A baker’s dozen of ideas for how to spend your Final Sunday at Stampede

Ok, guys, tomorrow is final Sunday. It’s free admission from 10 a.m. to noon. Stampede Park is jam packed with fun rides, great food, crazy adventures, dazzling shows, agriculture, culture and much, much more. Not sure where to start? Here’s a baker’s dozen of ideas. Come celebrate – and have fun!

1. Take a free WestJet Skyride! (Yes, free! All day!)

2. Visit Indian Village. It’s one of the most interesting, vibrant & peaceful places on Stampede Park. Have a bite at the Bannock Booth and browse the arts and crafts fair. Indian Village Closing Ceremonies, 7:30 p.m.

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How to become an auctioneer with Ryan Konynenbelt

We’ve all seen and heard auctioneers at work: they’re those fast-talkers who deal goods to the highest bidder. Just about anything can be auctioned off: from services, to art, to equipment, to – you guessed it – livestock.

You can see the top auctioneers at the International Livestock Auctioneer Championship Saturday, July 16 at 11:30 a.m. in the Agrium Western Event Centre.

But how does one get into auctioneering? For last year’s Calgary Stampede International Livestock Auctioneer Rookie of the Year Ryan Konynenbelt, he’s wanted to do it since he was a kid.

He was just 15 years old and doing a church fundraising sale when the Picture Butte Auction Mart, near his hometown of Nobleford, called and gave him a job selling chickens and rabbits on Saturdays. From there, it only grew. Konynenbelt was soon selling sheep, goats, horses, cattle, and doing the odd fundraiser while he was at it.

Konynenbelt isn’t quite the typical case of an auctioneer realized. Many of his peers have been in the business for 20, 30 years – longer than he’s been alive.

But when you’re good, you’re good. In 2015, with 18 years of age and with three years of experience under his belt, Konynenbelt placed third in the Stampede competition.

He’s back again this year – another year older, and another year wiser.

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Auctioneering is much more than fast-talking: there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with it, too. As Konynenbelt succinctly put it, “You’re selling livelihoods.”

“You wanna do the best you can,” he said. “You’re working for the producer. It’s not the easiest job in the world, but it’s worth doing.”

Because it’s such an important job, Konynenbelt has to be at the top of his game. He has to know exactly the value of what he’s selling in order to make sure he can get a fair price for it.

“Know your numbers inside and out. It’s gotta come naturally to you. You’re counting your way up,” Konynenbelt said. That, along with being as easy to understand as possible, is crucial to auctioneering.

Like every auctioneer, he has filler words to keep a rhythm going as he lists off numbers, which is where all that fast-talking comes in while he’s working to drive up the price. He starts off with a starting bid, and knowing the numbers, is able to get it up to what he wants.

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Konynenbelt’s favourite part of auctioneering? Everything. He says the people in the industry, the atmosphere – all of it’s awesome, and he can sit there all day and just listen.

“The community is like a family,” he said. “You only see them a couple of times a year but you all have something in common.”

So, how does one get into auctioneering? Konynenbelt is self-taught. He’s been doing this from an early age, practicing as much as possible and working at a handful of auction marts. But even he went to school before nailing down jobs.

“Go to school,” is Konynenbelt’s advice to any aspiring auctioneers. “Visit auctions, and just practice. You can practice anywhere.”

At home, on the road, when you’re driving – anywhere is fair game to find your voice.

Don’t miss world-class animals & competitors at the Junior Steer Classic this Sunday!

Have you ever been to a cattle show? Have you ever wondered what it takes to train a steer? Have you ever wondered how exhibitors prepare their animals for competition? A winning steer takes hours of patience, determination, respect for the animals, and impeccable animal husbandry – Come see what it’s all about Saturday, July 16 and on show day, Sunday July 17, from 1-5 p.m. in the Agrium Western Event Centre.

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Calgary Stampede Livestock auctioneers to make Stavely debut

Livestock auctions aren’t new to Stavely, Alberta – but the Calgary Stampede’s International Livestock Auctioneer Championships are.

Before the top 10 finalists take over the Agrium Western Event Centre the morning of July 16, 23 auctioneers will compete at Foothills Auctioneers Inc. Among the contestants are auctioneers from Australia, South Africa and the competition’s first female entrant.

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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.

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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

10 pro tips for a rainy day on Stampede Park

Just because it’s wet outside doesn’t mean you can’t have a whole lot of fun on Stampede Park. We challenge you to use rainy weather to find something new on Stampede Park. Here are 10 ideas:

1. Grab covered seats at the Grandstand for the Rodeo or the Evening Show (which includes the GMC Rangeland Derby and the TransAlta Grandstand Show). Use the Virtual Venue to see which seats are covered – bring a blanket, stay dry and enjoy the show! Tickets available here.

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Look at all of these Rodeo fans not getting wet!

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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).

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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.

