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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Why this year’s Stampede Doors Open will be the best ever

The Calgary Stampede is once again participating in Doors Open YYC. We are excited to give you a behind-the-scenes look at little-seen places in the Stampede Grandstand, Rodeo chutes and chuckwagon barns, with some new twists this year! You will learn about the inner-workings of our biggest events: the Stampede Rodeo, GMC Rangeland Derby and the TransAlta Grandstand Show. Here are a few reasons why a (free!) visit to Stampede Park will be a great way to spend your Saturday on September 24.

Doors Open - Grandstand plans

This rendering and write up is from the 1972 Stampede annual report. The Grandstand opened two years later.

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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.

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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

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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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.

Rodeo

Look at all of these Rodeo fans not getting wet!

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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.

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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Calgary Stampede creates a little noise in Toronto with the Launch of the Nashville North lineup

The Calgary Stampede made a splash in Toronto this past week with an exclusive media event, hosted by members of our Stampede family!

Approximately 150 media and travel writers attended a Stampede event titled Get Amped in Toronto’s premier county bar – Boots and Burbon to experience a small taste of the Calgary Stampede, and share the experience with their audiences.

The crowd was energized with Stampede spirit and immersed in western hospitality. Upon arrive, each guest was personally greeted by the beautiful Calgary Stampede Queen, Princesses and Indian Princess, who provided them with the iconic white cowboy hat and a Stampede bandana.

Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses being interviewed by ETalk

Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses being interviewed by ETalk

The evening featured amazing food, a little mechanical bull riding and some great storytelling. Well known chuckwagon driver Mark Sutherland was on hand to chat everything GMC Rangeland Derby, Kynan Vine stepped up as the resident bull ride instructor and Treff Deerfoot impressed with his intricate traditional headdress and captivating First Nation story telling.

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The evening came to a peak with the much anticipated reveal of the Nashville North concert lineup, followed by a live performance by Nashville North headliner The Washboard Union.

The Washboard Union on the Canada AM Sound Stage

The Washboard Union on the Canada AM Sound Stage

Calgary Stampede Queen, Maggie Shortt, along with Princesses, Bailee Billington and Chelsey Jacobson and Calgary Stampede Indian Princess, Vanessa Stiffarm showed the crowd how a line dance was done as The Washboard Union got the whole party on their feet.

The party was a success with guest leaving with hats on their heads, smiles on their faces and loads of information about The Greatest Outdoor Show Earth! Looking to increase our National visitation is from Toronto, it is important that we showcase all the great things the Stampede has to offer and make a little more noise each time we head out there!

The trip to Toronto wasn’t simply a party, many of Stampede’s team met with media to bring awareness about this year’s Stampede. I few of the highlights include a couple appearances on CTV’s Canada AM. The first had Calgary Stampede Indian Princess talk about the new location for Indian Village and perform her traditional Jingle Dance to the magical drumming by Treff Deerfoot. The second Canada AM spot featured Nashville North Headliner The Washboard Union perform live on the Canada AM Sound Stage.

Other opportunities included a lengthy interview on SiriusXM’s “What She Said” with Vanessa about inspiring and empowering women; an hour long feature on the Calgary Stampede with The Chris Robinson Travel Show and a great segment on ETalk Canada directly from the event with The Calgary Stampede Queen & Princesses, the Indian Princess and The Washboard Union. Our lovely Stampede royalty, along with cowboy Kynan Vine were even spotted in the audience of The Social!

It was a busy yet fruitful few days for the Stampede contingent. In addition to the media coverage mentioned, we are expecting a number of great pieces still to come as well a few media to be at this year’s Calgary Stampede to witness The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth in person.

For more information, and to check out the full lineup, click here.

Calgary Stampede promotion team having a blast in Toronto

Calgary Stampede promotion team having a blast in Toronto

More than the Money – the Unique Partnership at the Back of the Track

John Walters isn’t easily shaken. A veteran chuckwagon driver, his previous career in rodeo included riding broncs and wrestling steers. But cowboy tough doesn’t always keep the nerves from getting to you. Especially when up on stage at the Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction.

“There are definitely some butterflies in your stomach. It’s nerve-wracking, for sure,” Walters said with a grin, clearly back in his comfort zone after the bidding had ended and he was teamed up with the  Brakeman Foundation for the third year running.

Photo courtesy: Larry Kwan

Photo courtesy: Larry Kwan

The Canvas Auction is a high stakes event. Pegged as a yearly barometer of Calgary’s economy, the money raised also plays a big role in the success of a driver’s entire season. Continue reading

A chuckwagon driver’s life: an inside look with Jamie Laboucane

The 2016 Canvas Auction presented by GMC is Thursday, March 17. Read on to learn about how important the Canvas Auction is to chuckwagon drivers and their families.

