Introducing Calgary Stampede’s newest board members

On March 21, 2017, the Calgary Stampede’s shareholders elected three new directors to the Stampede board: Elizabeth Burke-Gaffney, Dave Lantz and Stuart O’Connor. The board further approved the appointments of three additional directors: Lesley Conway, Greg Kwong and Cindy Provost. The biographies for all of these new directors can be found below.

The Stampede’s board is currently comprised of 20 shareholder-elected directors, four government-appointed directors and five board-approved externally-appointed directors. The externally-appointed directors from the larger Calgary community provide the board with supplementary expertise from specific business sectors that are key to supporting the strength of the Stampede’s leadership in light of the organization’s Master Plan and Strategic Plan initiatives and developments.

David Sibbald, president & chairman of the board, commented on the newly appointed board members, saying ”Lesley, Greg and Cindy will bring tremendous expertise to the board as we move forward with plans to expand the BMO Convention Centre and our youth education platform. They are leaders in Calgary and lend to the Stampede a broader perspective and representation from our community.”

Warren Connell, chief executive officer, added “These individuals understand where the Stampede is going and are passionate about helping us get there.”

The Stampede congratulates the six new directors on their elections and appointments and looks forward to the support of their leadership as the organization drives toward furthering its vision to create a world-class year-round gathering place for the community.

2017 BOD Group Shot

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Building on our past, looking to the future – Agriculture at the Calgary Stampede

For ten days in July, Stampede Park in downtown Calgary is a whirl of colour and sound, with ferris wheels and fireworks, mini donuts and midway games. But at its heart, as they always have been, are animals and agriculture.

The 10-day festival, which hosts more than one million visitors from across Canada and around the world, is a celebration of community spirit and western traditions. It encourages visitors from all over the globe to put on some boots, and make a connection to Western Canada’s rural roots.

“The Calgary Stampede is one of the few places left in the world that still celebrates agriculture. We make it a commitment to introduce the urban population to the rural population,” says Stampede president & chairman of the board, Dave Sibbald. A local rancher whose family has been part of the Stampede for many generations, Sibbald is passionate about keeping the connection to agriculture alive. “It’s never been more crucial than it is today as the urban population becomes further and further removed.”

David Sibbald (L) with his family

David Sibbald (L) with his family


Sibbald and two of his horses

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Looking Forward Toward Summer 2017, Calgary Stampede Announces Reverse Parade Route

Taking the stage Thursday, March 28, 2017, Calgary Stampede president & chairman, David Sibbald, gathered the city’s local media in the Boyce Theatre, making a special announcement about the 2017 Stampede Parade. Before making it to the end of the speech, the five-time world champion Calgary Stampede Showband and arrived on stage doing what they do best, playing their heart out and adding to the air of mystery in the room.

Calgary Stampede president & chairman, David Sibbald on stage with the Calgary Stampede Show Band

Calgary Stampede president & chairman, David Sibbald on stage with the Calgary Stampede Showband

Always a man for detail, the Stampede’s fearless leader asked the band to turn about-face, reversing the formation, aptly matching the announcement of a new direction for the 2017 Calgary Stampede Parade route! “The Stampede is now, and always will be, a gathering place for the community to celebrate western traditions and enjoy western hospitality with friends, family and guests.” Said Sibbald, “Today is about an invitation to come watch the iconic Stampede Parade …travelling in a reversed direction on the same route…” Continue reading

Stampede’s Annual General Meeting has positive outlook for 2017

“I am happy to tell you that the organization is in a solid financial position—yes even after a very rainy Stampede,” Warren Connell, chief executive officer of the Calgary Stampede, shared at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Stampede Park, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Almost 1,000 shareholders were in attendance at the meeting and listened as Connell recapped highlights from 2016 and insight into 2017 and beyond.


Connell continued by sharing, “Calgary is in the midst of a transformation. Culturally, the city has changed tremendously over the past decade, so to remain relevant the Stampede’s brand values need to continue to align with the values of Calgarians and Albertans. We need to continue to be out in our community listening and reacting to what our community has to say,” he stated as he spoke to the Stampede’s 2016-2018 Strategic Plan.

Connell pointed to how the Stampede tried something new during the 2016 Stampede by providing free admission on the final Sunday, as well as special $5 admission prices at pop-up events earlier in the week. Connell also alluded to similar surprises for Stampede 2017, to be announced to the public in the coming months. 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

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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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

2016 Calgary Stampede poster and the poster artwork legacy

The Calgary Stampede unveiled our 2016 poster in the Shaikh Family Welcome Gallery of the Calgary Public Library’s central branch on October 5, 2015. Community members and Stampede volunteers and employees were thrilled when the curtain pulled back to reveal the priceless piece by award-winning local artist, Michelle Grant: Born to Buck, pictured below.


