2017 Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction: Perspectives from a Newbie

Four months before guests gather to watch the chuckwagons race at the Calgary Stampede, potential sponsors for the chuckwagon canvases gather on Stampede Park to place their bids. The 2017 Canvas Auction, presented by GMC, took place Thursday, March 23 and set the stage for the always long-awaited and much-anticipated GMC Rangeland Derby. As a born and raised Calgarian, I’ve been to the races plenty of times, but seeing the other side of it at the Canvas Auction put a whole new perspective on the build-up to, and community pride of, the drivers and support for the sport.

Left to Right: Princess Brittany Lloyd, Queen Meagan Peters, Indian Princess Savannah Sparvier, Princess Lizzie Ryman

Left to Right: 2017 Stampede Princess Brittany Lloyd, Queen Meagan Peters, Indian Princess Savanna Sparvier, Princess Lizzie Ryman

 As folks gathered on Stampede Park, hearty handshakes were given between bidders and drivers, while naturally curious fans gathered in a separate viewing area to see how it would all play out. In the Boyce Theatre where the action was happening, drivers were led onto the stage one-by-one by the 2017 Stampede Royalty; Indian Princess, Savanna Sparvier, Stampede Queen, Meagan Peters, and Stampede Princess’ Brittany Lloyd and Lizzie Ryman. The drivers were put under the spotlight, with the highest bidder winning the right to sponsor the driver and have their brand advertised on the canvas of the particular sponsored wagon.

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Calgary Stampede History Moments Presents: Bert Smith in Memoriam

Bert Smith, Cowboys herding cattle across river in the Prairies, c. 1960. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood MH.006.002.165

Bert Smith, Cowboys herding cattle across river in the Prairies, c. 1960. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood MH.006.002.165

Noted western artist Bert Smith passed away on February 17, 2017. Smith’s artwork captures the real feel of the western way of life.

Bert Smith featured here on the right. The picture was taken in 1960 in photographer Gil Garon’s (centre) studio in High River. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood.

Bert Smith featured here on the right. The picture was taken in 1960 in photographer Gil Garon’s (centre) studio in High River. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood.

Many of Bert Smith’s paintings and sketches illuminate the book Just About Nothing, which was written by Bert Sheppard, the long-time OH Ranch manager and later owner. Sheppard included a passage about Smith:

“Bert was born at Mutrie Saskatchewan on Feb. 24, 1929, and went to school at Philomath. At an early age he became interested in photography, and later took a correspondence course in art from Washington D.C. Bert worked as a commercial artist in Montreal for one and a half years. He then did art work for Ken Coppock who was secretary for the Western Stock Growers Association, and manager of their ranch supplies department. It was there that I met Bert Smith. On New Year’s Day he arrived at the TL (connected) Ranch to spend three days visit, and stayed three years. It was quite apparent that he had exceptional ability as an artist and photographer. To gain additional ranch experience he was at Joe Bew’s [sic] Y Cross Ranch, The Chattaway Bar S Ranch and the Blades [sic] Rocker P [sic]. It was there while helping to move a large herd of cattle to summer range that he suffered an aneurysm, which ended his art career. He retired to Longview where he now resides. He spends a good deal of his time tutoring the small fry in the preliminary stages of art.”[1] Continue reading

Introducing the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch Historical Centre

In late 2016, the Calgary Stampede Foundation hosted the first tour of the OH Ranch Historical Centre, which illuminates the long and storied history of the OH Ranch. The Historical Centre is located in the basement of the OH Ranch Cookhouse.

OH Ranch Jan 2015_S Murray pics (2)

Previously, cowboys used the basement of the cookhouse as a bunkhouse. The room was complete with 60s era shag carpet and a few old couches. Now, thanks to the Foundation and generous donors, the basement has been revitalized into an inviting educational space.

Students of the OH Ranch Educational Program and visitors to events at the ranch can learn about past and present owners, like Bill Siebens who donated the OH Ranch to the Calgary Stampede Foundation in 2012. They can also see a bison coat and learn about the role of the North West Mounted Police police in western Canada, and come face to face with a bison head and learn about the original inhabitants of the land—First Nations peoples.











Students can try on cowboy clothing and learn about the jobs of ranch hands who have lived and worked at OH Ranch.