Jamie Laboucane is a second-generation GMC Rangeland Derby driver. His dad, Brian, competed in chuckwagon racing for 46 years and won six Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association titles. Jamie began racing at the Calgary Stampede GMC Rangeland Derby in 2011.

Jamie Laboucane _2

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Chuckwagon Drivers get ready to race under a new Calgary Stampede invitational format in 2016

The Calgary Stampede is introducing a new qualification process that is changing the way we select chuckwagon drivers for the GMC Rangeland Derby. Under the new format, drivers are now being invited to compete in 2016 based upon rankings of safety, competitiveness and professionalism.

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The Calgary Stampede and Calgary Flames heat up Western night at the Dome

The Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampede teamed up once again for the annual Western Night at Friday night’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Anaheim Ducks.

Flames Western Night

To kick off the night, the Calgary Stampede Showband Band of Outriders and Stampede entertainment got game goers into the western spirit as they arrived on Friday night. Thanks to help from the promotion committee, the first 10,000 fans received red Calgary Stampede foam fingers.

During the game, the crowd, donned in western wear, was fully ignited, cheering on the Flames with the coveted foam fingers. One hundred fifty lucky guests won an iconic white hat, while others received 2015 Calgary Stampede belt buckles, t-shirts and tickets.

The night wouldn’t be complete without some great entertainment between periods. During the first intermission, the official voice of the Stampede chuckwagon races, Les McIntyre commentated a mini version of the Stampede’s iconic chuckwagon races on the ice. Reigning Calgary Stampede champion Kurt Bensmiller and driver Jordie Fike drove the mini wagons fueled by players from the Bow Valley minor hockey club. Bensmiller took the title with Fike only seconds behind.

During the second intermission, the Calgary Flames surprised our very own Harry the Horse with a special 30th birthday Zamboni ride!

Throughout the night fans had the opportunity to meet the Calgary Stampede royal trio as well as the 2015 Indian Princess, try their skills at Yahoo IQ and hang with Harry the Horse and Harvey the Hound.

The evening kindled some western and Stampede spirit for the upcoming Calgary Stampede, July 2 – 13, 2015.

New public art installation: 100 Years of Champions

Today, the Calgary Stampede officially unveiled the spectacular art installment 100 Years of Champions, honouring the champions of the Calgary Stampede Rodeo and chuckwagon races. Champions_1

The oversized aluminum horseshoes represent the strength of the iron that protects the animals from harm; six to honour the six disciplines of rodeo and chuckwagon racing: bareback riding, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie down roping and chuckwagon racing.

Champions_5

If you look closely, you will notice some gaps in the years between 1912 to 2012. Some history: The first rodeo took place in 1912. Following a hiatus, the Stampede returned in 1919 to honour soldiers returning from World War I. The festival became an annual event in 1923 when it merged with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition to create the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, now known simply as the Calgary Stampede.

Champions_2

100 Years of Champions was funded in partnership by the Calgary Stampede and the Government of Canada through a contribution by Canadian Heritage through the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage, Legacy Fund.

2014: The Year of The Chucks

Persons with “horse personalities”, according to Wikipedia, are said to have some of the following characteristics: very active, possessed of mental thought processes characterized by lightning-quick speed to the point of faultiness, self-confident, ambitious, fond of exercise, and temperamentally impatient to the point of explosiveness. Does this description of persons born under the Horse sign mean that horses possess these characteristics?

Layne Bremner & Russian-6

I asked Layne Bremner about one of his Chuckwagon Horses, Russian. ‘They all have their own personalities and Russian is a quiet, laid back horse, though every spring he realises racing season is coming. It’s time for work and he starts getting excited about it’. Hmmm… the fond of exercise characteristic certainly applies to Russian during race season. So how does a horse (very active and fond of exercise) spend his training days as he works on that mental thought processes characterized by lightning-quick speed attribute? Layne says, ‘we start him off at a mile, at a light jog and slowly build up. By the time racing season starts, he can be around 4-5 miles of jogging. They get their racing wind – like a sprinter. When they race, it’s a short race: 5/8’s of a mile, so they can then do the short blasts quick like a sprinter.’ Lightning-quick speed – check!

Layne Bremner & Russian-4

What about Race Day? Is Russian self-confident, ambitious? Layne says, ‘they have a sense that its race day from all the people and activity’. But what about the: impatient to the point of explosiveness characteristic? Layne laughs, ‘Some [horses] do something called stall walking where they lean back and forth in the corral -just like a person pacing. Russian doesn’t do this – he is calm and relaxed’.

Researching The Year of The Horse, there is a wealth of information describing it to be a time of victories, fortune, high energy and decisive action. This appears like it could also be referred to as The Year of The Chucks.