Meet the rookies!

Introducing Dustin Gorst and Cody Ridsdale; both chuckwagon drivers will be competing for the very first time in Calgary this Stampede 2017.

Dustin Gorst

For years he has raced the Calgary Stampede track; holding steady until the klaxon blared, then leaping fearlessly onto the back of an already flying, high-powered thoroughbred.

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As an outrider, Dustin Gorst is a veteran competitor at the Stampede. He has also driven the track as the demonstration driver. But for the first time in 2017, Gorst will be among the 36 drivers guiding their thundering teams around the track in pursuit of the championship and a share of more than $1.15 million in prize money. It is a sport that’s in his blood. Continue reading

From the Report to the Community: A chance meeting with Belgian farmers

This week, we’ll be sharing some of our favourite stories from the 2016 Report to the Community. You can check them all out in the full online Report here. This story comes from Ag-tivity in the City volunteer Ross Bucsis.

It was a Saturday and raining at the 2016 Stampede, and it was early in my Barn Tour shift for Ag Ambassadors. I met a family (father and son) of Dairy Farmers from Belgium, and they stood out—both were very tall, over 6 feet 3 inches. Having determined they were farmers on a visit, and as is my usual protocol, I invited them to sit down, have a bite to eat and a drink of their choice at the International Room.

They were wet and cold, so acceptance came easy to them.

CanadianSoil_RossBucsis

As we walked, I asked if this was their first time in Canada. The son replied, “No, this is the second time I have been on Canadian soil.” I asked quickly, “Oh great, when was your first time here?”

He replied, “I have walked among the dead in the Canadian War Cemetery in Belgium where the fallen Canadian soldiers are buried. That was my first time on Canadian soil; you earned it.”

I did not say another word. I couldn’t, as the tears were coming down my face. We got up to the International Room and I shook their hands very firmly. They knew I had been emotional and proud. I told them safe travels and to please return again to the Stampede and Canada.

10 things to love – in pictures – about being a chuckwagon advertiser!

Chuckwagon advertisers get a Stampede experience like no other–it is an exclusive opportunity to share with clients, family and friends something that no one else at the Stampede gets to experience. Your chance to a part of this rare, behind-the-scenes experience is at the 2017 Canvas Auction, coming up on Thursday, March 23.

Here are 10 things that make being a chuckwagon advertiser one of the best ways to experience the Stampede. Period.

1. Feel the thunder of hooves and the excitement of the crowd as a wagon carrying your logo races around the track.

Feel the thunder of hooves and the excitement of the crowd as a wagon carrying your logo races around the track.

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Artist Shannon Lawlor tells us the story behind the 2017 Calgary Stampede poster

Shannon Lawlor, an artist based in Nanton, Alberta, painted the original artwork for the 2017 Calgary Stampede poster. The Calgary Stampede is excited to participate in the first annual #LoveYYC Day! On Saturday, November 5 we are offering 2 for 1 pricing on select Evening Show tickets for Stampede 2017. Use promo code LOVEYYC to get yours here on November 5.

If you would like a 2017 Stampede poster, you can pick one up at Stampede Headquarters Reception, 1410 Olympic Way SE. Read on to learn more about Shannon’s journey as an artist and the story behind the 2017 Stampede poster.

CS 2017 Poster Lawlor 1 Retouch SF FLAT Bleed Oct17 FINAL_LOW RES

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Why colour guard is the unexpected sport your child should try this year

When you’re wondering what sport or activity your child should try this year, colour guard usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind – but it should be! Colour guard is what we call the group of athletes/performers/dancers that twirl flags and toss (fake) rifles in front of marching bands. They’re extremely impressive but no one really knows how to join a colour guard, how you learn those skills, or what the colour guard does when they aren’t leading a parade. To answer these questions and more, the Escalade Winter Guard Association is hosting a colour guard Youth Development Camp this month, providing beginner instruction in dance, flag, and rifle skills – perfect for youth of all ages! Plus, if your tween/teen likes it, they can sign up to join the Calgary Round Up Band or Calgary Stetson Show Band this season. Still not convinced? We’ve got 8 reasons your kid should give colour guard a try this summer:

1. They don’t call it the “sport of the arts” for nothing! Colour guard is called the “sport of the arts” because it brings music to life through performance in a competitive format. Performers demonstrate skill, agility, strength and endurance through choreographed movement, dance and use of props set to music to tell a story. Every season, colour guards rehearse several times a week to prepare for competitions. They make it look easy, but it takes a huge amount of skill to gracefully spin and toss colour guard equipment.

The Stampede Showband is an auditioned group for youth ages 16-21. Taylor Fraser, pictured here, is preparing to toss her "rifle" into the air, so it'll spin six times, and then catch it. Photo: End Credits

The Stampede Showband is an auditioned group for youth ages 16-21. Taylor Fraser, pictured here, is preparing to toss her “rifle”. It’ll spin in the air, and she’ll catch it without missing a beat. Photo: End Credits.