Or, follow a timeline that traces the OH from its origins into the future.











Today, the Calgary Stampede is the steward of the OH Ranch, which is protected as a Heritage Rangeland with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The rich history and tradition that are lived every day on the ranch is now preserved and shared in the OH Ranch Interpretive Centre.

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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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

School is back in session at the OH Ranch

The Calgary Stampede OH Ranch Grade Five Education Program began its second year of programming last week, welcoming classes from Altadore School in Calgary as our first visitors of the 2015/2016 academic year. At the OH Ranch, 9 km west of Longview, students, teachers and parent chaperones enjoy a fun-filled, interactive day of experiential learning “on the range”.


During the ridge hike, students gain an understanding of the geography of the land, and how the land contributes to our agricultural practices in Southwestern Alberta.


Here, Grade Five students contemplate the sights and sounds of the OH Ranch during a quiet reflection activity aimed at encouraging mindfulness.


Returning from the ridge hike, learners enjoy an exceptional view of our “outdoor classroom” and Steer Flats.

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OH Ranch surpassed guests’ expectations during Alberta Open Farm Days

Breathtaking views and perfect late summer weather greeted nearly 500 guests at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch during this August’s Open Farm Days. For the first time since the historic property was gifted to the Calgary Stampede Foundation in 2012, the OH Ranch opened its doors to the public for this unique event.


Guests learn about the North-West Mounted Police outpost at the OH Ranch

“I wanted to see it in the worst way” said Calgary Stampede volunteer alumnus Kevin Doyle, after taking the tour. “This country is one and a quarter steps from heaven. It really is special.” Those sentiments were echoed by many who took the opportunity to stop in for a visit. Some, like Doyle, have ties to the Calgary Stampede as volunteers or employees. Others curious about the OH Ranch came from as close by as Longview, Alberta to as far away as the Netherlands to see it for themselves. Continue reading

OH Ranch Welcomes Hundreds During Alberta Open Farm Days

Fascinating. Beautiful. Incredible.

Those are just a few of the words visitors used to describe their experience at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch for Alberta Open Farm Days! The Calgary Stampede is proud to have welcomed more than 500 people on Sunday, August 23. This is the first time, since the historic property was gifted to the Calgary Stampede Foundation in 2012, that the OH Ranch has opened its gates to the public.


Pictured: guests listening to OH Ranch manager, Ken Pigeon

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The OH Ranch opens its gates for a special one-day event on Sunday, August 23!


The Calgary Stampede is excited to share our passion for ranching, animal care and heritage values with the community. Please join us on Sunday, August 23, 2015 at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch, as we open our gates to the public for the first time ever! Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity as the OH Ranch is not open to visitors year-round. Continue reading

Calving season is upon us again at the OH Ranch

Another calving season is coming to a close at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch. This year went really smooth, so far we have only had to assist two animals and of course mother-nature has given us good weather throughout.

May 2015 - OH Ranch Herd pic 1 credit Hudyma Photography

Cows and calves grazing
Photo credit: Hudyma Photography

This year we started the season with 194 mature cows and 25 heifers (first time mothers). To date, 170 of our mature cows have calved and 21 of the heifers leaving us a total of 28 more to calve. A regular day starts between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. with a check of both the heifers and cows and we continue the checks approximately every 4 hours. After the morning check it’s time to feed the herd. About every second day we pair out which means we saddle up and move cow calf pairs out of the east side of Steer Flats into the west side.

  May 2015 - OH Ranch Herd pic 3 credit Hudyma Photography
Cows and calves getting used to one of their new areas
Photo credit: Hudyma Photography

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Introducing the OH Ranch education program

It’s back to school and back to education on the range! The historic OH Ranch, an authentic working cattle ranch, provides an incredible setting for young people to learn about Alberta’s heritage and unique identity.


Gifted to the Calgary Stampede Foundation in 2012, the OH Ranch fulfills the wish of the late Doc “Daryl” Seaman to preserve the land, and our cultural heritage for generations to come. Thanks to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, the Calgary Stampede is making this dream a reality.


