 dairy cattle to 120 – and continued to expand from there, with approximately 200 head today, which are all purebred Holsteins. Along with the number of cattle, the Rommens family grew as well – Margaret and Adrian had six children, and now have several grandchildren, many of whom are in their twenties deciding on career paths (including university graduates with medical doctor and finance degrees).

IMG_4033

Margaret Rommens (fifth from the left) with her family at the 2016 BMO Farm Family Awards

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Giddy-Up Grits saw great attendance and lots of smiles

Monday, July 11, at 7:30 a.m. members of the special needs community in Calgary began arriving to Stampede Park for a morning dedicated just to them. Hosted by the Calgary Stampede Queens’ Alumni committee, presented by Maxim, and with help from Cenovus and the Calgary Stampede Kids’ Day Breakfast committee, the event was a big success due to everyone’s collaboration.

Giddy Up Grits 2016

Eager guests heading inside the Stampede Corral for breakfast and entertainment

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Stampede life hack: the Casper nap pod

Nap pods have become the envy of the corporate world; they have risen in popularity and studies have shown that employee productivity increases when nap pods are an option in the office. Today I lived my corporate fantasy of napping at work – in the Casper nap pod on the Stampede Midway.

Nap 1

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Heavy horse hitches at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Spending 12 of their 225 travel days per year at the Calgary Stampede, the Express Clydesdale team couldn’t be happier. “We love Calgary! We absolutely love it here,” exclaimed Michael Honhner of the Express Hitch team, from Oklahoma. The Express Clydesdales came to the Stampede this year to participate in the Heavy Horse Show, where they won Best in Show last year, and while they’re here they will also act as the feature hitch during the GMC Rangeland Derby. Their first Stampede award of 2016 came at the Stampede Parade, where the team was awarded Best Heavy Horse 6 and 8 Horse Hitch Commercially owned.

Bob Funk, owner of Express Ranches and CEO and chairman of Express Employment Professionals, holding his team’s Parade entry award

Bob Funk, owner of Express Ranches and CEO and chairman of Express Employment Professionals, holding his team’s Parade entry award

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Unofficial gay day celebration at Nashville North, officially one of the best parties yet

With more than 350 confirmed attendees, Charles Macmichael encouraged members of the LGBTQ community to celebrate together in Stampede Spirit at Nashville North on the first Saturday of Stampede. “We have been doing this unofficially for [a while] now and it continues to be amazing, grow in number and in fun. Last year we had over 300 attendees! This is a great way to enjoy new friends, meet amazing guys and gals and get your western wear on,” Macmichael wrote on the Facebook event page.

The Facebook event page was shared with approximately 1,500 people – among them, were Stampede employees – team lead, marketing, Jenn Mayuga, and manager, organizational communications, Kathryn Jenkins. Mayuga and Jenkins immediately got to work to help Macmichael’s guests feel welcomed by creating and printing out Calgary Stampede stickers featuring a rainbow cowboy boot beside the CS logo.

“We wanted to show support and extend our western hospitality to all of the attendees of this unofficial event,” explained Mayuga. “As the gathering place for the community during Stampede time, we were excited and appreciative that they chose Stampede Park as the venue to come together to celebrate; and we hope they have a good time today!”

Adam Burlock (L) with Alex Garcia (R) sporting their Stampede stickers.

Adam Burlock (L) with Alex Garcia (R) sporting their Stampede stickers.

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10 behind-the-scenes moments from the Calgary Stampede Parade

Standing between a band marching towards me in one direction, and a golf cart full of paraphernalia driving by in another, Parade committee member Sharon Spooner looked at me, smiled, and said, “This is it! This is the fun part!” There was a lot that went on behind the scenes of the Calgary Stampede Parade and these were just a few of the moments that stood out to me.

1. There was a larger-than-life bull on the sidewalk, who may or may not have been parked illegally.

Steer

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10 things to see and do at Stampede 2016

Axe throwing, deep fried tequila shots, a 45-foot tall spinning ride, an international pavilion, a fire-lit tight-rope walker and a beautiful, new, 16-acre park are just a few of the new offerings to check out this Stampede. What’s your Stampede thing?