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Eager guests heading inside the Stampede Corral for breakfast and entertainment

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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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Everything you need to know about mini donkeys and horses

There’s something about miniature animals. Maybe it’s their compact size, or maybe it’s their explosive and playful personalities, but it’s virtually impossible not to burst into a smile when you see a grown person flying down the streets of Calgary in a small wagon with a miniature horse leading the way.

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Come see what the buzz is all about: Live honeybees on display at Stampede

While Stampede is always buzzing with activity, this year a new kind of buzz will be heard thanks to some small but feisty honeybees.

The Calgary and District Beekeepers Association will be bringing their engaging and interactive bee display to the Calgary Stampede for the first time.

Liz Goldie, one of approximately 40 volunteers from the association, said they’ve participated in the annual Calgary Stampede Aggie Days event held in April for about 10 years and thought it was time they also bring their exciting and educational display to Stampede.

“We are excited by the opportunity to educate people about bees and beekeeping,” says Goldie, noting that hobby beekeeping is becoming popular in Canada and it’s important that people understand the role of bees in the ecosystem.

Bee display at the recent Aggie Days event.

Bee display at this year’s Aggie Days event.

Goldie says Stampede goers will learn the difference between bees and wasps, as well as ways to help bees flourish.

The bee display will feature an observation hive that includes worker bees, drone bees and a queen bee. The display will also include products of the hive such as beeswax candles, mead and honey.

Photo courtesy Stephen Bennett.

Photo courtesy Stephen Bennett.

The beekeepers association will also educate Stampede goers on the importance of beekeeping to the province of Alberta. Goldie says beekeeping is connected to much of Alberta agriculture through pollination, and Alberta produces more honey than any other province in Canada.

Photo courtesy Cherie Andrews.

Photo courtesy Cherie Andrews.

The honeybees will join their other Country Critter friends in the Agriculture barn. You can find them between the pigeons and the chickens. In this area you’ll also find the mini donkeys, dairy cows, ducks, goats, alpaca and lama, along with Bluebell the dairy cow, the hay toss and grain play box. Be sure to stop by and say hi to all the critters.

There’s lots to see and do in Agrium Ag-tivity, which takes place in the Agrium Western Event Centre and the Agriculture barn. Open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

And don’t forget to take in the daily agriculture demos, taking place every half hour from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the outdoor stage in front of the Agriculture barn. It’s free fun for the entire family!

For more information on the Calgary and District Beekeepers Association visit www.calgarybeekeepers.com

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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In It to Win It – Here Come the Bensmiller Brothers

It could be considered a pretty high-stress situation. But Kurt Bensmiller is keeping his cool about this year’s Calgary Stampede.

“I’ll be going there to win, just like every year,” he says. “Whether the cards are in my favour? We’ll see in mid-July.”

What Bensmiller and many others will be waiting to see, is whether he can capture a third straight championship at the Calgary Stampede’s GMC Rangeland Derby. Only three men have ever managed that in the event’s long and storied history. Rolling in to the first races of the season, Bensmiller is not letting that get to him.

“If there’s any pressure, it will be what I put on myself,” he says, adding he’s feeling good about the strength and depth of his barn with 16 new horses added to his team of veterans this spring.  But in Calgary, 35 other chuckwagon drivers will be looking to turn up the heat, setting their sights on knocking Kurt Bensmiller from that top spot. Among them – his younger brother, Chance.

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

“If anyone dethrones him, I hope it’s me.”  For years Chance Bensmiller has worked with Kurt, training  in the spring at his elder brother’s home.  But after getting the call from the Calgary Stampede this past fall, Chance decided to change things up.

“I decided to take a different approach on my own, to focus solely on my own horses. I had some things I had to work out.” Despite making the decision to train separately this season, Bensmiller still maintains a strong connection to all of his family in the sport, including father and former Stampede Champion Buddy Bensmiller.

Chance Bensmiller at the 2013 Calgary Stampede

Chance Bensmiller at the 2013 Calgary Stampede

“A lot of guys don’t have a big family like mine. Having my dad, Kurt and brother-in-law Vern (Nolin), that family support is huge.”  While Kurt is the recipient of much of their father’s assistance, Chance claims another family advantage – brother David, a talented and much sought after outrider.

“David’s my first call,” says the younger Bensmiller. “Words can’t even describe how much pressure is lifted off my shoulders knowing he is holding my lead team when the horn blows.”  For Kurt, family is a big part of what brought him into the sport, and what keeps him racing.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons I got into this,” he says, adding “Not many people can love their job as much as I do and be lucky enough to share it with family like I do.”

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

As for sharing the wagon box this summer at the Stampede, like they have in the past, both Bensmiller brothers are hoping it just won’t be possible.

“Hopefully we’re both in late heats, and too close” Kurt says with a smile in his voice. “We’ll be too close to help each other. That’s a good thing.”

Fun Fact:

The Bensmillers are among four sets of brothers set to compete at the Calgary Stampede in 2016. There are also four father-son combinations.