“When you visit the Stampede Ranch in Hanna [Alberta], you witness many scenes of horses running freely in the fields together,” said Bill Gray, president & chairman of the Calgary Stampede board of directors, “and that was the inspiration for the poster.” Continue reading

Fall reflections

Because the run up to and the 10 days (actually now more like two weeks) of Stampede are so busy it is no real surprise that August is a relatively quiet month around Stampede Park as many of our employees and volunteers take holiday time. One of the biggest stories of the summer was the Calgary Flames’ announcement of their proposed Calgary Next project in West Village. I think it is clear that the public consultation process for this project will be measured in years and not weeks or months and even if the project goes ahead the Flames are likely to be playing in the Saddledome for the next five years and possibly longer so we look forward to working with the Flames for at least that period.

Once September started, it was clear that everyone involved with the Stampede was back and working hard.  Lots has happened already this fall, including the following:


1. I attended the crowning ceremony for our new Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses on September 28 in the Agrium Western Event Centre.  It was a great event and congratulations to our new Royal Trio, Calgary Stampede Queen Maggie Shortt and Calgary Stampede Princesses Chelsey Jacobson and Bailee Billington. I want to commend the outgoing Royal Trio, Mick, Kimberly and Haley, for being such great ambassadors for the Stampede and a fun bunch to work with.

206 Calgary Stampede Queen, Maggie Shorrt (middle), and Princesses, Chelsey Jacobson (left) and Bailee Billington (right) immediately following the crowning ceremony.

2016 Calgary Stampede Queen, Maggie Shorrt (middle), and Princesses, Chelsey Jacobson (left) and Bailee Billington (right) immediately following the crowning ceremony in the Agrium Western Event Centre.


2. I also had the pleasure of attending the Indian Princess crowning ceremony on Sunday, October 4.  It was an excellent and well-attended event and it was great to see five talented ladies vying for the position.  Congratulations to Vanessa Stiffarm who I know will be a great addition to our Royalty and a terrific representative of Indian Village.

2016 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess, Vanessa Stiffarm receiving her crown.

2016 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess, Vanessa Stiffarm receiving her crown.


3. On Monday, October 5 I was proud to unveil the original artwork for the 2016 Stampede Poster at an event at the Calgary Public Library.  The painting is titled “Born to Buck” and it represents and honours a stock breeding program carried on under the same name at the Stampede Ranch in Hanna, Alberta, as well as our successful rodeo stock contracting business, which services rodeos all across North America.  The artist, Michelle Grant, did a fantastic job of capturing the concept and she created a beautiful piece of art by any standard and the painting translates into an excellent poster.

Bill Gray, president and chairman on the board, artist Michelle Grant and the Calgary Stampede Queen & Princesses with the 2016 Calgary Stampede poster artwork. Visit a Calgary Public Library between October 6 and 11 to take a selfie with the 2016 Calgary Stampede poster and you could be entered to win a pair of tickets to the Rodeo or Evening Show and #Stampede2016. Visit for more details.

Artist Michelle Grant, the Calgary Stampede Queen & Princesses and me with the 2016 Calgary Stampede poster artwork. Visit a Calgary Public Library between October 6 and 11, 2015 to take a selfie with the 2016 Calgary Stampede poster and you could be entered to win a pair of tickets to the Rodeo or Evening Show and #Stampede2016. Visit for more details.


4. On a serious note, there is no question that many businesses and individuals in Calgary are facing tough economic times, as evidenced by the now almost daily announcements of job cuts.  Certainly the Stampede is not immune to the economic climate and you may be aware that we are revising our volunteer committee budgeting process accordingly. For the first time that I am aware of, a member of our Audit and Finance Committee Budget Group will be meeting directly with the Committee Chairs and staff liaisons to discuss and review the Committee budgets prior to their finalization.  The goal is to hopefully find some opportunities for savings but most importantly we wanted to involve the Committee Chairs in the decision-making process as I believe the Committees themselves know how their programs work and they are the best equipped to determine where cuts might be made and where they should not be made. I hope all the Committee Chairs will take the opportunity to provide their valuable input into this process.


Here comes Stampede 2015

It’s the end of June and Stampede is around the corner!  Besides the calendar here are five other reasons why it’s easy for me to feel Stampede is in the air:

1. CS Headquarters has been buzzing the last 10-days. Whether it’s our hard-working volunteers having one last committee meeting, the employees running to and fro finalizing last minute details, the phones ringing off the hook constantly and best of all, a constant hum around the ticketing office, HQ is an incredibly busy place these days.

2. Whether you are reading a newspaper, listening to the radio, watching TV or participating through social media, Stampede is being talked about everywhere. Our marketing people are doing a great job.

3. Setup on park is, if anything, ahead of schedule. Check out these photos I took yesterday on a quick tour around the park:

Pictured: The Great FUNtier set up four days before The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth

Park 2

Pictured: Midway set up four days before Stampede time

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Stampede update from president Bill

So lots of things have happened or are currently going on since my last blog:

  1. The Election: the outcome was a surprise to most including me. However I am very optimistic that the Stampede can have a great relationship with the new government. We have a great story to communicate as our organization touches the works of many government departments or ministries – Education, Tourism and Culture, Agriculture, Aboriginal and  Environment to name just a few – and our Youth Campus development is a project that members of every political party can get behind and support. So we will be inviting and hoping to see the new Premier and other members of the government here during Stampede this year.
  2. Calgary Flames: it was fabulous to see the City but in particular Stampede Park and 17th Avenue come alive again during this year’s exciting Flames playoff run.  Congratulations to that organization for a great year and hopefully we can now make Flames’ playoff games an annual event to look forward to for a number of years in a row.