1. Ride the Stampede’s new ride

A new ride means a new opportunity for challenging yourself and your friends; Spin Out is a 45-foot tall rotating claw that spins you in every way imaginable – including spinning while you’re hanging upside down! For information on our other rides and ride packages, check out: http://www.calgarystampede.com/stampede/attractions/midway

Spin Out

Spin Out

 

2. Watch rescue dogs perform jaw-dropping tricks at the Dog Bowl

These rescue dogs and dogs adopted from shelters, of multiple sizes and breeds, prove that you can do anything you set your mind to, and overcome any obstacles in your way; watch as these dogs defy gravity through freestyle Frisbee disc, flyball racing and high jumping agility demonstrations. Be sure to stay until the end of the show for the exhilarating dock diving act. Canine Stars will motivate you to go home and train your pooch a new trick or two.

The Dog Bowl will feature six shows daily with room for more than 2,000 dog lovers per show. Daily shows are at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. In addition, on Suncor Family Day and BMO Kids’ Day, the first show will be at 10:30 a.m. Sneak-A-Peek on Thursday, July 7 will feature two shows at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Canine Stars

Canine Stars

 

3. Relax by the river in Indian Village’s new home in the brand new ENMAX Park

Stampede Park’s newest green space, a beautiful inner city public park and gathering space, is the new home to Indian Village presented by Penn West. Located by the MacDonald Entry, and across the bridge from Kids’ Midway, you can experience a number of activities at Indian Village including daily dance demonstrations and  tipi raising competitions, cooking demonstrations over a an open fire, and traditional arts and crafts created by Treaty 7 artisans. Don’t forget that the Bannok Booth has also moved with Indian Village to ENMAX Park so be sure to grab some doughy goodness and relax and enjoy it on the lush green grass.

Indian Village’s first event, the Opening Ceremonies and Camp Moving Ceremony on Friday, July 8, the first day of the 2016 Calgary Stampede.

Indian Village has moved to beautiful ENMAX Park!

Indian Village has moved to beautiful ENMAX Park!

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Calgary Stampede’s new bridge wins Award of Merit for innovative design

A new bridge that spans the Elbow River, from main Stampede Park to the Stampede’s new ENMAX Park, was recognized by the Consulting Engineers of Alberta (CEA) for its thoughtful design that accommodates western lifestyle and flood resistance. The bridge was completed in June 2015, just in time for Stampede, to replace the old “blue bridge” that was lost during the flood of 2013.

Members of the bridge construction team accepting the CEA’s Award of Merit

Members of the bridge construction team accepting the CEA’s Award of Merit

I spoke with Mark Bowen of Read Jones Chistoffersen Ltd. who accepted the award on behalf of the team and he told me about the planning and construction of the new bridge, and how the design accommodates all of the bridge’s different users.

The bridge connects Stampede Park’s ENMAX Park with the main land. Photo by Roy Ooms.

The bridge connects Stampede Park’s ENMAX Park with the main land. Photo by Roy Ooms.

Protecting the river while protecting Stampede Park from flooding

Based on its location across the Elbow River’s floodway, the new bridge was to be as flood-proof as possible. “Normal practice in bridge design is to lift the bridge deck above the flood level to minimize obstructions in the river. This project presented unique challenges in the mitigation of flood flows and the design of the deck to withstand the applied loads from flood conditions,” Bowen explained. Continue reading

Highlights from the 2016 Calgary Stampede Annual General Meeting

Positivity and progress were reoccurring themes at the Calgary Stampede’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), held on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Shareholders gathered at Stampede Park to vote for the board of directors, receive financial and shareholder updates, and hear from president & chairman of the board of directors, Bill Gray, and chief executive officer, Warren Connell.

president & chairman of the board of directors, Bill Gray (L), chief executive officer, Warren Connell (R)

president & chairman of the board of directors, Bill Gray (L), chief executive officer, Warren Connell (R)

Gray spoke of the milestones celebrated in 2015, including the Stampede’s new partnership with the Calgary Opera to create a new opera space on Stampede Park, and of the achievements of the Stampede’s many youth education and development programs. “When I started as the Stampede’s president & chairman of the board, I knew that our organization, on a year-round basis, was very committed to youth education.  What I did not appreciate was the breadth and extent of our involvement in those programs,” he said. Continue reading