As an experienced teacher and an experiencing-as-I-go mother of an 11-year-old daughter, I recognize the importance of providing engaging and relevant learning opportunities that ignite students’ natural curiosity and enthusiasm, and that increase their awareness of, and appreciation for, our land and history. What better place to achieve this than on an 8,000-acre authentic working cattle ranch that exemplifies best practices in cattle ranching and animal care, and is situated in the foothills of the majestic Rocky Mountains? The OH Ranch is, in my opinion, one of the most spectacular “classrooms” around.


To ensure that our programming supports teachers and students in the delivery and achievement of educational outcomes, I held brainstorming sessions with educators from various local school districts including the Calgary Board of Education, the Calgary Catholic School District and Rocky View Schools. The teachers who participated in these sessions provided some great ideas that have helped me to customize our program to meet their needs. Thank you all!

Oh Ranch Education

In June and September 2014, I held four OH Ranch Grade 5 Education Program introductory sessions. Two grade 5 classes from Rocky View Schools and two grade 5 classes from the Calgary Catholic School District were the first to participate in our OH Ranch Education Program. Teachers and students provided valuable feedback on the program that supports Alberta Education’s Grade 5 Social Studies and Science curriculum outcomes for which the OH Ranch, with its cattle, geography, and historic buildings, is a natural fit.


As a long-standing supporter of the Calgary Stampede, animal and nature lover, history aficionado, life-long learner, and licensed Alberta teacher, I am very enthusiastic about designing, developing and delivering, a ranch-based educational program for Calgary and area youth that helps promote an appreciation for our land and heritage. The success of this program relies on the support from the Calgary Stampede Foundation, and the assistance of Calgary Stampede employees and volunteers, and subject matter experts who care as much as I do about the well being of this land, and the cattle, horses and multitude of fauna and flora species that call the OH Ranch home.

I look forward to welcoming you to the OH Ranch! Please check out our webpage at www.calgarystampede.com/ohranch. Click on Experience Education to learn all about our program and check out the video below:

You can learn more about the OH Ranch Education Program at the Calgary Herald, CTV and CBC

Wanda Ellerbeck of the Artist Ranch Project

Today we have a guest post from Wanda Ellerbeck, one of the five artists participating in the Artist Ranch Project. Her work will be on display at the Western Art Show in the Western Oasis during the 10-day Stampede

I have had a busy and creative life for which I am grateful. My career spans classical dance, art and arts education. My company, Grotto Designs, led the development of the decorative concrete industry in Western Canada for fifteen years. I received a Master degree of Fine Art from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and have taught in post-secondary art colleges across Canada. Currently, I teach community classes from my studio and at the Alberta college of Art and Design. I have exhibited across Canada and continue to draw, paint, make sculpture, and teach.  My art practice employs many mediums and is grounded in my response to the mysteries of nature and life.

Rare Bird, Wanda Ellerbeck

My family homesteaded in Alberta in 1904 and I spent childhood summers and a great deal of time as an adult on the Hereford Farm near Lloydminster, Alberta. Working fire lookouts for the Alberta Forest Service reinforced the deep respect I have for nature and the interconnectedness of people and the land. I love the mountains and foothills of Alberta. Inspiration often takes me by surprise. Sometimes the smallest glimpse or connection precipitates the journey into my work.

My visit to OH ranch was a wonderful experience echoing the memories, images, smells and textures of my childhood. I was inspired by the presence of other artists and by the people who still live and work in that historic environment. My strongest impression was the relief I felt that the land and its profound beauty would be preserved. This experience inspired me to reach deeply into my responses. I discovered a profound respect for the traditional western art I grew up with but paid little attention to. Silversmithing and leatherwork of western artists speak broadly about this passing way of life. I wanted to address this significance and reference it in the textures and materials of my art. The evidence of time on the land and the delicate balance between nature and the life of a rancher directs this body of work.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit the fantastic OH ranch and to be involved in this contemporary art project. The ranch has deep history and the Artist Ranch Project in its continuing engagement with artists helps to educate and share these special places. The generosity of our hosts and the hard work of the committee made this residency an inspiring experience. I love the mixture of contemporary art with the historical richness of the ranching life.

Calving Season on OH Ranch

It’s calving season again at the OH Ranch. We learned a lot from last year and have applied those learnings this year which is making calving season much smoother this time around.

This year, we turned the bulls out about a month later, so we haven’t had calves born in -22 degree weather. When a calf is born in those temperatures a lot of them will freeze their ears.