The coaches and instructors are seasoned veterans who have performed and competed at the highest levels. Many of the instructors with Calgary’s colour guard ensembles performed with the Calgary Stampede Showband and Drum Corps International (DCI) ensembles, and continue to compete in local elite ensembles like Escalade. Continue reading

A Wet and Great Stampede!

Yes, it was the wettest ten days I can remember in my 30+ years of volunteering (and in fact I now hear it was the rainiest 10 days since 1927), but definitely a lot of bright spots and great memories from the 2016 Stampede:

1. Pre-Stampede, on Wednesday, July 6 and Thursday, July 7, I was very busy with large and in some cases record crowds at the CBC Breakfast, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Parade, Tourism Calgary First Flip, the Field Law and Miles Davison LLP parties and Parade committee kick off BBQ. No question from those events that the city was very much looking forward to celebrating Stampede this year.

David Gray, host of the Eyeopener on CBC Radio (L) interviewing Codey McCurrach, chuckwagon driver (R) at the CBC Breakfast

David Gray, host of the Eyeopener on CBC Radio (L) interviewing Codey McCurrach, chuckwagon driver, (R) at the CBC Breakfast

Pancakes being flipped at the First Flip breakfast hosted by Tourism Calgary

Pancakes being flipped at the First Flip breakfast hosted by Tourism Calgary

2. Parade Day is always special and I never take for granted the thrill of being on horseback riding along the downtown parade route in front of hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators. Parade Marshals PB&J (Paul Brandt and Jann Arden) were great ambassadors for Calgary and the walking entry of about 100 representatives from the various Fort McMurray agencies involved with the emergency first response, re-location and re-settlement of that city received a huge and well deserved show of appreciation.

parade 2016)

Waving hello atop of Pa – the horse I rode this year from the Stampede Ranch

3. The Stampede Rodeo was great all week (even during the downpour on Finals Sunday, which I would argue just made it that much more challenging and exciting). Barrel Racer Mary Burger became an instant Stampede hit during the first go around and then continued to win over hearts and fans by pulling in the big prize on Sunday. Getting to award announcer Ron MacLean his own bronze for his 25 years of involvement with the Stampede Rodeo was also a very special moment for me.

Ron and Bill

Ron with his bronze and me

4. More often than not, the GMC Rangeland Derby and Evening Show faced the wettest moments of each day. The track held up magnificently and kudos to all the drivers for night after night of exciting and safe racing. The TransAlta Grandstand Show was one of the best I can recall and was designed in such a manner that “the show could go on” each night notwithstanding the weather. Great job by Dave Pierce, the Grandstand committee and all others involved in producing and putting on this show.

Exciting finish to one of the chuckwagon races

Exciting finish to one of the chuckwagon races

The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede performing in the Grandstand Show incorporating water in the show

The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede performing in the 2016 Grandstand Show incorporating water in the show

5. The Stampede is a great place to see, meet and host people and that includes politicians from all levels of Government. His Worship Mayor Nenshi rode in the Parade and then to his credit attended every community event in the city, or so it seemed. Premier Notley also rode in the Parade and she and many of her cabinet and MLAs attended many Stampede events on Stampede Park. We even had Justin Trudeau and his daughter Ella-Grace on Stampede Park for a few hours on Friday, July 15 (though as you can see from the attached below, even our Prime Minister was not spared the rain). PM visit 6. Beautiful Enmax Park and the new home of Indian Village was a hit with our guests and one can only imagine how popular that area of Stampede Park will become in future years with better weather. Photo Credit: Bill Marsh / Calgary Stampede 7. The main Midway attractions (Dog Bowl, Peking Acrobats and Bell Adrenaline Ranch) all received deservedly rave reviews. The Agriculture programming was also outstanding and saw big crowds for Cowboy Up, Stock Dogs, Heavy Horse Pull, Steer Classic and all the exhibits in Agrium Western Event Centre, such as the Cattle Trail and many others.

The Canine Stars at the Dog Bowl

The Canine Stars performed incredible tricks at the Dog Bowl

Heavy Horse Show in the Scotiabank Saddledome

Big crowds came out to watch the Heavy Horse Show in the Scotiabank Saddledome

8. By far the most enjoyable moments for me throughout the ten days was hand out the President’s Certificate of Appreciation to surprised long term Stampede volunteers all over Stampede Park. Such a privilege to honour so many deserving people who have given so much to Stampede and to their respective committees. Many thanks to Jennifer Jenson and Shane Ellis for taking care of all the logistics and making this work with my crazy busy Stampede schedule.

One of the recipients of the awards - Jill Cross.