    Calgary Flames 2015 Playoff Run

    Scotiabank Saddledome during the Calgary Flames 2015 playoff run

  3.  Stampede is Coming: time is going by fast and at time of writing this less than 50 days until Stampede. New announcements coming out almost daily it seems. Stevie Wonder now added to concert line up for final Sunday, love the concept of outdoor patio and Stoli Lounge for Nashville North along with great music line up, an expanded Bud Zone at south end of park will be very popular and though not allowed to share any details yet, there is  a great new show performing in the Corral during Stampede which will be a big hit and unbelievable that it is being provided as part of the free entertainment on Park.

    Calgary Stampede Midway

    Calgary Stampede Midway

  4. Parade Marshal: I am very excited about this year’s parade marshal – expect an announcement in early June.
  5. People: apparently April 12 to 18 was National Volunteer Week and for some reason it looks like we missed sending out any messaging to our volunteers. Sorry about that as in my view the Calgary Stampede is blessed to have the most passionate and hard-working volunteers of any organization in Canada and in my position I think about and am thankful for that every day on the job.

    Promotion committee volunteer at 2014 Door Open YYC on Stampede Park

    Promotion committee volunteer at 2014 Door Open YYC on Stampede Park

  6. People 2: don’t want to forget about and also thank our hard working employees who are now literally burning the midnight oil to ensure that Stampede 2015 will be one of the best ever. Special congrats to our newly appointed Vice-President and CFO Shelley Flint who is doing a great job on the numbers side and Sarah Hayes Vice-President, Foundation who was so very instrumental in the success of the Calgary Stampede Foundation’s Capital Campaign.

    CEO Warren Connell and COO Paul Rosenberg helping out CS employees at the recent Riverbank Clean-up event

    CEO Warren Connell and COO Paul Rosenberg helping out CS employees at the recent Riverbank Clean-up event

  7. Being President: We are a large organization with many moving parts and a few thousand brand ambassadors in the form of volunteers and employees. As President, I receive many compliments and the occasional criticism (but happy to say the compliments far outweigh the complaints) about something we have done or are doing either on Park or in the community. I certainly don’t know all the details of every CS decision and program so I’m just getting more comfortable with saying “thank you” on behalf of our entire organization of volunteers and employees. (The complaints I just send down the hall to Warren – only partially kidding about that.)

Highlights from 2015 Aggie Days

Thousands of city-slickers got a chance to learn more about agriculture, farming and rural life at Calgary Stampede’s annual Aggie Days. This beloved event embodies the Stampede’s initiatives to connect the urban and rural– Aggie Days is a unique opportunity for urban communities to learn about about how and where their food is made, as well as what producers actually do on the farm.

Guests were invited to submit questions and write about their thoughts on agriculture in Alberta

Guests were invited to submit questions and write about their thoughts on agriculture in Alberta

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My First Month as President

When I started as a volunteer with the Stampede in 1986 I had no idea I would one day end up being the President of this great organization. Even when I was first elected to the Board 9 years ago, the idea of eventually Chairing the Board was not something on my radar. As a result, moving into the role on March 17, 2015 still seems a little surreal to me though I must say thus far it feels great.

Highlights to date:

  1. Receiving so many messages of congratulations and support from friends, family, and professional and Stampede colleagues.
  2. My first official event as President – the Canvas Auction on Thursday, March 19 - the Chuckwagon Committee and Ag employees did a fantastic job getting the bidders out and the buzz and excitement in the room all night was terrific. The end result was better than I expected based on the current economic situation.Bill Gray
  3. Picking up my new GMC Stampede vehicle which I will be proud to be driving for the next year as a representative of our organization;
  4. Getting to work on a regular basis with our new CEO, Warren Connell, who is a class act and already doing a great job in his new role.
  5. Attending and getting a tour around the Dairy Classic a few weeks back with Committee Chair Debbie Lee. Pleased to hear that entries are significantly up this year in advance of the big Dairy Show scheduled for April next year.BillGrayDairyClassic 2015
  6. Attending the first day of Aggie Days on Wednesday, April 8 and reading to the school kids. What a treat that was and what a great event for families.  Bill reading at Aggie Days
  7. Attending and helping to lead our Strategic Stampede Board Retreat this past weekend. We have a very hard working and talented Board and collectively we are coming out of the Retreat in an excited state as we have lots to do and many interesting potential opportunities.

The only negative so far was receiving the news from the Provincial Government that our annual grant was being reduced by approximately $2 million this year. That was a significant cut and certainly larger than expected. However, thanks to the prudent financial planning of our management team and the consistently positive and “can do” attitude of our staff and volunteers, we are moving forward and plan to have a great 2015 Stampede.

I will try to keep you up to date throughout the year with monthly blogs and you can also follow me on twitter at @stampede_pres. Bill.