To prepare for calving season this year, our foreman Rob built a hot box—a plywood box with a mesh floor heated by a ceramic heater– for the calves. If a calf is born in extremely cold weather, we bring them in from pasture, put them in the hot box to dry off and get their circulation going. Then we get them back to their mothers. It’s important they get the first drink of colostrum from the mother, which contains natural antibiotics for the calf.

OH Ranch Blog

We also purchased a portable wind fence and calf shelters. Calves can lie down in a straw bed in the calf shelter to get out of the elements and mom can find protection behind the fence.

OH Ranch Blog_2

We’ve also made changes to calving grounds. This year we are calving on the east side of Steer  flats and as the cows calve we move pairs the  west side  of the flat and then once the calves are old enough we move the pairs to Home Coulee.

So far, 161 calves have been born and we have 47 to go. No major problems to date, so the season is off to a good start.

Danielle Bartlette of the Artist Ranch Project

Today we have a guest blogger, Danielle Bartlette, one of the five artists participating in the Artist Ranch Project. Danielle tells us about her visit to the OH Ranch in the fall of 2013, themes in her work and her creative process. Her work will be on display at the Western Art Show in the Western Oasis during the 10-day Stampede.

My time spent at the OH ranch was a whirlwind of connecting with new faces (artists included) and actually getting to see how a functioning ranch worked. There were plenty of photographs snapped, a few pints consumed, and a couple of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten. I scribbled a lot in my art journal and went home to start digesting what I’d experienced.

OH_Rio Alto Ranch front gate. In 1883 the Ings brothers became the second owners of the ranch and re-named it 'Rio Alto', which means High River. In 1950 the ranch was legally changed back to OH IMAG9294

In terms of themes in my past work, I’d put geography in conjunction with story-telling in the forefront and this series is no exception. The work I’m creating for Stampede pulls its inspiration from this specific Albertan ranch based on memory and photographs I took at the residency. Having a strong visual connection to the OH Ranch and Longview, it allowed for me to focus on what I perceive to be traditional eye-candy..tractor, barn, antlers, sugar shack.

OH Ranch_Barn

The first layer of my paintings are created with several applications of gold leaf, inks, and acrylic paint on board or canvas to achieve a sense of depth, texture, and colour transition. The top coat showcases a flat outlined image allowing for the background to float through the shell of the object. One needs to get close to see a more intricate (and sparkly) background surface among these rather bold, somewhat stark symbols. These symbols mirror my photographic references and the background (first layer) I let get carried away by mood.

redgreen barn making

Small red barn

DSC_0892 DSC_0919    I’ve quite enjoyed my experience in the residency and I’m looking forward to seeing what the other four artists have created. I will be on site during Stampede at the Artist Ranch display as much as I can and I hope you will drop in and say hello!

workspaceDanielle in her studio.

‘Red Barn’ 60”x40” mixed media on canvas (finished and close up)

‘Rio Alto Ranch’ 48”x60” mixed media on canvas (finished, two detail)


Reflecting on the first year at the OH Ranch

The Calgary Stampede OH Ranch has its first year under its belt and we’ve come a long way. The first order of business was to stock the ranch with tools and equipment and prepare for the arrival of the Angus cow herd. The herd adjusted to their new home and we’ve successfully completed a full season with good results.


During the transition, we lost traditional winter range and had to re-vamp our grazing rotation to get the best use of our grass. As well, sources for year round water were established and new fencing was put in place to assist with next years calving season.

Of course, the flood presented its own set of challenges, damaging the bridges, both in the yard and in one of our north fields as well as some minor culvert damage.  Flood mitigation was completed in time for weaning and shipping calves in late October.


The Stampede events that came through the Ranch this year were all a huge success. The Artist Ranch Project, the Presidents Ride and the Presidents Event allowed our guests to learn about and experience a working ranch. The OH Ranch is positioned to educate and connect with the local community as well as urban audiences and this first year has provided that opportunity.

The support we’ve received from our neighbors has been a real highlight and we’d like to thank them for lending a hand when needed. The ranching community is known for working together and the Stampede is proud to be part of that tradition.

We look forward to incorporating new ideas and opportunities in 2014 to promote our ranching heritage.