One of the recipients of the awards – Jill Cross.

Thanks to all of you for what you do for Stampede. Hope all the employees and volunteers of the Calgary Stampede have a great and relaxing (and warm and dry) rest of the summer. You all deserve that. Bill

2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 10

Showdown Sunday held true to the uncharacteristically wet year at the Calgary Stampede. But nothing could cloud the radiant grins from the latest crop of $100,000 Rodeo Champions.

Zeke Thurston 10

The maple leafs were flying when Zeke Thurston made it two years in a row to win the saddle bronc riding. It was familiar ground for the cowboy from Big Valley, with the only difference being this year’s rainy weather.

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Cello, Nirvana and killer vocals — Lizzy Munson is the 2016 Stampede Talent Search Champion.

After eight days of competition, 67 contestants, and 10 judges, Lizzy Munson came out on top as the 2016 Stampede Talent Search Champion. With her own mash-up of “Heart Shaped Box/Smells Like Teen Spirit” her unique vocals, combined with a moody and dramatic cello performance, stood out from the field.

2016 Champion , Lizzie Munson, on stage Saturday night. (Photo credit: Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo)

2016 Champion , Lizzy Munson, on stage Saturday night. (Photo credit: Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo)

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2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 9

Saturday turned into quite a family affair at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. The odds are always high when it comes to being among the best two out of the twelve contenders to earn a spot to Showdown Sunday. But it proved to be all ‘relative’ this year.

In the saddle bronc riding, the Cajuns were hot. Brothers Heath and Cody DeMoss rose to the top of the heap. Cody was 87 points on Calgary’s Simply Marvellous, while younger brother Heath was only two points behind at 85 for his trip on Evening Mist. That led to a very special victory lap for the two Louisana cowboys, including what looked like a little brotherly horse race during the victory lap.

DeMoss Brothers 9

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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.

IV

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2016 Best Food on the Midway winners: your eating guide for Final Sunday

Don’t forget to tag your food adventures with #Stampede2016 and #CSFoodie!

The Best BBQ on the Stampede Midway award went to Boss Hogs BBQ for their BBQ Pork Ribs. Perfect for sharing, they’ve won multiple awards across Canada for their take on this summer classic and now they’ve won in Calgary too. Check them out at the Triple B.

BestBBQ2016

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The Artist Ranch Project: incredible art inspired by the western way of life

Each year the Stampede funds a small group of selected contemporary artists to spend a weekend in Longview to experience the western way of life on an authentic working ranch. The artists will then create a body of artwork inspired by their ranch experience, culminating in a unique exhibition and sale of work in the Calgary Stampede Western Showcase art show.

This program is called the Artist Ranch Project.

2016 Artist Ranch Project by Michelle Atkinson

Glass piece by Michelle Atkinson, inspired by the red barn at the OH Ranch

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2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 8

P.M.  8

There’s nothing like a little moisture and mud to test cowboy determination, for rodeo contestants and even the visiting Prime Minister! Friday provided those conditions at the Calgary Stampede, just when Pool B contestants needed to bear down and secure their spot for Showdown Sunday.

But the rain stopped as the rodeo began and fans loved the mud, especially in the steer wrestling, where there was no choice but to get dirty.

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There are two Oases that offer a break at Stampede Park

Most people know about the Western Oasis, retreat for Cabernet cowfolks who prefer a civilized glass of wine to mud and beer.  In that quiet murmuring space visitors can enjoy the variant colours and textures of the different works on display in the western art show and the western photo gallery. My personal favourite is Bonnie MacRae-Kilb’s work, featured in the Artist Ranch Project, as striking and energetic as the artist herself. That Oasis is a wonderful spot, reminding us that celebrating our western heritage is tied to image and art, which speak for both memory and vision.

Photo Credit: Andy Nichols / Calgary Stampede

The other is Enmax Park, the new Indian village, which combines the best of the old village with a better location, the striking Treaty 7 family teepees set into the crook of the confluence of the Elbow and the Bow.  The new setting is lush and well planned, now slightly apart from the hurly burly of the midway and the bustling crowds. The Bannock Booth is busier than ever, and I tasted the best bannock I have ever eaten the other day.  The grassy expanse, the picnic area, and the serenity of the new spot all combine with the interpretive programs and dances, and celebrate the powerful cultural heritage of the people who have gifted us this land. The 26 tipis representing the Kainai, Tsuut’ina, Stoney Nakoda, Siksika and Piikani nations are circles of memory and respect, of the ongoing traditions of the land and the indigenous people and their continuous role in our history.

Photo Credit: Bill Marsh / Calgary Stampede

Both are worth visiting, offering a chance to spend a few quiet hours away from the muddy infield, a small circle of stillness and quietude at the heart of Stampede’s celebration.

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.

RK_1

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.

RK_2

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.